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Literature Conversation Circles - Cajas de Cartón

Spanish IV is in the middle of reading the novel Cajas de Cartón by Francisco Jiménez. You can see how I planned for the novel in this post. This is my third year teaching the novel and it is going SOOO much better than the first two years. I can attribute this year's success to many factors: it is my third year teaching this group, we already read two novels this year (Robo en la Noche La Calaca Alegre) and this year we are using the new Musicuentos E-book Guide. In the past I made this mistake of jumping right to this authentic novel, without first reading any other level appropriate readers. 

Since this is a high level group of seniors that I am running more like a college class, the students are responsible for reading the assigned chapters and answering comprehension questions in advance. I am not requiring them to turn in these comprehension questions, but rather they have the opportunity to answer them to assist in their understanding of the text. I just ask that them come ready to discuss each chapter for the day it is assigned. I know that this system would not work with every group, but I have been very proud of these students so far. 

Each day we do a variety of tasks to demonstrate their understanding and analysis of the text, such as free writes, Kahoot quizzes, full class discussion or literature conversation circles. Conversation circles are something that I think I have been scared of in the past, because it takes away my role as facilitator. The teacher is the one who is supposed to be running the show, right? Wrong! It is amazingly liberating the have the freedom as a teacher to drop in on conversations that are being run by students, as well as makes me SO proud to see a group of students spend the entire class period speaking in Spanish discussing a novel. 

Literature Conversation Circles - Keys to Success

  • All students must do the assigned reading & be ready to discuss.
  • Provide discussion questions as prompts, or require that students come prepared with questions or topics.
  • Allow students to have their book to use as a reference.
  • Model discussion as a class, before dividing and expecting students to facilitate.
  • Divide class into groups of 3-5 students.
  • Make sure each group has at least one student who will feel comfortable starting the conversation.
  • Drop in on the conversations to probe for more information or make sure that all students are contributing and engaged. 
  • Have additional topics or questions posted in case a group gets stuck or runs out of things to discuss before the time is up. 
A similar format could be used as an interpersonal speaking assessment, with the teacher walking around with a clipboard with a rubric. Depending on the goals of the assessment, students may or may not be able to use notes or their book. I personally would like the feeling to be more like a book club, where the focus in on the continued conversation, and the book can be referenced to make a certain point. 

Some day I would love to have a class reading a variety of books, each meeting in literature circle format. Do you do literature circles? How are they facilitated in your classes?

3 comments

  1. Thanks for the tips! I´m teaching my 8th grade heritage class this novel starting this week.

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    1. Good luck! The ebook guide is awesome if you have the resources to purchase it. Here are some other good resources, specifically made for Chapter 9 https://larc.sdsu.edu/downloads/SAILNTierIII/Spanish-TIII-Cajasdecartonwithstory.pdf

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