Findings from Plains Reading Council Literature Discussion
The Research and Professional Literature on Literature
Discussion/Response Groups, Circles, and Clubs
The research articles and/or summaries of research we
found indicate that literature response groups, in various forms and by
various names, produce the following results:
1. self-selection of books (from sets provided by the teacher);
Students think of themselves as more competent, successful
Students become risk takers and are more willing to communicate
interpretations, thoughts, and feelings about books.
Students become metacognitive about their reading and writing
and more actively monitor and question their strategies and processes of
Students become more reflective readers who continuously
revise interpretations, apply text events and information to their own
experiences, and explore implications that can be derived from the reading
Students develop higher levels of critical thinking about
literature and engage in more evaluation, synthesis, and comparisons to
other genres or pieces of literature.
Students develop a more varied repertoire of responses to
Students develop a greater appreciation and understanding
of the elements of literature.
Students score well on standardized and other tests of reading
skills and achievement.
Students say that literature circles make them more highly
motivated to read than whole-group or ability-group reading instruction
(Burns, 1998) because literature circles allow opportunities for:
2. choices of roles within groups (such as Discussion Director,
Vocabulary Enricher, Passage Picker, Illustrator, Quotation Chooser;
See Daniels, 1994); and
3. sharing interpretations and knowledge in social interactions with peers.
More elementary than middle or high school teachers report
that they use book clubs and literature discussion groups in their classrooms,
but the reverse is true for their reports about their own participation
in adult book clubs. In fact, all literacy professionals surveyed (Commeyras
& DeGroff, 1998) were far less interested in belonging to a book club
than they were in using them in the classroom.
Almasi, J. (1995). The nature of fourth gradersí
sociocognitive conflicts in peer-led and teacher-led discussions of literature.
Reading Research Quarterly, 30, 314-351.
Anzul, M. (1993). Exploring literature with children
within a transitional framework. In K. Holland, R. Hungerford, & S.
Ernst (Eds.), Journeying: Children responding to literature (pp. 187-203).
Atwell, Nancie. 1987. In the middle: Writing, reading,
with adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
Borders, S.G., & Naylor, A.P. (1993). Children
talking about books. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx.
Burns, B. (1998). Changing the classroom climate
with literature circles. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 42,
Commeyras, M., & DeGroff, L. (1998) Literacy
professionalsí perspectives on professional development and pedagogy: A
United States survey. Reading Research Quarterly, 33, 434-472.
Daniels, H. (1994). Literature circles: Voice and
choice in the student-centered classroom. York, ME: Stenhouse.
Encisco, P. (1992). Creating the story world: A
case study of a young readerís engagement strategies and stances. In J.
Many & C. Cox (Eds.), Reader stance and literary understanding (pp.
75-102). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Galda, L. (1992) Evaluation as a spectator: Changes
across time and genre. In J. Many & C. Cox (Eds.), Reader stance and
literary understanding (pp. 127-142). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Galda, L. (1993). How preferences and expectations
influence evaluative response to literature. In K. Holland, R. Hungerford,
& S. Ernst (Eds.), Journeying: Children responding to literature (pp.
302-315). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Gilles, C. (1990). Collaborative literacy strategies:
"We donít need to have a circle to have a group." In K. Short & K.
Pierce (Eds.), Cycles of meaning (pp. 199-217). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Kletzien, S.B., & Hushion, B.C. (1992). Reading
workshop: Reading, writing, thinking. Journal of Reading, 35, 444-451.
Knoeller, C.P. (1994). Negotiating interpretations
of text: The role of student-led discussions in understanding literature.
Journal of Reading, 37, 572-580.
Nystrand, M. & Gamoran, A. (1991).Instructional
discourse, student engagement, and literature achievement. Research in
the Teaching of English, 25, 261-290.
Nystrand, M. & Gamoran, A. (1993). From discourse
communities to interpretative communities: A study of ninth grade literature
instruction. In G. Newell & R. Durst (Eds.), Exploring texts: The role
of discussion and writing in the teaching and learning of literature (pp.
91-111). Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.
Protherough, R. (1987) The stories that readers
tell. In B. Cocoran & E. Evans (Eds.), Readers, texts, teachers (pp.
75-92). Montclair, NJ: Boynton-Cook.
Raphael, T.E. & McMahon, S.I. (1994). Book club:
An alternative framework for reading instruction. The Reading Teacher,
Samway, K., Whang, G., Cade, C., Gamil, M., Lubandina,
M., & Phommachanh, K.. (1991). Reading the skeleton, the heart, and
the brain of a book: Students' perspectives on literature study circles.
The Reading Teacher, 45, 196-205.
Short, K. (1993) Making connections across literature
and life. In K. Holland, R. Hungerford, & S. Ernst (Eds.), Journeying:
Children responding to literature (pp. 284-301). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Smith, K. (1990). Entertaining a text: A reciprocal
process. In K. Short & K. Pierce (Eds.), Talking about books: Creating
literate communities (pp. 17-31). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Spiegle, D. (1998). Silver bullets, babies, and
bath water: Literature response groups in a balanced literacy program.
The Reading Teacher, 52, 114-124.
Swift, K. (1993). Try reading workshop in your classroom.
The Reading Teacher, 46, 366-371.
Turner, J., & Paris, S.G. (1995). How literacy
tasks influence childrenís motivation for literacy. The Reading Teacher,
Additional teacher resources and support for literature response
groups can be found in the theories, philosophies, and applications at
the Literature Circles web site (http://www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/docs/mla/circle/resourct.html).