From Unit Plan: Literature Circles for High School Reluctant Readers

Check out the professional resources for more background information and research on the effectiveness of using Literature Circles in your classroom. The Suggested Titles section contains some of the titles I use, but let your students and your curriculum be the guide to selecting books for Literature Circles.

Professional Resources

Literature Circles: The Way to Go and How to Get There
by Brooke Morris and Deborah Perlenfein

This teacher-friendly resource has many reproducible forms and sheets that will make Literature Circles run smoothly. Some of the options are more geared for younger students, but this book contains plenty of material for teachers of any age group who wish to implement Literature Circles in their classrooms.

Classroom Tip: I used several of the role sheets in this book as inspiration for my students in our Literature Circles.

Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups
by Harvey Daniels

This classic resource taught many of us the importance of using Literature Circles and how powerful this can be for students of all ages and all reading abilities.

Classroom Tip: I guess I would call Daniels the "father of Literature Circles" and I recommend all of his work as good professional reading.

Moving Forward With Literature Circles
by Dixie Lee Spiegel, Jeni Pollack Day, Janet McLellan, Valerie B. Brown

Another professional resource that makes this model very teacher friendly. This book gives suggestions on everything from organizing your groups to possible mini-lessons to teach within Literature Circles.

Classroom Tip: Although it states that it is geared for teachers of grades 3-6, there is much that secondary teachers can pull to organize and manage Literature Circles.

Suggested Titles for First-Time Literature Circles

Antigone (Based on the play by Sophocles)
adapted by Kate Davis

This Scholastic Action Classic retains the play format and students enjoy sharing the parts to read in their Literature Circles.

Classroom Tip: The book features a pronunciation guide to help with the Greek names and a cast of characters (a feature of all the Scholastic Action books) that students can refer back to as they read. I always ask the Literature Circle who chooses this book to discuss the question, "What is worth dying for?"

Great Expectations (Based on the novel by Charles Dickens)
adapted by Thomas Lang

This Scholastic Action Classic tells the essence of Pip's quest to become a gentleman and win Estella's love.

Classroom Tip: This book prompts debate within a Literature Circle as students always hotly debate whether changing oneself for love would work.

Hamlet (Based on the play by William Shakespeare)
adapted by Neil Novelli and Kathleen Forrest

A Scholastic Action Classic that gives an overview of the story in a narrative format while retaining the drama of Hamlet's plight.

Classroom Tip: This is one of the most popular selections for Literature Circles each year and I am always impressed with the enthusiasm it sparks for the original play and for Shakespeare in general.

Pride and Prejudice (Based on the novel by Jane Austen)
adapted by Laura Pritchett

Students are always surprised at the question of this book on whether to marry for love or money. The Bennet sisters find their mates despite several classic misunderstandings in this Scholastic Action Classic.

Classroom Tip: I usually ask students to compare this story to a soap opera or modern romance novel with great response.

The Scarlet Letter (Based on the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne)
adapted by Carol Ghiglieri

A Scholastic Action Classic that lays the groundwork for my students to read the original in American Literature. Students often tell me how much help these overviews are to them in later English classes. In this story, Hester refuses to reveal the name of her companion in crime and he provides a study of the effects of guilt.

Classroom Tip: Students love to be the first in their Literature Circle to figure out the identity of the two mysterious characters in the story, but are always shocked at the way Dimmesdale marks his guilt.

Current Literature Circle Favorites

Esperanza Rising
by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Wonderful book about a girl who must leave her privileged background and survive a Mexican work camp during the Great Depression.

Classroom Tip: I love this book and keep buying more copies so that all who want to read it can choose it for a Literature Circle. There are usually several groups of students that choose this book and love it.

Forged by Fire
by Sharon Draper

This award-winning book is gritty and tough in presenting the issue of child abuse, but my students find it realistic and gripping. I never have to encourage them to keep reading; they insist on it.

Classroom Tip: Before using this title in a Literature Circle, read a bit yourself and warn students that it tackles a difficult topic and never looks through "rose-colored glasses."

Hope Was Here
by Joan Bauer

This Newbery Honor Book offers a lovely story of someone who takes what life dishes out and turns it around.

Classroom Tip: A popular Literature Circle choice for girls, but a few guys read it too.

Slam!
by Walter Dean Myers

A high school basketball player has trouble with his grades and has to face the prospect that basketball may not carry him through life.

Classroom Tip: My students love Myers's work, so one of his books always seems to be a choice during Literature Circles.

Stargirl
by Jerry Spinelli

A great story of "boy meets girl," but he worries more about what others think than he should.

Classroom Tip: I use this story to have the group discuss individuality and at what price does conforming to your peers come. It always spreads into a whole class debate!

Swallowing Stones
by Joyce McDonald

A freak accident ruins two lives and readers are caught in the tale of the accident's aftermath.

Classroom Tip: I had several more students request this for Literature Circles than I had copies, so this is one of which I'll need to buy more.