Welcome to EFL Literature Circles
Reading and Discussion Schedule
Finally, a look at what the students do, the first time that they meet. First, students are each given a copy of the Reading Schedule and then students choose or may be assigned a role, and they complete the reading schedule in their small group. Because almost every Japanese student has a cell phone with email capability, most students exchange email addresses at the time of filling in the schedule. This writer always tells students that even if they are absent on the day of the literature circle meeting, they still must have their work ready and contact another group member to present their materials to the group. Making students responsible for their roles whether they are in class or not, really promotes both student responsibility and a very high attendance rate since when students realize that they have to do the homework whether they are absent or not, they often decide that it is easier to come to class and participate than to arrange to send in their homework by proxy.
To begin with, it is recommended that students read short stories (around 4-6 pages in a graded reader); thus, students are required to read and to prepare their particular role for the entire story prior to the next class.
As I stated at the very beginning of this article, this writer does believe that literature circles are magic. For EFL students, their magic works in a number of ways. First, EFL students feel as if they are having interesting, important discussions in English while participating in literature circles. I contend that because the Literature Circle Role Sheets give each group of students a set of clear, yet complex, tasks, they are able to have discussions at a far deeper level than those commonly heard in EFL classrooms which use "course books" or "discussion-based" textbooks. The magic lies in the fact that the sum of these Role Sheets is far more complex than any of the individual parts. Second, EFL Literature Circles are magic because at their heart lie something that I did not even really touch on in my paper. While this paper focused on the methodology of conducting EFL literature circles, let us not forget that at the heart of a literature circle is a great story. In all cultures, over thousands of years, people have been fascinated by a good story, and I can say from experience, that my students have been no exception. We have read stories ranging from those written by Mark Twain to little-known stories of Caribbean islanders, and in almost every case, these stories have reached students in ways that course books and other materials can not even approach. Finally, at least in the case of my Japanese first and second-year college students, literature circles have performed the magic of motivating students to read a good deal outside of class; to write copiously in order to be prepared for the group discussions; to speak in English over 95% of the time while in their groups; to eagerly point to passages within a text to support their arguments; and to question each other in order to figure out what the text really means. Is this magic? I believe so, but the only way to know for sure is to try it for yourself!
Downloadable Version of How and Why to Use Literature Circles
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