EducationWorld is committed to bringing educators the practical tools they need to make good decisions, engage in effective leadership and implement strategies that work. To further this commitment, we have formed a content partnership with Stenhouse Publishers. EducationWorld is pleased to feature a variety of book excerpts as part of this collaboration. Check back frequently as we feature additional excerpts from Stenhouse titles.
The following excerpt comes from From Literature Circles to Blogs: Activities for Engaging Professional Learning Communities, by Susan Church and Margaret Swain (Stenhouse Publishers, 2009). The book retails for $21 and is available on the Stenhouse Web site.
Professional learning communities can enhance their effectiveness with these engaging book-study techniques. See two more excerpts from this book: Co-Teaching Tips and Building Trust in Collaborative Learning Groups.
Many teachers are familiar with literature circles as part of their classroom work with students. Daniels defines these groups as follows:
Literature circles are small, peer-led discussion groups whose members have chosen to read the same story, poem, article, or book. While reading each group-assigned portion of the text (either in or outside of class), members make notes to help them contribute to the upcoming discussion, and everyone comes to the group with ideas to share. Each group follows a reading and meeting schedule, holding periodic discussions on the way through the book. When they finish a book, the circle members may share highlights of their reading with the wider community; then they trade members with other finishing groups, select more reading, and move into a new cycle.
Like a book club, a literature circle may suit the purposes of a professional learning community by providing a framework for reading and discussion. Within a large professional learning community, several small literature circles can read different texts, thus providing opportunities for members to address areas of specific interest.
Daniels identifies four basic roles: connector, questioner, literary luminary/passage master, and illustrator. At the outset, groups may wish to use these roles to help readers actively explore the text and to stay focused on their discussion.
When undertaken by a group of teachers, this tried-and-true cooperative learning strategy can strengthen a professional learning community. Each member is responsible for one aspect of the learning and each aspect is essential to full understanding on the part of the group as a whole. Therefore, each participant’s role is essential to the entire group’s learning experience. Because each participant becomes an “expert” in one area, the entire group achieves a much greater depth of understanding of material than if each member were responsible for the entire text. This strategy also allows the group to engage with a large amount of text material in an efficient manner—which is always an important factor for busy teachers. The jigsaw strategy proceeds as follows:
Represent Your Reading
This activity encourages participants to progress beyond literal understandings of text and create new meanings and connections with the text in response modes such as sculpture, dance, music, multimedia formats, and so on.
This activity can be as simple or as complex as the group wishes. In some cases, the response can be left completely up to the participants, according to their energy level, time, and creativity. At other times, the group can decide to limit the communication formats.
Besides creating new meanings and connections and opening up new conversations, this activity can encourage creativity, instill new appreciation for one another’s talents, and simply be FUN!!! Laughter cements group cohesion. Can you imagine knitting a response to improving geometry lessons, or singing a rap song about developing a new behavior policy?
Copyright © 2012 Education World