Literature Circles: Assessment & Evaluation

Instructor: David Raudenbush
Teachers need to make certain students improve the depth of their comprehension that is built during literature circles. Here are several methods of assessment and evaluation to try.

What are They Learning?

Literature circles are a terrific tool for generating student-led conversations about something the children have read. If you are a reading or literature teacher concerned with the depth of your student's comprehension, literature circles should be a regular part of your classroom. At some point during your literature circle activities, you need to assess what students are gaining from their small group discussions. You need a range of formal and informal assessment options. Regular assessment and evaluation followed by useful feedback will improve the quality of the literature circle conversations and extend the level of reading comprehension.

Assessment is necessary for effective literature circles.

Informal Assessment

Not every form of assessment or evaluation has to end with a grade. Assessment begins with monitoring students as they are in the process of learning. When students are working in literature circles, you need to circulate around the room listening to the conversations. Right away, you will notice the students who aren't going about the tasks correctly, and you can fix that on the spot. You can also listen for the areas where students seem to have trouble. Then, you can apply that information to a mini-lesson at the end of the literature circles or before the next session.

The Checker

The checker is a role many teachers use in literature circles, and you can use the checker's work to help evaluate your students. The checker makes sure all the work is completed by the group and keeps track of every student's participation. The checker also writes an evaluation of how the group performed in each literature circle session. Usually, the student uses a worksheet for the evaluation. You can use the information the checker provides as part of you informal assessment and to help you make decisions about grouping.

Role Worksheets

Just like there is a worksheet for the checker to use, there are also worksheets for all the other group roles. The discussion leader records questions and topics for conversation. The summarizer writes a summary of the key ideas the group discusses. The vocabulary builder keeps track of word choices. Every job has a role sheet. These worksheets provide another source of assessment. They allow the students to assess themselves, and you to evaluate each child's work in the group.

Test and Quizzes

Quizzes and tests are venerable methods of checking for understanding and generating numbers for your grade book. You can use them while you are working with literature circles. If every student is reading the same material, that's very easy. You give your Hunger Games test or your Maze Runner quiz to the entire group. If you have different groups reading different books, tests and quizzes are more cumbersome. You might need four or five separate quizzes or tests and teachers don't often have time to create so many separate assessments.

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