June 22, 2016

Book Set Recommendations for Middle School Literature Circles

Call them what you may: literature circles, book clubs, literature study, etc., getting students in a small group of their peers to discuss a book that they're all reading is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding instructional contexts for teachers and students.  In middle school, where friends reign supreme and getting the opportunity to chat with your classmates is something most students would give anything for, literature circles are that tricky thing teachers put into the curriculum where students don't feel like they're doing much work, but they're doing a ton of learning.

In a past blog post I've written about how to set up and implement literature circles.  You can find that blog post here.  I also have a product in my Teachers Pay Teachers store that will give you every lesson, graphic organizer, and more that you need to set up literature circles in your classroom.  You can find this product by clicking here.

What I haven't blogged about or addressed in the past though in regards to literature circles is what books to use with your middle school students when doing literature circles.  Below you will find how I go about giving choice to students when rolling out a new literature circle, and some text sets around common threads that I would recommend.

Step One:  Pick a common thread.  The text set that you select should contain 5-6 books.  All of the books should have something in common so that regardless of which book each student is reading, you will still be able to continue with whole class reading minilessons that would apply to any of the books.  This common thread could be a specific genre, author, time period, topic, or theme.

Step Two: Expose students to the books  I like to expose students to 6 book choices and then select the 5 most popular books to ultimately use for the literature circles.  Sometimes I give book talks on each of the books, other times I show book trailers.  Another option is to put students into small groups of 6, give each group one copy of each of the book choices, and set the timer for 2-3 minutes for students to read, page through, and explore each of the book choices.

Step Three: Have students label their top choice with a 1 and their last choice with a 6.  From there, you will be able to sift through to see what the five most popular book choices were and put students into small groups.  I like having 5 small groups of literature circles so that I can meet with each group for their literature circle discussion one day each week.

Step Four: Distribute books and have students set up a reading plan with their small groups.

Step Five: Give students 2-3 days to begin reading their books, and then begin your weekly meetings with each literature circles group.

Below I have prepared five different sets of books that could potentially be used for middle school literature circles.

Set One: Books Turned Into Movies

This set of books all contains a book that has been turned into a movie.  After your class finishes reading their literature circle books, you can have students watch the movie version of their book and write a book to movie compare and contrast paper.

Set Two: First Book in a Series

One of the best ways to get your students to become readers is to hook them into a series where after they finish the first book, they can just pick up the next and keep going.  Using literature circles to introduce students to series they will love will create students addicted to reading.

Set Three: Understanding Each Other

In the world we live in today, it's more important than ever before for students to understand each other.  Differences should be embraced, and as a classroom teacher, you can make a difference when it comes to bullying and intolerance.  By engaging students in these life-changing books and having conversations in small groups, you will be amazed at the transformation in how your class treats one another.

Set Four: Coming of Age

Each book in this set holds a dear place in my heart.  The main characters in all of these books must overcome life circumstances and come out on the other side, changed forever.

Set Five: Poetry

If you want to do a quick literature study at the beginning of the year or want to squeeze in a short one at the end, then this text set of books written in verse is perfection.  This text set would also be the perfect complement to a poetry writing unit.


  1. Hi there,

    I am so glad to have came across your blog! It is so informative in every way possible! I do have a few questions though. I am hoping to implement reading and writing workshop this upcoming school year. I will be having three 45 minute periods (6th,7th,8th) where I am required to teach reading and writing. I already located your awesome post with timing recommendations. However, can you direct me to your posts that teach us newbie teachers how to actually LAUNCH reading/writing workshop? I would like to be more informed on the specifics of each part of the workshop i.e.) mini lessons, guided reading. For example, I'd like to know what kind of materials I need to get started, what the students need etc? I'm trying to visualize in my head what the workshops should look like from start of period to the end, if that makes any sense. Also, I've done some research on guided reading since first getting hired as a teacher (which was only one year ago by the way), and I've found a lot of misleading information on the true meaning of guided reading. After browsing through your blog, I am so happy to have found a place where I know I am being properly educated. Thank you so much! Do you have any other tips for this second year teacher who is hoping to implement reading/writing workshop pretty soon?

    - Gisselle

    1. Hi Gisselle,

      As far as what you're hoping to find out, the best place I can recommend for you is my Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop Kick-off in my TpT store. There I have literally outlined EVERYTHING you would need to get these two practices up and running in your classroom. I don't know that I have actually done an entire post on getting workshops started, but I've just done a lot of blog posts on making them work in general. Here's the link to the product I'm referencing: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Reading-Workshop-and-Writing-Workshop-Kick-off-Bundle-for-Grades-7-8-1376847. I quite literally spent an entire summer putting together this resource to help teachers get workshops established in their classrooms in a sustainable, organized way. I'm so happy that you've found my blog helpful for getting information on guided reading. It's such an important instructional practice, and I agree that there is a lot of different interpretations of what it is (the worst of them being a form of round robin reading). My tip to you in implementing this year, especially with a 45 minute class period is to focus on your minilessons, keeping them powerful AND mini, so that you can have time for guided reading and literature circles with students. I'm so excited for you and love your ambition! Good luck!

  2. Kasey,
    Would you ever consider having yourself video taped teaching? I am a novice reading teacher,at the middle school level,and would love to observe you teaching a mini lesson/guided reading lesson. I am a visual learner and it would be great to see all the components that I've read about put into action.

    1. Hi Kelli!

      Absolutely! I actually have a YouTube channel with some lessons you can view on there. Just click the "YouTube" button listed with all of my other social media buttons on the top of my blog.


  3. Hi Kasey! When do students read their literature circle texts? During independent reading? On their own at home? They read these texts independently and then return to the circle to discuss the book once a week, right? Or do they read the text together during lit circle time? I just want to make sure I have wrapped my head around this!
    Thanks so much! LoVe your blog!



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