Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dystopian Literature Circles

My school is located within a 20 minute drive of where part of The Hunger Games was filmed in an old mill village.  Being the intelligent teachers we our, my teammate and I jumped on the excitement and interest in this book along with other dystopian novels to create a series of literature circle books.  Chosen for this series were other books that qualified with their dystopian societies.  This dystopian series would also create a perfect interdisciplinary unit for our team.  In 7th grade in our state, students study genetics and government organizations which are all found within dystopian literature.  Math and language arts are easily tied into these novels. 

The books we used for our literature circles included:  Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The Uglies by Scott Westerfield, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, True Sight by David Stahler Jr, City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and Matched by Ally Condie. 

The great things about these books are that each of them are part of a series.  Therefore, when students found one they liked, they had others in the series to read.  This was especially helpful with my gifted students who would NOT follow the reading schedule and would always read ahead. 

We started out reading Among the Hidden as a whole class.  Students were placed in their literature circle groups or "book clubs" as we called them.  We held our meetings every Friday.  Students were given the typical role sheets that can be found just about everywhere.  I start out with a whole class literature circle first so that students understand how important it is to complete the readings and how important each role is within the set of assignments.  Each day, students complete the same role until each role has been completed, then we work on each member of the group each having a different role.  The first meeting is modeled in front of the class with me being the discussion director and other class members are randomly chosen (using the SMARTboard) to participate in the meeting with me (that way they know they must have their work completed).  We finished this first book in a couple of weeks, then the real process started.

Students listed the books they wished to read in the order they wished to read them on an index card.  I took these cards and went through them to create 8 different groups, each group reading a different novel from the list above with 4 students in each group (yes, I had 32 students in one class and 31 in another).  A couple of groups in one class would have to contain 5 students as I found that 3 students per group was just not enough to have a meaningful and thought-provoking discussion. 

Students had four weeks to complete the reading of their chosen novel.  Some students had more to read while others had less each week.  This balanced out when the novels were rotated every four weeks.  Discussion directors were chosen for each week during the initial group meeting.  After our first couple of weeks, I realized that the typical role sheets were not challening enough for my gifted students.  That is when I spent a weekend searching for alternatives and found a few things that I then combined to create out new literature circles sheets and activities.  Instead of completing one role each week, students would complete parts of each role every week and complete an activity from a list.  This worked much better for my classroom than the typical literature circle roles (not that there is anything wrong with those!).

I hope this answers some questions I have had about how I used the dystopian novels as literature circles in my language arts classroom.  Just an FYI, none of the literature circles activities were placed in our interactive notebooks.  One of the additional activities was glued into the back of our notebooks so students would always have a copy. 

A copy of my literature circle roles and additional activities can be picked up for free in my TpT store by clicking on the following picture of each item or they can be downloaded from my school documents web page by clicking here for the literature circles sheet or by clicking here for the additional creative activities page.

Thanks for reading and please ask if you have any questions.  I will try my best to answer!