What are Literature Circles & how to use Lit Circles in High School Spanish?
Literature circles in my upper level, high school Spanish class means multiple groups of 3-5 students reading and discussing different books all at once. I learned about lit circles from English teachers and my own experience in elementary school. Lit circles are a way to differentiate reading to meet the needs of all students. Ideally, students get a say in which book group they are in during lit circles. Also, a variety of literature circle jobs increases student engagement and buy in.
How I get started with Lit Circles
How to prepare for Lit Circles
Pick books to use for Spanish Lit Circles
Spanish 4 – Literature Circles with the following 3 books
- La hija del Sastre
- La Guerra Sucia
- Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha
Spanish 3 – Literature Circles with the following 4 books in past tense
Students rank books to read in Lit Circles
I let students to rank their choices. To give them more info on each choice, I made a Google Slideshow for each class with a description of each book. These included the country of setting and main cultural themes. Students filled out a form ranking their choices, and giving their reasoning as well. I went through their requests and tried to put students into groups of their 1st or 2nd choice. A the same time, making sure that each group would be a positive functioning unit. For the duration of this unit, groups sat together in table groupings.
Students Plan for Lit Circles
Student Jobs for Literature Circles
Since I have always run this lit circle unit like a college class, in my unit I have not been big into assigning literature circle jobs. I know that for elementary and middle school having set lit circle jobs like the reader, timekeeper, note-taker, etc, can be helpful. But, with a high school junior and senior-led class in the Spring, I let groups naturally pick and choose who does what each day. Here are examples of different lit circle jobs based on the group.
- Group A – One dramatic student with a wonderful accent who likes reading out loud reads to the group each day. In that same group, another student pauses to ask questions, and another takes notes.
- Group B – Independent students might all read silently on their own. In group B they all take notes, and then come together to discuss and chat.
- Group C – A group who wants and needs more support might want the teacher there as they read new sections for clarification and support.
I have found by Spanish 4 especially many students fall into their natural group roles. Trying to control them will only lead to animosity. If a group does not seem to be working, I might suggest setting more specific lit circle roles if needed.
Literature Circle Unit Plan in Spanish class
Reading & Discussion
These are basically the open work days with the expectation that groups are working in Spanish on their book. Each group plans and structures these differently. They all have a list of general discussion questions in Spanish for any novel, which help them when they get stuck. I move from group to group, helping where needed. I wanted to give them enough in class time to make sure everyone reads, and to provided support for those who like to read out loud with their group. If they finish early, they should prep for the next speaking and writing. See above for my thoughts on lit circle jobs or roles in the groups.
Guided Interpersonal Speaking
Every few days we had a more structured interpersonal time which is required to be completely in Spanish. I give a topic (characters, setting, theme, plot, dram, critique, etc), set a timer for 10-15 minutes, and then walk around informatively assessing. I have a Slideshow with timers, topics & prompts in my unit. It is meant to be like a casual book club and students may use their books and notes.
We usualy start in their set books to discuss. Then we sometimes each group numbers off, and one person from each book forms new chat circles. This gives them a chance to chat with someone new and actually ask questions about a book they do not know about. It also ensures that each person in the group is an expert on their book. To support all stundets, you could use questions cards if needed. *This is often where the real magic of lit circle happens*
Right after speaking I set another 15 minute timer and students write about the topic they just discussed, also comparing it to other books and movies. The should give both what they think, as well as what other people said. I usually read these, give feedback and return them as formative practice. Or the next day we might start by students reading thier writing, or the writing of someone else and giving feedback. You can get all of the writing prompt forms in the unit plan.
Interpersonal Speaking Assessment
I listen to each group separately as they discuss and critique their book.
Presentational Writing Assessment
Students write an individual essay in class on paper about their book. They use the literary elements discussed in class, as well as comparing it to other books and/or shows/fims. (In our class at the time we watched El Internado, you could change to something you watch instead).
My first year, each group did a short presentation to teach the others about their book and the related culture. All others were encouraged to ask questions as well. *I later got rid of the project, since it seemed too much to have three summative assessments at the end. Depending on your gradebook and what you want to assess, you could just pick two total. For example, one year we did a project instead of writing, per the request of the students.
Resources for Literature Circles in Spanish class
If you do no want to start from scratch, you can download my entire upper level Literature Circle Unit here. I have refined this unit over six years of using lit circle with high school Spanish students. As well as many teachers used this for distance and hybrid learning. The Spanish literature unit now contains the following as discussed above:
- Google Drive Folder with all of the below items in editable Google documents.
- Directions to teacher for a 3-4 week unit in upper-level Spanish classes
- Sample book choice slideshow & voting forms
- Editable Calendar for students
- Instructions for Students
- Discussion Questions for any book (In Spanish)
- 5 Weekly interpersonal speaking prompts (In Spanish)
- 5 Weekly writing prompts (with writing forms in Spanish)
- Final Writing Assessment (In Spanish)
- Editable Google Unit Slideshow with daily instructions
- Differentiated instruction through both formative and summative interpretive reading, interpersonal speaking, and presentational writing/speaking in Spanish.
Other Reading Options
If you do not have multiple copies of each novel and would like to do something similar, try Individual novel study. Check out my posts on how we did Individual Novel Study the year before lit circles Individual Novel Study Part 1 & part 2.
Literature Circles in Spanish class was originally published by Allison Wienhold of Mis Clases Locas on April 11, 2016 & most recently updated February 15, 2022.