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MHS Library | Literature Circles

Welcome to Literature Circles at MHS! 

When you meet with your group, you will be expected to discuss your novels knowledgeably, using this conversation to deepen your understanding of the way all sorts of texts are constructed to make meaning. 

In your chosen role (see below) you will be expected to: 

  • lead discussion in relation to your role’s focus for discussing the novel 

  • put questions to your group in order to generate discussion 

  • make notes that have been generated from the discussion of ideas in relation to your role 

The Roles 

Big ideas Expert 

What part of being human is examined by the story? Does it say something about deceit? About hatred? About love, fear, loneliness? Show your group how big ideas can be opened up to you by the novel. 

Possible questions to ask your group: 

  • What themes are expressed in the novel? 

  • Are there any contrasting themes in the novel? (Eg. Xxx vs yyy) 

  • What lessons can be learnt from the story? 

  • What is the story trying to tell us? 

  • How does the author convey these ideas? 

  • What writing techniques does the author use to convey the ideas? Imagery?  

Repetition? 

  • What is the story saying about humans and the human race? 

  • Is it suggesting for us to do something? 

The Plot Expert 

As the expedition’s navigator, you need to map the reader’s journey through the novel’s conceptual landscape. Does the story take us through a problem to its resolution? What’s the first big thing we learn about the main character? What’s the last thing we learn? Is there a chain of cause and effect that holds the plot together? Are all the links in the chain strong? 

Possible questions to ask your group: 

  • What happens in the novel (major events). Plot holes? 

  • How has the character progressed or developed in maturity over the course of the book? 

  • What ideas are introduced throughout the novel 

  • What are the turning points and complications of the novel? 

  • Any significance in the ending? 

  • Does the plot tie in with any big ideas? Morals?   

Character profiler 

Like the cunning FBI agent, develop a psychological profile of the main characters of the novel. Why do they behave the way they do? What are they afraid of? How are they vulnerable? What’s their likely next move? 

Possible questions to ask your group: 

  • What are their personality traits? 

  • What are their motivations for their actions? 

  • How do they feel after major events? 

  • What would YOU do in their situation? 

  • What do the characters represent? 

  • What are the major scenes the characters are placed? 

  • Are there any characters who are opposites? 

Pro tipper 

What lessons about the craft of writing can you learn from this novel? Zoom out to make comments about the construction of the text as a whole and zoom in to the sentence and word level to identify the decisions made by the writer and consider what your group can learn about composing a short story. 

Isolate a small section of what you consider to be great writing or an effective or unusual use of language.  Read this out and have your peers discuss it. 

Possible questions to ask your group: 

  • What perspective is the story told from? 

  • Why is the story told from a particular perspective? 

  • Why has the writer chosen to write formally/informally? 

  • How does the tone of the story relate to the plot/themes/ideas of the story? 

  • Are there motifs or symbols operating in this story and what is their significance? 

  • How does the syntax of the story change in certain scenes? 

  • What can be learned from the writer’s use of metaphors/similes? 

After the discussion 

After your literature circle discussions you will be expected to: 

  • take a photograph of your group’s collaborative notes  

  • submit the notes that you generated in preparation for your group discussion 

  • write a 300-400 word reflection about what you learned from reading the novel and through your group’s discussion 

  • What does your novel have to say to readers about the human condition 

  • How does it try to communicate these ideas? (Think about the literature circle roles) 

  • Is the novel successful in communicating these ideas? 

  • What did you learn from the literature circle process? What worked? What would you change? 

This guide created by

Suzannah Hawtin 

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I am happy to help you with anything you need.
Contact : Hawtin.Suzannah@mhs.vic.edu.au