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Sunday, 13 March 2016

Reading Circles

One activity that my English academy started about 2 years ago is "reading circles".

Students (6th grade to middle school) read a book and then talk about it in class.  The reading is done as homework, usually about 5 pages at a time, and then students form a circle of chairs or desks in the classroom and discuss what they read.

To facilitate the process, each student has one of six designated jobs:

  *Discussion Leader
  *Word Master
  *Passage Person
  *Culture Collector

The teacher is not part of the circle and only participates to offer guidance or clarification.

One of my middle school classes is reading Matilda (Roald Dahl).  Other classes, depending on their skill level, have read Animal Farm, 1984, The Giver, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, HolesWhen You Reach Me, and part of the Narnia series.

With Matilda, I am learning the book circle process for the first time.  The students were trained by another teacher last semester, so they know the process.

I was a bit stressed about the first class, yet I found that the students (9, so some jobs are doubled) enjoy their independence and collaboration.  It is rewarding to sit back and watch them take over the learning process in the classroom.

Of course, there are some difficulties.  Some students may not be prepared for their roles (which becomes glaringly evident, yet helps to encourage them to be prepared, lest they feel shamed in front of their peers).

The language they use to discuss novels may also be low, so they need training in how to respond to questions or how to form answers (however, what better forum, practically speaking, for doing so?).

In class on Friday there was an issue with students resorting to speaking Korean, so I will have to address that on Monday (my predecessor used a bell).

This same class will also take some breaks from reading to write (and type) some essays connected to the book.

For more information about the book circle program, start here:

(click through the slideshow)

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