Literature Circles Fundamentals

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • May 8, 2017, 3:48 p.m.

Literature circles are meant to be a student-led way of practicing ALL essential reading skills, fluency and comprehension. Students get together to discuss the meaning of a text that they have read independently.

Here are 4 big ideas that will lead to successful literature Circles.

1. Create Excitement!

Students need to be pumped up from the start about literature circles (also known as book clubs). To create excitement, hold a voting day. First introduce every text choice available (usually 4-5 titles) with a book trailer and book talk (don’t give away the ending). Consider reading the first few paragraphs or pages to your students to see which texts "hooks" them. Students then have to vote for their top two choices on secret ballots. Tally up the votes and announce the group they “made it into” the next day!


2. Model, Model, Model
If you want success, you have to show your students what it looks like. A few weeks before starting lit circles, have students meet with you in small discussion groups. Make sure they know how to make notes or to jot their thoughts about the text. We want them to know what it means to be prepared to participate in a discussion about a text. You may want to show a quick video from Youtube of a book club or role-play lit circles with a group of kiddos. Make sure that the language you are using from your reading lessons is translated into the way students discuss texts in small discussion circles.

3. Student-Led

To insure that your literature circles go smoothly, it’s important to give students choices and responsibility. Students should lead the group and have the power to say if someone is not doing their part. (Think Survivor.) As students participate in the group meetings, they decide what a reasonable amount of reading should be done before the next meeting. They also determine the questions or ideas to discuss. Of course, you can provide suggestions, but ultimately, we want students to feel empowered as self-directed readers and thinkers.

4. Create a Space

Create a space in your classroom dedicated to materials for literature circles. You will need sets of texts that you know students will want to read. Make everything easily accessible to students. Small baskets or file folders work great!


For more information on literature circles & summer reading, attend our Literature Circles in the Balanced Literacy Classroom!


For more information on literature circles & summer reading, attend our Literature Circles in the Balanced Literacy Classroom!

Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

Learn More »