Sunday, October 09, 2011

Reflective Journal: Literature Circles

Literature Circles has been an interesting journey for me and for my class. I can't say it has always been positive, but definitely something worth doing. As I write this, I'm waiting for my Literature Circles movie to save on to the library computer, allowing me to burn copies - one for the library, one for Cristina, our literacy coach (and we will miss her if the government really does go ahead and scrap this position in schools), one for our head honcho of Sunlit, out school's literacy program - and fellow Year 8 teacher, Janis - and one for the library.

There was plenty of fun and games along the way. As I have a previous post on the start of Lit Circles, I'll just talk about what happened later.

I have a first-rate class, with only a very small number of students who are a bit lazy. Cristina was very impressed with most of the groups. The one group with which we were having trouble was split up temporarily - two of the students were willing to work, so we let them get on with it and gave the others some questions about the book to answer, which they could use in a discussion later. That worked, but itwas getting late in the piece.

We had one student whose reading level was below that of the rest of the class, but she had good friends who were willing to work with her on the book of her choice. Unfortunately, she then went overseas for the last few weeks, leaving the others to complete the task, which they did well, and they enjoyed the book, but it's an experience she has not really had.

Another student had been absent for most of the year, being home schooled, and came back after we were well and truly into the task. I chose a book for him and he took it home to read and then fitted quite well into his group, so that was okay.

The main problem was missing students during class time. It wasn't just a case of illness, but of students who had other duties, such as student rep council meetings and others who had to do rostered duties for sub school. One day the SRC students were busy for a double period and the other group member, who was doing her rostered duties, came back after one period. You can't DO Literature Circles alone, so she offered to get on with another task they were working on.

Then there are sports excursions and illness and so on.

There were students reading way ahead of the rest of their groups. There were things we had agreed they would do while waiting, but that didn't always help. One group asked to please, please get their group mate to read something else to give them the chance to catch up! Luckily, he's a keen reader (the reason he was ahead in the first place) and as librarian I was able to find something to interest him.

And because I really couldn't let them take the books home, for fear they would forget to bring them in or some would finish WAY  before the others, there were some near the end who still hadn't read the whole book.

Still, we had our eight weeks on the task and we finished by filming various groups at work. Even the lazy group had a discussion, thanks to our cameraman, one of the two boys in the group who had been working. Lachlan insisted they discuss a chapter they had all read and filmed it. He panned around the library, which made a nice opening for the film and gave me a chance to put in the opening credits and some music from Jamendo, a web site that has some lovely creative commons music. A tune called "Sunset" by Celestial Aeon Project, was perfect for our needs. As he visited different groups, he started them off with questions. Cristina helped too, but I have to say I was terribly impressed with Lachlan, whom I told later he should seriously consider either teaching or film directing. I made sure he got a credit to himself on the film. A fourteen year old boy and he made a fabulous film!

Afterwards, the class had a look at the raw footage and had a giggle over it. You saw them starting off nervous, then forgetting they were being filmed and doing their discussions beautifully.

I forgot to credit myself as the editor, but never mind. I learned how to use iMovie. It's not perfect - I had a hard time working out how to do the end credits and then I found myself with a double lot - the fixed-up version and the original, but it was midnight and the rest was fine, so I left it. I removed the one that were of no use - such as a student snapping, "Go away, we're not ready!" - and re-ordered them so that each group's snippets were put together. I made sure that the Burn Bright group went last, because it ended neatly with "Well, that's the end of the discussion" and "Thank you" after a humorous exchange between Joe and Cristina about a quote he'd made. The credits listed all the books being discussed and the students in each discussion group, with thanks to Cristina and our volunteer, Hilary, who had been working her way around the groups and encouraging discussion. She wasn't there that day, but will get a copy to enjoy.

It has been a fascinating and satisfying experience.