Curricular and pedagogical content knowledge aligned with state resources
One approach to reading in the elementary classroom involves the use of literature circles. This method allows for students both to read a text and to discuss this text with peers. Meeting on a regular basis, the students talk about their ideas and questions. To facilitate this, there are several student roles which focus on specific aspects of reading, comprehension, and the construction of meaning. By alternating roles, each student has a different responsibility for each meeting and a different focus to their work. Furthermore, these different ways of thinking about a text can promote higher order thinking skills by encouraging the students to make connections in their own lives and across texts, as well as having conversations with each other to create meaning (3a,b). Additionally, the completed role sheets can supplement conferences with individuals and the group and provide another potential source of assessment data. And in cases in which a student may struggle with written expression, the role sheet can still guide their thinking in an oral discussion, or you may have someone else assist them with capturing their ideas accurately (3f). Lastly, such an approach is often different from what many students are used to. The first attempt at implementing literature circles in the classroom in which I was doing my student teaching went very poorly. However, in talking with my mentor teacher and reflecting on the experience, paying close attention to my efficacy and instructional technique, I was able to try again with a clearer procedure and expectations for the students. This allowed us to have functioning, vibrant literature circles during the remainder of my time teaching (3f).
I have used this approach to great effect on two separate occasions. In the first, students used a variety of texts in the literature circle to address the topic of immigration, specifically as it related both to children and schooling (3a,b,d,e). In the second, students used literature circles to investigate the lives of individuals related to the region we were studying in social studies. The reading supported the instruction in other content areas as well as providing opportunities to develop reading comprehension strategies to use with non-fiction texts (3c). The students also used these texts to think about shared human experiences and how their own experiences impact their thinking about a written work.