Paired Reading vs Literature Circles

I used to be a proponent of literature circles, especially with my junior classes. While this strategy is beneficial in terms of reciprocal teaching (each student having a role to fulfill such as summarizer, discussion director etc.), I find it takes considerable class time ensuring all my students have completed their role and are reporting back to each other effectively. Paired reading, on the other hand, requires less time and energy spent on logistics and makes students more accountable.

I have done paired reading with all my English classes this semester and I believe this strategy has had greater benefits than literature circles. Maybe this is why literature circles seem to be more of a primary school strategy, or perhaps it is just me!

I have found that giving pairs of students a few pages to read and then asking them to report back to the whole class is an effective way of ensuring engagement and providing an opportunity to promote student voice in the classroom. I’m sure they appreciate hearing less of my voice! I ask students to report back on thematic concerns, character development and plot development. Each pair must also provide evidence from the text when examining each of these aspects. Literature circles require all four students in the group to report back to one another and then to the rest of the class. I think this extra step is often superfluous and time consuming. I am not suggesting the literature circle is not a great strategy, however, the time constraints of 45 minute periods make them problematic. While I will continue to use literature circles, particularly with my younger students, I find paired reading is easier to manage and ensures more students are given a voice when presenting to the whole class.

I’d be interested in others’ points of view. I’m also keen to hear how others might use paired reading in other subject areas.

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Professional learning – 21st century skills

Our leadership team wanted to continue the momentum built up at the beginning of the year when we had Erica McWilliam talk to us about high challenge and 21st century learning. A number of us also attended a talk by Yong Zhou which articulated the type of entrepreneurial skills jobs in the future will require.

I found a document by the National Education Association outlining four major skill areas for 21st century – creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking. We decided to use this framework to deliver some professional learning amongst staff at a recent meeting. After briefly providing some background information and making some links back to Erica McWilliam and Yong Zhou, we had staff move into four groups. I had contacted four members of staff two weeks prior to this, requesting they prepare a short 5 minute presentation on how to teach one of these 21st century skills in their classroom. Of course, they came up with some fantastic examples. They were also asked to make some links with other subject areas.

These four leaders led groups to explore each of these skills. Staff rotated through each station. The whole session took no longer than 30 minutes and there were some interesting conversations which evolved out of it. Our next step will be to continue these conversations at a learning area level, sharing more ideas about how we can instill these skills in our students.

Ironically, we held this session on the day NAPLAN was being run. I would say standardized testing is the antithesis to such 21st century teaching.

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Think, pair, share

I have been inspired by headguruteacher and his post on “Think, Pair, Share”. This strategy I learnt in my first year of teaching, but Tom has re-invigorated the term for me and I am using it to raise the challenge level in my classroom. Thanks Tom.

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A new year’s resolution

Just read an article by Geoff Southworth entitled ‘Learning Centered Leadership”. He ponders the research that finds leadership is second only to the effects of teaching on students’ learning. He then goes on to note that the closer teachers and leaders work together the more powerful the effect on student learning will be. It reinforces to me the importance of creating opportunities during my day to talk to other teachers, exchange ideas and make some explicit links to our school goals. I have found this difficult to do on occasions, getting caught up in administrivia or becoming too involved in my own teaching practice. I aim to make this a new year’s resolution to keep!

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New beginnings

I am in the final days of my long service leave, comprising mostly of cafe lounging, some traveling, picking up kids from school and ‘twittering’. I never thought I would use the word ‘twitter’, let alone as a verb, however after reading an article in the newspaper I have become a ‘twitter’ addict. The discovery of twitter as a source of professional learning has seen me wile away hours on my mobile phone following educational luminaries. They have inspired me to start planning my lessons with new resources, to view leadership from new perspectives and to articulate my thoughts and reflections via a blog and thus begin a dialogue with other educators. I look forward to a new beginning and new learning.

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