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English: Literature Circles

Resources to support the teaching and learning of English

Literature Circles in Wide Reading

"Literature circles are small, temporary groups of students who have chosen to read and discuss the same story, poem, article, or book. Each member prepares to take specific responsibilities in the upcoming discussion, and everyone comes to the group with the notes needed to help perform that job. The circles have regular meetings, with discussion roles rotating each session. When they finish a book, the circle members plan to share highlights of their reading with the class"
Daniels, Harvey Literature circles: voice and choice in the student-centered classroom. Stenhouse, 1994.


Wide Reading Years 9 & 10

In groups of four you will read the same book and get together for in-depth, self-directed discussions in class-time, with each member taking responsibility for drawing out discussion & insights on particular aspects.

Students have commented:

"it's easier to contribute to discussion in a small group"

"Listening to the views of others broadens opinions"

"Helped me to think more deeply about the book"

"Can find real-life connections in the story and characters"

"Variety of books with lots of classics"



Group decisions:

  • how much of the book to read and prepare for each session.
  • allocating the roles for each session.

Individual responsibilities:

  • to stay on track, relating comments back to the book, the story, the characters, etc.
  • encouraging each member to join in and express their opinions.
  • picking out a few insights or details to explore for depth.


Class lists are drawn up in collaboration with teachers and accommodate as much as possible a range of genres, forms, length and complexity.
Students choose their first four preferences from a list of 9 book choices, and books are allocated to provide 7 groups of four members.

Themed sets

Book sets can be created to complement class texts or particular themes.
For example:
    Australian literature
    Banned Books
 Coming of Age 
    Good and evil
    Novellas and short works
    Short stories
    This Sporting life

Individual titles related to a particular theme for comparative discussion:
    War genre - lists of books set in different conflicts
    This Sporting Life

Collections of short stories, articles and poetry to complement texts, contexts and themes, such as:
     Jasper Jones
     This Sporting Life



Incomplete book sets - donations would be very welcome

Adiga, Aravind Selection day
Beckett, Bernard Jolt
Carr, J.L. A month in the country
Carroll, Steven The Gift of speed
Coelho, Paolo The Alchemist
Don't peak at High School
Eaton, Anthony  Night people
Flynn, Gillian  Gone girl
Grant, Neil  Indo dreaming
Hadfield, Chris An Astronaut's guide to life on earth
Harris, Catherine The family men
Hayes, Nicole & Sometimes, Alicia From the outer
Heath, Jack Remote control
Hemingway, Ernest For whom the bell tolls
Hesse, Herman Siddhartha
Howey, Hugh  Wool
Karunatilaka, Shehan Chinaman
Kelleher, Victor Born of the sea
Kelleher, Victor Into the dark
Krien, Anna Night games
Lanagan, Margo  Black juice
Lawhead, Stephen Scarlet
Lawson, Sue Freedom ride
Miller, Alex The Tivington nott
Mitchell, David Black swan green
Moore, Alan Watchmen
Muchamore, Robert Eagle day
O'Brien, Tim The Things they carried
Plath, Sylvia The Bell jar
Portman, Frank King Dork
Pryor, Michael Blaze of glory
Pung, Alice Her father's daughter
Satrapi, Marjane Persepolis
Scott, Michael The Magician
Vonnegut, Kurt  Cat's cradle
Wheat, Chris Looselips
Wild, Margaret One night
Zusak, Markus Fighting Ruben Wolf


Rotating roles might help you to look at the book from a range of perspectives as well as just purely enjoying the story and characters. The following roles are taken from Daniel's book, but your teacher may create different roles to match your readings.

Discussion Director presents a big picture view, leading discussion on themes, central narrative, structure, etc.

Your job is to develop a list of questions that your group might want to discuss about this part of the book. Don’t worry about the small details; your task is to help people talk over the big ideas in the reading and share their reactions. Usually the best discussion questions come from your own thoughts, feelings and concern as you read…” Daniels

Sample questions:

What did you think about last night’s reading?
Was anyone surprised when…?
Why do you think this author made the character do…?
What do you think will happen next?
What big issues and questions does the story raise?

Creative Connector: calls for associative thinking. You will be looking at relevance and authenticity, sharing your own personal connections & making up questions to prompt others to share insights & stories, similarities to other books, films, songs, etc.

Your job is to find connections between the book your group is reading and the world outside. This means connecting the reading to your own life, to happenings at school or in the community, to similar events at other times and places, to other people or problems you are reminded of. You might also see connections between this book and other writings on the same topic or by the same author. There are no right answers here – whatever the reading connects you with is worth sharing” Daniels

Sample questions:

This part reminded me of…
Can you think of a time when…?
Have you ever felt…?
Why are we reading this? What does this have to do with me?
How is this character like me?
Does this book seem true to life?
Does this family remind me of my own?
What would I do if faced with this choice?

Passage Master: will look at the text in detail, selecting passages of the book to read out loud in the group explaining why you  choose the particular passages – maybe because they set a mood, are exciting, include good ideas, are puzzling or controversial, etc. As Passage Master you will encourage others to talk naturally about their responses to the passages.

Your job is to locate a few special sections of the text that your group would like to hear read out aloud. The idea is to help people remember some interesting, powerful, funny, puzzling or important sections of the text. You decide which passages or paragraphs are worth hearing, and then jot down plans for how they should be shared…” Daniels      

Sample questions:

  • What from the book makes you think that..?
    What clues from the text show ..?
    How does the language mirror the action…?
    How does the author present particular ideas in the writing?


Researcher: will find background information to connect with the major themes, characters, narrative etc.

Your job is to dig up some background information on any topic related to your book, to find some information or material that helps your group understand the book better. Investigate something that interests you – something that struck you as puzzling or curious while you were reading” Daniels

This might include:

The geography, weather, culture or history of the book’s setting,
Information about the author, her/his life, and other work,
Information about the time period portrayed in the book,
Pictures, objects or materials that illustrate elements of the book,
The history or derivation of words used in the book,
Music that reflects the book or time…

Stages of Reading

In their paper Rethinking literature circles: reading and role-making in a virtual classroom environment,(Orana Volume 35, issue 3, November 1999) Lyn Hay and Kylie Hanson detail 3 stages of reading:

First reading is an emotional experience as you read through the work:

  • reading for pleasure
  • reading to experience a semblance of reality
  • responding to 'events', 'people', characters'
  • reading for recognition
  • reading through identification, absorption
  • reading over frustrating gaps, questions

Re-Reading is an imaginative experience, reading into the work for discovery, problem-solving:

  • reading to connect, fill in gaps
  • asking questions
  • inferring motivations and predicting outcomes
  • arriving at conclusions
  • reading for 'otherness' as well as self-discovery
  • connecting texts with other texts, experiences

Critical/Analytical reading. A critical dialogue, reading against the work, negotiating meaning

  • analysis and appreciation of formal elements
  • reading for details, for different outcomes
  • questioning the text, interacting or arguing with it
  • questioning your own response and initial perspective
  • studying problems, gaps, frustrations
  • interpreting and making meaning, reconfiguring the text
  • negotiating values and attitudes
  • analysing your own attitudes, biases, interests

Booksets in our collection

Adams, Douglas The Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy
Adiga, Aravind The White tiger
Alain-Fournier Le Grand Meaulnes (The Lost estate)
Ammaniti, Niccolo I'm not scared
Anderson, Scott Triage
Asimov, Isaac Foundation
Asimov, Isaac I, Robot
Austen, Jane Emma
Austen, Jane Pride and prejudice
Bao Ninh The Sorrow of war
Barker, Pat  Border crossing
Beckett, Bernard Genesis
Birch, Tony Ghost River
Birch, Tony Shadowboxing
Boyd, William Solo
Bronte, Emily Wuthering Heights
Brown, Dan  The Da Vinci Code
Brown, Dan Angels and demons
Brugman, Alyssa Walking naked
Burgess, Anthony A Clockwork orange
Camus, Albert The Outsider
Capote, Truman Breakfast at Tiffany's
Capote, Truman In cold blood
Card, Orson Scott Ender's game
Carey, Peter  The True history of the Kelly Gang
Carmody, Isobel Scatterlings
Carter, Paul Eleven seasons
Chan, Kylie White tiger
Chbosky, Stephen The Perks of being a wallflower
Child, Lee The Hard way
Colfer, Eoin Artemis Fowl
Collins, Suzanne The Hunger Games
Conrad, Joseph Heart of darkness
Cormier, Robert The Chocolate war
Courtenay, Bryce The Power of one
Crew, Gary Strange objects
Crossley-Holland, Kevin The Seeing stone
Dahl, Roald Tales of the unexpected
Dashner, James Maze runner
Dick, Philip  Do androids dream of electric sheep
Dickens, Charles Hard times
Do, Ahn The Happiest refugee
Doerr, Anthony All the light we cannot see
Doyle, Arthur Conan The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Doyle, Arthur Conan The Hound of the Baskervilles
Doyle, Arthur Conan The Lost world
Doyle, Arthur Conan The memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Doyle, Roddy Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
Drewe, Robert The Shark net
Earls, Nick Joel and Cat set the story straight

Fitzgerald, F. Scott The Great Gatsby
Fowles, John The French Lieutenant's woman
Frayn, Michael Spies
Gaita, Raymond Romulus my father
Gardner, Scott The Dead I know

Golding, William Lord of the flies
Goldsworthy, Anna Piano lessons
Goldsworthy, Peter Maestro
Grant, Michael Gone
Grant, Neil The Ink Bridge
Green, John The Fault in our stars
Green, John Looking for Alaska
Green, John Paper towns
Greene, Graham The Quiet American
Grenville, Kate The Secret river
Haddon, Mark The Curious incident of the dog in the night-time
Hardy, Thomas Jude the obscure
Hartley, L.P. The Go-between
Hartnett, Sonya Forest
Hartnett, Sonya Golden boys
Hartnett, Sonya Thursday's child
Hearn, Lian Across the Nightingale Floor
Heath, Jack Hit list

Heath, Jack The Lab
Heath, Jack Money run

Heller, Joseph Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest A Farewell to arms
Hemingway, Ernest The Old man and the sea
Herrick, Stephen The Simple gift
Higgins, Jane The Bridge
Higson, Charlie Silverfin
Hinton, S.E. Hawkes Harbor

Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders
Hornby, Nick About a boy
Hornby, Nick Fever pitch
Horniman, Joanne Mahalia
Horowitz, Anthony House of silk
Horowitz, Anthony Stormbreaker
Hosseini, Khalid And the mountains echoed
Hosseini, Khaled The Kite runner
Huxley, Aldous Brave new world
Hyland, M.J. Carry me down
Hyland, M.J. How the light gets in
Jacq, Christian Ramses: the Son of the Light
James, Henry The Turn of the screw and The Aspen papers
Jonsbery, Barry The Whole business with Kiffo and the pitbull
Jordan, Toni Nine days
Joyce, James A Portrait of the artist as a young man
Kafka, Franz The Trial
Keneally, Thomas  Schindler's List (or Ark)
Kesey, Ken One flew over the cuckoo's nest
Kwaymullina, Amberlin The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf
Lahiri, Jhumpa Interpreter of maladies
Lahiri, Jhumpa The Namesake
Larbalestier, Justine My sister Rosa
Law, Stephen The Philosophy files
Lawhead, Stephen Hood
Le, Nam The Boat
Le Carre, John Tinker tailor soldier spy
Le Guin, Ursula A Wizard of Earthsea
Leckie, Ann Ancillary justice
Lee, Harper To kill a mockingbird
Leigh, Julia The Hunter
Li, Cunxin  Mao's last dancer
London, Jack The Call of the wild
Lore, Pittacus I am number four
Love stories
Lovitt, Zane  The Midnight promise
Lu, Marie Legend
Maloney, Shane Nice try
Maloney, Shane Stiff
Malouf, David Johnno
Malouf, David  Ransom
Manfredi, Valerio Massimo Tyrant
Mantel, Hilary Bring up the bodies
Marchetta, Melina Saving Francesca
Marsden, John Tomorrow when the world began
Martell, Yanne The Life of Pi
Matsuoka, Takashi  Cloud of sparrows
McEwan, Ian Atonement
McEwan, Ian Enduring love
Metzenthen, David Boys of blood and bone
Moloney, James  Kill the possum
Miller, Alex Coal Creek
Moloney, James  Touch me
Moore, Alan V for vendetta
Morpurgo, Michael
Private Peaceful
Muchamore, Robert
The Escape
Muchamore, Robert
The Recruit
Ness, Patrick
The Knife of never letting go
Newton, Robert
  The Runner
Nix, Garth
Mister Monday
O'Brien, Tim
  In the Lake of the Woods
Orwell, George
Orwell, George
  Animal farm
Paolini, Christopher
Provoost, Anne
Pullman, Philip
Northern lights
Pung, Alice
Growing up Asian in Australia
Pung, Alice
Pung, Alice
Unpolished gem
Ralston, Aron Between a rock and a hard place
Reeve, Philip Mortal engines
Reilly, Matthew Area 7
Reilly, Matthew Ice Station
Reilly, Matthew The Greatest warriors
Reilly, Matthew The Six sacred stones
Remarque, Erich Maria All quiet on the Western Front
Rice, Anne Interview with the vampire
Riordan, Rick Percy Jackson and the lightening thief
Rosoff, Meg  How I live now
Roth, Veronica Divergent
Roy, Arundhati The God of small things
Roy, James Town
Rushdie, Salman East west
Rushdie, Salman Midnight's chidren
Salinger, J.D. Catcher in the rye
Sebold, Alice The Lovely bones
Serong, Jock The Rules of backyard cricket
Shelley, Mary Frankenstein
Spiegelman, Art  Maus
Steinbeck, John Of Mice and men
Stevenson, R.L. The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Stevenson, R.L. Treasure Island
Stoker, Bram Dracula
Stroud, Jonathan The Amulet of Samarakand
Swarup, Vikas  Q & A (Slumdog millionnaire)
Swift, Jonathan Gulliver's travels
Temple, Peter  The Broken shore
Temple, Peter Truth
Things a map won't show you

Tolkein, J.R.R. The Hobbit
Tsiolkas, Christos Barracuda
Tsiolkas, Christos  The Slap
Twain, Mark  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Twohig, Peter The Cartographer
Verne, Jules Journey to the centre of the earth
Vonnegut, Kurt Slaughterhouse 5
Wiesel, Elie  Night
Wells, H.G. The Time machine
Wells, H.G. The War of the worlds
Westerfeld, Scott  So yesterday
Westerfeld, Scott Leviathan
Wilde, Oscar The Importance of being Ernest
Wilde, Oscar The Picture of Dorian Gray
Wilson, Tony Players
Winch, Tara June Swallow the air
Winton, Tim Breath
Winton, Tim Cloudstreet
Winton, Tim Minimum of two
Wolff, Tom Old school
Womersley, Chris Cairo
Wyndham, John The Day of the triffids
Zusak, Markus The Book thief
Zusak, Markus The Messenger
Zusak, Markus When dogs cry