Friday, July 12, 2013

Literature Circles - Wiki Style

Literature Circles are a popular activity in many grades, including 5th.  While I, like many teachers, have all the literature circle reflection sheets, I knew I wanted to try something different.  After exploring wikis a bit for my thesis and during my masters program back in 2009, I had finally decided it was time to work with them more by implementing them into my classroom as a means to do a literature study. Now, I must admit, the idea for this wasn't something I picked up on my own but through the book called Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classroom by Will Richardson. This is a wonderful book and I highly encourage you to get a copy when you can. Even though it was last updated in 2010, it still provides useful and relevant information even this day and age of changing technology.  He talked about his experience of using a wiki to do a literature study with his class.

This idea sounded great, as I knew my kids (and I) were tired of the same old worksheet driven literature circles and could use something new and fresh. Without much idea of how and what to put on my pages I began with trepidation into this new world. However, within a day it was easy to see how exciting and engaging this wiki was to my students. That year, we chose a book called Sixth-grade glommers, norks and me in which the main character Allie is entering middle school. This was a book that the students could relate well to, as they themselves would be entering middle school the following year.

When I was thinking of pages to create for the wiki, I used the book as a reference point.  Throughout the book, Allie creates new words to represent situations she is going through. So I thought that would be a great first page to create on our wiki to have the students create words that they made up.  As it stands today, on our "Dictionary" page we have over forty words created by my class of only six students from that year!!! However, because I wanted to have my students discuss with one another the book, I also created a "Chapter Summary" page. On that page we discussed our thoughts and feelings on each chapter and the events in it. The students were required to post one reflection per chapter and one response post in which they respond back to other classmates. Despite having only the requirements of two postings, each students ended up going way above and beyond that.  (You can view all of their discussions here - Discussion Page)

We also discussed book themes and so a new page was born.  The general book themes were listed and then the students were encouraged to again use the discussion tab as a way to communicate about what themes they thought were present in the book.  Some thoughts of themes that fitted really nicely that even I didn't think of!

Additionally, we also created a couple more pages in which we discussed the characters and their attributes and characteristics.  One of my students also came up with a new page called Questions for the Author.  As they were reading the book, they thought of things they would ask the author if they could.  I even sent the author a link to our wiki but sadly never heard back.  Regardless, the students still enjoyed listing what they could ask if given the opportunity.  

While our wiki was pretty basic, I found that my students were much more engaged than with the traditional reflection sheets.  Have you ever used a wiki?  What changes or comments do you have regarding ours?

You can visit our wiki here: Sixth-grade, glommers, norks, and me


  1. Hi there. I just visited your wikispace. I was able to look at the questions to the author page and loved it. I was hoping to view the dictionary page, but it wasn't available. I'm hoping to create wikispaces for my lit circles this year. Thanks for the example!

  2. I really like this idea because it is collaborative. I tried Kidblog, but was unimpressed with my students entries. This might be a good way to structure the process a little more.
    ~April Walker
    The Idea Backpack

  3. I used a wiki for writing collaborative reports two years ago, but with the last groups of sixth graders I was hesitant. Thanks for reminding me of the great tool a wiki can be. I'll be teaching eighth grade English this year for the first time in nearly 25 years. This will be the same group that I used wikis with in sixth grade. I've got ideas already floating in my head. Glad I stopped by!


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