Guided Reading Literature Circle

Discussion Group Unit



Key concepts covered in this reading system include: (a) assessing students' reading fluency and matching reading texts to students' instructional level; (b) creating reading lessons for small groups of students that focus on analysis of texts and literary elements, development of vocabulary and comprehension strategies, and active engagement with texts through discussion and writing; and (c) managing a multi-leveled class with a literature circle, discussion-based reading instruction model.




Literature Circles: Book discussion groups where several students read the same text--a novel, story, poem, or content piece--selected by teacher or student choice, and take active roles in the discussion by preparing to lead specific sections of it. Students choose or are assigned given roles or jobs such as passage picker, discussion director, word wizard, character sketcher, connector, and investigator. All students in the group have a role they are responsible for preparing before coming to the discussion group.


Roles/Jobs (Examples):

1.      Discussion Director--develops questions group members will discuss about this portion of the book; decides important ideas and issues raised in this section of the book and designs questions that address them

2.      Passage Picker--selects significant passages from the sections being read; determines why important; calls other readers' attention to passage and leads discussion about it

3.      Word Wizard--searches section of text for words that are key to understanding what is happening in the story; notes the page and sentence where found; checks the dictionary meaning of the word; leads a discussion about the meaning and intent of the word from context and what the word contributes to the import of the passage

4.      Character Sketcher--develops a character map of major characters in the text

5.      Internet Investigator--explores questions through Internet Workshop; investigates sites that are relevant to topics covered in the reading; teacher prepares sites and some questions ahead of time for students to explore

 6.     Summarizer--summarizes what has happened and major issues discussed to this point in the book

7.      Connector--thinks of ways personal experiences connect to events and themes appearing in the book; leads discussion of these issues

8.      Investigator--examines other sources (newspaper, web, encyclopedia, content texts, etc.) that have connections to the book being read; shares information with the group

9.      Artful Artist--develops a creative way to respond to the events and themes in the story

10. Travel Tracer--creates and maintains a map of movement if the story involves travel (either physical or metaphorical)

11.  Activity Activator--involves group members in an activity that represents information learned and ideas experienced from reading the book

12.  Meaning Mapper--develop word map for selected words from the day's reading: include a picture of the word; the sentence from the story containing the word; a definition; and the word used in a sentence



1.      To start, begin with one group and a limited number of roles

2.      Model the individual roles using a think-aloud process

3.      Students share roles, discussing how they are preparing for them with peers

4.      Ask students to show you what they plan to do and give them feedback before they carry out their roles in the discussion group

5.      You might set up a fishbowl or circle-within-a-circle to show other groups how the process works as you act as facilitator

6.      Routine may be a three-day cycle; meet to decide roles and how much will be read, read and prepare for role; give to you for feedback; discussion

7.      Make sure that you take time to discuss the process--how it's working, what needs improvement, lots of positive feedback


Directions for completion of the unit:


You will design a 4th-, 5th-, or 6th- grade literature-based unit, using children's novels. Your unit will be designed primarily for language arts block (60-90 minutes), but the texts you select will be  3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade level, sometimes 2nd grade level. Each of you will choose a lengthy novel or chapter book, or several short novels to build your lessons around. You must have a minimum of 8 sections, with each section containing between 20-40 pages (rough estimate). If you are teaching in kindergarten, first, or second grade, you may partner with a teacher of third, fourth, fifth, or sixth grade; together you will plan one book. If you work alone (or with a k-2 partner), you will plan one book and identify other books a teacher could use with the one you have planned. You may work in groups to build lessons around similar themes, genres or authors. If you work this way, your unit will have a minimum of two different reading levels (on-grade, one grade below) for two people who teach in grades 3 and up. A team of three teachers (who teach grades 3 and up) will have three different reading levels (on-grade, one grade below, and two grades below). If four people (who teach grades 3 and up) are working in a group, add an above-grade level book. For the two grades below you will need additional books because the easier-to-read children's books are shorter; this group will need more texts to work through. The structure of the activities in the unit will follow the literature circle format (see below).


Components of the unit plan


1.      Title page--identify theme, genre or author study, short description of unit, names of group members, books being used with level identified

2.      List of competencies & goals from the NCDPI curriculum that the unit addresses (from each of these areas: English Language Arts, Social Studies and/or Science, Computer/Technology Skills)

3.      Bibliography of reference materials--indicating the main books you will use in the unit with complete reference information (books, magazines, videos, web sites, with brief descriptions of what they are about and how they would be used).

4.      Launch activity--how do you plan to begin the unit?  We encourage creativity here.

5.      Closure activity--how will you bring the unit to an end?  Can you think of ways to pull the information learned together for the students?

6.     Graphics and pictures, working web links, your own personal touch


7.  Literature circle lessons--one set for each leveled reading group 


a)      Identify the central text, indicate reading level, and give brief synopsis of text

b)      Provide an index page (plan) for your unit that identifies section read (page numbers)

c)      Plan the roles for the lesson. In each of the first 5 lessons, you should introduce a new role by modeling it—planning it with enough detail that teachers could model that role for students. Complete the role sheet for the one you are modeling: include questions to ask for Discussion Director, possible passages to pick for Passage Picker, sample character maps for Character Sketcher, word wizard words from the story with sample word wizard cards for Word Wizard, reference materials to be used for investigation with sample information identified, etc for Internet Investigator. For each lesson you will need a minimum of 5 roles.

·        *Discussion Director

·        *Passage Picker

·        *Character Sketcher

·        *Word Wizard

·         Internet Investigator (Include web sites and the guiding questions that students could use to investigate the relevant information in the books.)


      * Indicates the most important roles that should be included in almost every lesson  (In other words, Discussion Director, Passage Picker, Character Sketcher, and Word Wizard should be in every lesson; Internet Investigator should be in at least two sections and other roles can be used when appropriate.)


When you put these together, make sure each section has at least 5 roles planned; include a minimum of 5 questions for the DD, 4 passages for the PP, 3 words for WW, 1 Character for Character Sketcher and at least 5 questions for Internet Investigator. For some of these sections you will model the roles, and there you will need to plan them out completely. As you move across the unit you will model less, but you will still need to identify possible words, possible passage types, possible question types, etc. 


For the first 5 sections, you will introduce one job, give complete examples of the job (in other words you will do the job), and provide a plan for the other jobs. For example, in section 1 you may choose to introduce the job of Discussion Director. So, this is the job you would actually do for section 1. You would still give a plan for all the jobs (which you will complete for each section), but you will actually complete one job for each section. Section 2 you may introduce Passage Picker, Section 3 Character Sketcher, etc. You will introduce the five main jobs (Discussion Director, Passage Picker, Word Wizard, Character Sketcher, and Internet Investigator) one for each section, in sections 1-5. This is similar to what you may do in the classroom. When you introduce Word Wizard, you will complete at least 2 example cards and you will share them with students. Also, when you introduce the Character Sketcher, you will complete a character sketch and share this.


When you are introducing Literature Circles in your classroom, you want everyone to be in the same book, preferably a book that is one grade level below the grade you are teaching. This way, all of your children will be able to "hang" with the reading. You may choose to model one job for each section of the reading. This way, your children are not too overwhelmed. Therefore, this is how you will set up your unit.


After you have introduced each of the main jobs in sections 1-5, your plan for the remaining sections will only include the directions for the roles; there will be no need to model any roles.


It is my intention to have you create lessons that will be useful for teachers, but at the same time will allow those teachers the opportunity to engage with the literature circle book and design their own lesson roles. I hope that you will create literature circle lessons that provide good modeling in the beginning but that also scaffold the modeling to gradually release responsibility for the lesson design to the teacher who might be using your model lesson.



The Bad Beginning Plan and Example Jobs

(Excellent Model Unit; For a book that utilizes all jobs click on Ragweed)


To see the examples of literature circle web units go to


Please remember your units will be a little different, so don't get caught up in format, but look at examples and how it fits together.