The Difference Between Book Clubs & Literature Circles

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will define literature circles and book clubs and examine the similarities and differences between them as a means for engaging students in reading.

Background Information

John Locke, an English philosopher, once said, 'Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.' What are some things that teachers can do to encourage students to think about their reading? Book clubs and literature circles take advantage of peer relationships to help students comprehend what they have read and connect with books. Let's look at the differences and similarities between book clubs and literature circles.

Students collaborate using literature.
Students reading.

Literature Circles

Literature circles are a process for engaging students in reading with their peers. Students are grouped based on a book that they choose to read. When the group first meets, students select roles. Each student is given an assignment based on which role he/she chooses. Some of the roles are: discussion director (asks comprehension questions), word wizard (researches difficult word meanings and pronunciations), literary luminary (asks questions about literary elements), connector (asks questions that connect the story to personal experiences, other stories, and real world events), and checker (evaluates the participation of all the members).

Students in the group determine how much of the story will be read by the next meeting. Each participant independently reads the text and completes their assignment. During the next meeting, each member equally participates in leading the portion of the discussion related to their role. For example, the discussion director will ask comprehension questions, but the connector will relate the story to personal experiences, other books, or historical events. Once everyone has had a chance to respond to the questions about comprehension, vocabulary, literary elements, and text connections, new roles are assigned for the next meeting.

When the book is finished, the members of the literature circle share what they have learned with the rest of the class before new groups are formed.

Book Clubs

In contrast, book clubs are less formal gatherings to discuss books with peers. They are made up of small groups of students that are reading the same book. Book clubs meet on a regular basis to have a conversation about a specific part of the book that each of them has recently read independently. During the book club, students might clarify any confusing parts, discuss the events that occurred and predict what might happen next.

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