Welcome to EFL Literature Circles

EFL Literature Circles: What are they?

EFL literature circles are small student reading groups which provide a specific framework allowing students to have real, meaningful discussions about literature in English.

Successful EFL Literature Circles will contain most of the following ten features:

1. Instructors select reading materials appropriate for their student population.

For EFL students, the core of successful literature circles is the fact that they allow students to participate in "real-life," meaningful discussions about the texts/stories that they've read; thus, it is important for the teacher to choose graded reading materials which promote reading fluency for use in literature circles. In other words, students should be able to read Literature Circle texts without using a dictionary. While Literature Circles employ a combination of both intensive and extensive reading skills, the text itself must be material that is appropriate for extensive reading. A good test to discover whether a not a text is suitable for use in an EFL Literature Circle is to follow recommendations for extensive reading made by Rob Waring and Sachiko Takahashi in The Why and How of Using Graded Readers.

Here are some good "rules of thumb" for students to find their reading level:

      There should be no more than 2-3 unknown words per page.
      The learner is reading 8-10 lines of text or more per minute.
      The learner understands almost all of what she is reading with few pauses.
      (Waring & Takahashi 2000: 11)

Actually, with literature circles, it is best to start with a graded reader that is one level below the actual student reading level because literature circles are based on the ability of our students, not only to read, but also to discuss the texts in English, so the materials must be manageable. In other words, if a student is found to be able to read at Stage Three using the method mentioned above, he may be using context clues to understand some of the words; thus, while he can generally comprehend the text, he may not be able to produce the language required to discuss the reading with his classmates in the literature circle group. Therefore, it is best to start at one level below the true reading levels.

2. Small temporary groups are formed, based on student choice or the Instructor's discretion.

When using a literature circle for the first time in a class, it is probably best for the teacher to "manage" the group dynamics in order to have at least one outgoing student in each small group. There will usually be five or six members in each group, so if it is possible, having two stronger students in each group will help to assure a successful literature circle, especially the first time that this concept is tried in class. This writer did not manage the groups the first time I tried it with Japanese students; rather, I let students divide into groups on their own, and needless to say, when five very shy students formed a discussion group, the group discussion was not as successful as it could have been.

Click Here for Page 3: How and Why to Use EFL Literature Circles

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