Next week I will be presenting at AMLE in Austin, Texas. I love this conference, and I am thrilled to be able to present and network with colleagues. My presentation is titled, “Raising Literacy Levels Through Mixed-Ability and Mixed-Grade Activities.” Literacy is vital to the success of students at all levels of learning. The love for reading can propel students to higher levels of intellect; however, if the love of reading is not captured as students approach middle schools, it is difficult for teachers to successfully encourage adolescent readers to make reading a habit. This results in the absence of reading outside of school and the reluctance of reading in the classroom. Of course, there are several reasons for a reluctant reader, and there are multiple ways teachers can successfully get students to read as well as instill the love of reading in those who may have felt reading was at a loss for them.
When teachers begin to explore outside of their classroom walls and enlist the minds of colleagues, innovative teaching can erupt and something magical can occur. Literature circles have been used in classrooms across the country for years. Teachers who use literature circles can testify to the deeper levels of conversation that students engage in during well-led literature circle activities and discussions. Taking this concept beyond a single-class, single-grade experience sheds light on how impactful literature circles can be for a school.
In one school, teachers in different grade levels explored ways to mix 7th, 8th, and 9th grade ELA classes in efforts to boost comprehension levels of nonfiction texts. Each grade level had some experience with literature circles in their own classrooms, so some routines were in place. 8th and 9th-grade teachers explained to their students how they would become the leaders when conducting literature circles with grades below them. To begin the process, each group studied video and written articles about growth mindset. The discussions led to community building throughout the school as students grasped growth mindset ideals. As the literature circles discussions continued, the divide between grade levels subsided and authentic learning inspired students to want to read more and explore texts. Teachers also were excited about how to proceed with purposeful groups according to student needs, readiness, personalities, and learning growth.
The ideas becomes endless. Taking a risk is key to innovation. There are different levels of risks teachers are willing to take, but when a group of teachers are supported in trying something new, teaching becomes exhilarating and student success expands. The overview of ideas in this post will be expanded in the AMLE presentation and future posts.
Literature Circles Resource Center http://www.litcircles.org/Overview/overview.html
Teaching Channel https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/literature-circles-in-action