An East Oakland Odyssey
Exploring the Love of Reading in a Small School
Elena Aguilar, ASCEND. Oakland, CA
Before starting literature circles with a new group of students, I spent 4-5 months developing my classroom culture before instituting this component of my reading program. These were students who I had for three years, so I knew I had this time to invest. I felt that if a strong classroom culture of trust and respect was not established, literature circles could be a disaster. My students, many of whom were several years below grade level in their reading, needed to feel safe with their classmates before exploring the risky areas of literature circles. Literature circles where to be places where students could develop comprehension of a text using their peers, a place where they could share their personal stories as they connected to texts, and a place where they could be enthusiastic about learning. They needed to feel safe saying, “I don’t understand…” Or “This reminds me of the time when….” Or “I LOVED this book!”
For the first 4-5 months of school, I worked on developing this classroom culture and on working in groups. At the same time, I began teaching students the skills they would use in literature circles: how to ask interesting questions, how to respond to other people’s ideas, how to expand upon what someone else had said.