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Key Features of EFL Literature Circles: Three-Five


3. Different groups are usually reading the same text.

While L1 students are encouraged to choose reading materials for literature circles, our EFL students may often lack, but are interested in, some of the historical or cultural backgrounds of the stories they read. With each group reading the same stories, we can allow the students to first get hooked by the story and then sneak in a mini-lecture to the entire class after the groups have finished their discussions. For example, after students finish reading and discussing a graded version of a horror story by Edgar Allan Poe, they are more than willing to listen to a mini-lecture about Poe's life and the historical and social issues raised in the story; thus, the Literature Circle readings and discussions serve to pique the student's interest in social and cultural issues, and before they even realize it, they are constructing quite complex questions in English in order to satisfy their curiosity!

4. When books are finished, readers may prepare a group project and/or the Instructor may provide additional information to "fill in some of the gaps" in student understanding. After the group projects or additional instruction, new groups are formed, based on student choice or the Instructor's discretion.

After the groups finish their discussions, the Instructor may then ask the groups to produce something reflecting the group's work. For example, each group may make a poster relating the major themes in the story and then explain the poster to the other groups. Instructors may teach students how to do a simple plot diagram (Freytag's Pyramid) and each group can then draw them on the board and explain the plot diagram to the entire class. Students often find it very interesting to learn that their classmates in other groups may have all discovered a different possible Climax for the same story. Again, because the literature circle framework allows students to feel that they are having meaningful discussions about the stories, students are often very motivated when asked to produce the group project once they've been hooked by the story, anything is possible!

5. Groups meet on a regular, predictable schedule to discuss their reading.

Literature Circles meet on a regular, predictable schedule, and I contend that this is one crucial aspect to the success of literature circles. EFL Literature circles require a good deal of student training time; thus, a teacher must be willing to commit to several cycles (stories) with literature circles if there are to be positive results. Again, this cannot be stated too strongly: one should not even consider trying literature discussion circles as a "one off" classroom activity. In college classrooms, it is a good idea to allow one full class period as a training session. This writer gives each student a copy of the five Role Sheets and encourages students to take notes on the Role Sheets so that they will remember exactly what to do later when it is their turn to play a certain role. It's best to put the students into groups of five or six, explain the Role Sheets one-by-one in simplified English and then allow the students to speak amongst themselves to confirm that they understand the purpose of each of the Role Sheets. The Role Sheets are the magic formula powering the literature circle, so it is imperative that students understand each of them. Finally, through the informal discussions, literature circles promote a natural integration of reading, speaking, listening and writing and students get better at integrating these skills as they practice using them over and over during the school year; thus, it is important to hold literature circles on a regular basis.


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