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!



  1. Great ideas! I think I could use some of these. I purchased the Hunger Games last year but was not sure how to use it. I also have the Giver at school. I popped over here from the Middle School Bloglovin blog hop. I already linked up with that fantastic Bloglovin Hop but I wanted to invite you to come and link up AGAIN to another Bloglovin LInky! You can download a great freebie and enter to win your own personal laminator!

  2. Hi! I'm a middle school Science teacher and I just started the whole teacher blog thing. I figured it's a great way to stay organized and also to stay in the loop with new teaching methods used by "colleagues" all over the country. I found your blog through bloglovin' (AND YOU TEACH SCIENCE YAY!) and I'm glad I did. I hope you can take a look at my blog and find it as helpful and interesting as I find yours. :) Thanks!
    -D. Cortez

  3. I am LOVING this idea!!! I teach ELA, but will have an additional class that I am going to use as a "book club." The books you have chosen are excellent books that the students LOVE to read. I was just wondering, do you have your students purchase the books, or how do you set this up in your classroom? I will have four classes of students to use this for, and I am trying to figure out the best way to prepare for this.


  4. This year I moved to 5th grade from 6th grade. The plan is to move to 6th grade with my 5th graders after this year. Anyway, I also teach Language Arts and Science. I stumbled upon your blog by way of Pinterest. I have been using interactive notebooks for 3 years now and love them. In May we did the Hunger Games with our 6th grade students. It was so much fun. I'm interested to see how you use it with your classes. When I move back to 6th grade I will be using the Hunger Games again. I purchased the Hunger Games teacher resource on TPT. It was packed with great ideas and activities that kept my students engaged.

  5. Hi there! I just stumbled upon your blog via an old pin I had pinned on Pinterest. I have enjoyed the posts as I teach 6th-8th grade ESL and 8th-grade Spanish. Your little stories are so familiar. Looking forward to more as we launch into the new school year!

    Amy @

  6. Thank you for the great information on Literature Circles. Does your school provide books for the students or do they buy them? If they are school copies an your students take the book home or do they read them during class time?

  7. I found a resource for foldables for you on Pinterest.

  8. I absolutely love this idea! I teach middle school Language Arts and Social Studies and I am definitely going to be "borrowing" heavy from you! Thank you!

  9. This is really great!
    One of my favorite Dystopian series that not many people know about is "Unwind" by Neal Shusterman. Great stuff.

  10. It's nice to know that you're in good company! I also decided that this would be the focus of our inquiry this term. I am taking it through grade 7 language, history, geography, science, drama and art! The applications are endless!

  11. I love how these interactive notebooks have students reading, writing, thinking and talking about what they are studying. This is a surefire formula for successful learning.As studies show, when students do this, they will remember 90% of what they studied after a week instead of 20-30%. Seldy, you mentioned an interest in ELA ideas. Although I don't have anything on Interactive Notebooks, I do share alot of lesson ideas on my site, the majority of them with free activities.
    Happy Teaching,

  12. You are totally my favorite person right now. I've been trying to wrap my head around doing a sci fi/dystopia/fantasy unit that is largely self directed, and your resources are the perfect jumping off point. I now have a plan!! Thank you for sharing!

  13. Hi - I'm SO excited to try this with my 7th graders. I'm wondering if you developed a rubric to assess the creative component of the assignment - or, if not, if you had a strategy for that.

  14. Im starting the Among the Hidden with my 6th graders this year. Do you have a unit of activities? ... this is my first time teaching this novel.

  15. I so gratefully borrowed a lot of what you shared in this post and I am proud to say that I executed a Dystopian Unit + Literature Cirlces that ROCKED! If my students gained deeper understanding of just one thing this year (let's hope it was more though) - it would be dystopian socieities and literature! It was so encouraging to watch! I can't thank you enough for this post and all of your insight regarding the topic!

  16. Did each student have their own copy of the book to take home? Or did they do all of the reading in class?