Literature Circle Discussion: Part II- Another Layer

In Part 1 of Literature Circle Discussions, I shared 6th Grade Humanities teacher, Emily Vallillo‘s well structured and organized Literature Circle lesson.

Literature circles are a way to support students in becoming critical readers. Beyond spelling it out for students in a rubric,  modeling and practicing good behavior that leads to developing good reading habits, how do we make students aware of the strategies and their own behaviors when reading?

We saw an opportunity to add another layer to  meta-cognitive practices and to make students’ behavior, observations and discussion of text visible.



Emily developed guidelines to support students in becoming aware of high- quality text based discussion components and being able to recognize these behaviors in their discussion.

Students recorded their Literature Circle discussion and then edited the video in groups. They were asked to “annotate” the video by overlaying “text” at specific parts on the video, when they saw literary analysis behavior exhibited.

I have been intrigued by the development and usage of annotexting in education. Mike Fisher and Jeanne Tribuzzi have written previously on Langwitches about ANNOTEXTING. They defined annotexting as:

Annotexting is a process that involves the collection of thoughts, observations and reactions to reading that show evidence of critical thought. These annotations, rather than being on paper, can be collected with different web tools so that students can collaborate, both locally and globally, around the conclusions that they will ultimately draw from their reading. […]

Expecting students to read deeply and draw meaningful conclusions is at the heart of the Common Core ELA standards. Students are asked to read closely, cite evidence, and make evidence based inferences when they read. They are expected to deepen their learning by valuing textual evidence and reading critically.  Annotating text is one way students can cite textual evidence, infer and deepen meaning as they read..

While Mike and Jeannie were primarily talking about reading TEXT, we started transferring the concept to “reading” VIDEO. The traditional notion of reading was being expanded to include “hearing” and “seeing”.


Here is the video with a few snippets from completed student annotexted videos.

Find Emily’s plan for the Literature Circle Video Analysis below:

Your task is to digitally analyze your literature circle discussion. With words, images, and quotations from the text, you will show evidence of how your literature circle discussion met or exceeded expectations, as well as give constructive comments. Finally, you will create a blog post that reflects on your own participation in the literature circle discussion in which you will embed this annotated video as an artifact.

General Guidelines

___ Cut out “dead air” (this is when no one is speaking and nothing productive is happening related to literature circle discussions)

___ Do not use anyone’s last name (only use first names)

___ Use LARK (The goal is not to police or embarrass anyone, do not annotate “There is Emily goofing off again!”)

___ Constructive criticism is good

Literature Circle Literary Analysis

___ Clearly identify the segments of discussion: Clarifying Questions and Deeper Discussion

___ Highlight and annotate the video when you do something that is part of a high-quality, text-based discussion:

___ Evidence from the text is used to support a claim

___ Quotes from the text are used to spark discussion or ask a question

___ Questions are asked that fuel discussion

___ Questions are asked to clarify something confusing

___ Claims, inferences, opinions, connections, or predictions are made

___ Highlight and annotate the video when you are exhibiting good discussion behaviors:

___ Tracking the speaker with your eyes

___ Actively listening

___ Inviting others to join the discussion

___ Highlight and annotate the video when you notice there are places for improvement. Make sure to explain exactly how you would improve that moment in a constructive way.

Self-Reflection Blog Post

___ Explain what your Literature Circle Video Analysis is and why it will help you improve and reflect upon your literature circles.

___ Reflect upon your own participation in the literature circles, what you did well and what you can improve on, based upon the video.

___ Embed the video into your blog post as an artifact.

___ Choose an engaging and relevant title for your blog.

___ Check punctuation and spelling.
___ Check professionalism – does this blog post look professional or have you done something like this (MY VIDEO iS sO aWesOmE!!!!!!! XOOXOXOXOXOX!!!!!!!!!)


Here is the rubric developed by the teacher for the discussion analysis and video creation.


Download Literature Circle Analysis Video Rubric as PDF

Two samples of student blog reflections:

Gabriel wrote a reflection after editing and embedding the video analysis on his blog:

Literature circles is a when we make small groups and then we need to read chapters and after we get again together and discuss about what we read. In my literature circle I think I went really well because I always participated and I always added to what other people said and there thoughts. Things you would hear me say are: I liked how you said that but I would also like to add that… I disagree because… Some discussion behaviors I did were listening to what other people said and adding to their comments. Also in a good discussion you don’t interrupt others. A good literature circle discussion requires that you pay attention and talk a lot so the discussion takes more time and stays more interesting.

GianLuca wrote:

Something very important that I had done on the literature circle so that I could had accomplished my tasks was to, mostly, participate! But participating in a specific way, not just participating in the way of, well, participating! I participated in a way that I didn’t just expressed my thoughts, (talked) but I also participated in a way that I also writed “stuff” in a way that I also participated on the discussion, but in an “un-verbal” way, coming up with a simple word called: writing. Actually it is five words: Expressing my thoughts by writing. Or even maybe seven words: Expressing and communicating my thoughts by writing.
I used this “ability” to participate on a literature circle before in all of the discussion, but every discussion we had, I “evoluted” this ability, making me better every time. I also will use this skills again not only in literature discussion, but yes, in life! (So I can communicate with people all over the world! That’s also my core value: communicator).
I think that something that I still could had improved on my participation on the literature discussion was to use the book just a bit more, because I simply fell that the amount of times that I used the book on the discussion wasn’t enough for my group. That is because there wasn’t enough information about the book that I told the group, but yes, instead of information, I expressed thoughts and questions for the group, which made the discussion more interesting and “fueled” until it ended. So I came up with a solution. For next time, I’ll improve my “ability” of participating by, well, using the book a little more often!

Continuing to amplify learning

Students and teachers are getting a taste of and are being reminded that learning in a connected world is never over… The simple fact of documenting and taking the time to publish “what we are doing in class”… is connecting us to a world of learning opportunities.

After the publishing of Part 1 of the Literature Circle discussion blog post, Author, founder and co-director of  Habits of Mind, Bena Kallick commented to me in a private email:

“I cannot help but comment on the Habits of Mind that are being displayed here:

-listening with understanding and empathy
-questioning and problem posing
-thinking interdependently
What an opportunity!! I could not resist and asked Bena, if she would be interested in skyping into our 6th graders classroom here at the American School of Sao Paulo? ….and she said YES!
We are now in the process of setting up and preparing students for the Skype call with our expert… so stay tuned for Part III of Literature Circle- Adding (yet) another layer of learning!
Are you using Literature Circles with your students? What layers are you adding to amplify learning and supporting your students critical analysis of “text”? Please connect and share your experiences and ideas…