12 Activities to Use During Literature Circles or Your Next Novel Study

June 29, 2018

A multiple choice quiz after reading is a quick and easy way to check student comprehension, but it doesn't allow you to assess deeper understanding and it certainly isn't fun or creative. If you are looking for more meaningful and engaging activities to use with students during literature circles or a novel unit, you'll find twelve ideas below that are favorites in my classroom and the Common Core standards they align with. Click the linked title of each activity for more information, student samples, and/or free resources.

1. Text Based Drawings
Asking students to cite evidence for every single question they answer when reading and responding to a text might be good practice and ensure that they are reading closely, but it also becomes repetitive. One way to mix things up is to ask students to draw a picture and label it based on details from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

2. Summary or Synthesis Tombstones
Assess students' knowledge of an author or character by asking them to summarize their reading or synthesize information from multiple sources. Depending on the assignment, students may share important facts about the individual, reasons why he or she will or would be missed, or events that led up to his or her death.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

3. Mind Maps
Mind maps are a visually appealing summarizing strategy, which can be used to enhance students' recall of information as well as to synthesize information from multiple sources. This strategy can be used with fiction or nonfiction texts and can be added to as student progress in their reading.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

4. Character Silhouettes
Creating character silhouettes is a creative way to conduct a close reading of character or figure from an assigned or selected fiction or nonfiction text. This activity can be used with any grade level, during or after reading any text, and reinforces the ideas of character and characterization while asking students to closely examine evidence from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

5. The Spirits of Christmas
Inspired by A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, students select a character and his/her weaknesses to analyze. After identifying and illustrating scenes that reveal the character's flaws, students determine a message to be shared by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

6. Tweet Sheets
Forget those boring chapter summaries you usually assign to accompany your students' independent reading. Instead, try out "tweet sheets." This activity reinforces characterization and point of view while also allowing students to use their creativity as they explore the characters in their novel.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

7. Literary Postcards
Literary postcards are a great writing activity to reinforce the ideas of character and point of view in any novel or short story and can be used with any grade level. Students must depict a key scene from their reading on the front of the postcard and then have choices as to the form of their writing on the opposite side.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

8. Personal Crests
Similar to a coat of arms, have students create a crest for a character in a novel. Students will select symbols and colors that represent the character to decorate their crests and then write a short paragraph explaining their choices. Have students compare crests made for the same character and defend why their choices were more appropriate, or hang them all and allow students to vote on the best ones.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

9. Word Art
Creating word art is a creative way for students to closely analyze a character and select a symbol representative of the character's traits. You'll be surprised with the creativity of your students and even "non-artistic" students will enjoy this activity on characterization and symbolism.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

10. Theme Collages
Theme is one of the concepts in literature that students struggle with most. Use a simple graphic organizer to help students determine the theme of any piece of writing and then create a collage of text and images to reinforce their theme's message about life.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

11. Collaborative Poetry
Incorporate opportunities for collaborative writing in your classroom by using collaborative poetry. Students will first write individually from a character's perspective and then work together as a group to create a communal piece of writing.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

12. Literary Theme Parks
This fun activity makes for a great end of a unit or year project or summer reading assignment. Students will review plot, setting. theme, conflict, characters, and symbolism as they create a poster and give a presentation of their amusement park. After choosing a theme for their park, students will design rides, attractions, shops, food, and souvenirs.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

You can find all of my activities for use with any text here.

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