I learnt something yesterday, from one of my students. Literature Circles are going reasonably well in their 2006 iteration, but I realise more strongly than ever that I have to teach the skills of group discussion of literature. So used as the students are to being told what to do, the freedom to find their own focus in the discussion provides a bit of a challenge. For this reason I provide as scaffolds the much maligned “role sheets” that give the students a bit of a guide to help their discussion of the novel, and to go into a bit of depth. The role of connector is a key one, in finding and exploring connections that any aspect of the novel has to their own lives. I came across this interesting resource on the different ways that students can make connections with the text on Geoff Chapman’s very useful blog. But I hadn’t yet thought to use it in class. Instead I decided to have a non-Literature Circles lesson.
I have been collecting free advertising postcards that you can find in cafes and cinemas for a while (always two copies of each postcard). The students were to do some writing inspired by any aspect of the postcard they were given then share that writing with the other (random) class member who had received a copy of the same postcard. The pairs shared their writing and then there was the opportunity to read their pieces to the whole class. In discussion afterwards I found myself pointing out how the writers had made connections to their own lives, such as when V. wrote about her love of playing tennis in response to a card advertising the Australian Open and A. wrote about a Japanese teacher at her previous school in response to a part of a photo on her card that reminded her of a kimono.
And here is what I learnt: A. said that this was just like the connector role in Literature Circles and I realised that this activity that I had thought unconnected to Literature Circles was most definitely connected. I made a connection and I learnt something.
Another part of the discussion came up when one of the students said (and others agreed) how good it was to share the stories with each other. The need and desire for an audience. Who knows? In the future we may have our own blogs for this class too, the class who have seen the value of an audience.