Lesson 2 of 3
One 50-minute class period

Introducing Literature Circle Roles to Students

From the Unit:


Central to any Literature Circles endeavor will be introducing students to the roles so that they clearly understand their responsibiltiies within the group discussion. Many roles are possible in Literature Circles, and because roles change often, students can respond to the text in a variety of different ways. Usually the most interesting roles are student-generated, arising organically from a perceived need. Leaving space for these modifications is suggested as it can allow students to feel more ownership over the process. One of the dangers in assigning specific roles to students is the misconception that this is all that is required of them in the discussion. There is nothing worse than a discussion in which students simply read their assignment verbatim off a piece of paper. Not only is this not meaningful to them, it can be incredibly boring for the other participants as well.  Therefore, roles may be better understood as a part of what students will be asked to offer during the discussion or as an informal way to generate ideas and connections before the discussion begins. Moreover, students could or should be challenged to have a discussion without their paper in front of them so that the discussion may proceed organically and not in a round-robin fashion. While having flexibility within the roles is important, having an assigned student discussion facilitator is also necessary. This person should make sure that everyone's voices are heard and that the discussion is rich and engaging. Recording the discussion and having the discussion facilitator listen to and reflect upon the recording can be an effective way of promoting student ownership and accountability.

The most common roles are:

  • Discussion Director
  • Literary Luminary
  • Vocabulary Enricher
  • Summarizer
  • Illustrator
  • Connector


  • Text: Literature Circles: Choice and Voice in the Student-Centered Classroom- Harvey Daniels (2002)
  • Website: http://www.litcircles.org/


  1. Divide students into groups of 4 to 6.
  2. Distribute a shared reading. This reading could be a novel chapter or another fairly short selection that will allow students to practice each of the roles.
  3. Assign each group a specific role and distribute a description of that role. For example, one group might be connectors, another group will be illustrators, etc.
  4. Each group will read over the role description and complete the job collaboratively, being sure to follow the guidelines. For example, the connectors might write three to five connections together.
  5. After each group has had a chance to complete their roles and discuss what the role means, have students jigsaw into mixed groups.
  6. Once students are in these new groups, the class can have a "practice" Literature Circles discussion since all of the roles will be represented. Allot ten minutes for this.
  7. Once the discussion has ended, see if the students can discern the definition of each of the roles just from participating in the discussion. This can be done verbally or on paper. Take some time as a class to come to common understandings about what each of the roles requires.
  8. If students have extra time, they can discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the various roles.


Oral Assessment:

Each student can share both a positive quality and potential challenge of a role other than the one they analyzed.


  • Groups can make posters which represent their respective roles; these can be displayed in the classroom during the Literature Circles unit.
  • After this initial practice discussion, groups may have ideas for new roles. Allow students to draft sample group guiidelines if they specific ideas.


Lesson 1 of 3

Preparing for Literature Circles through a Fishbowl Discussion

Students identify what good, productive, and meaningful conversations look and sound like through an interactive modeling activity.

Lesson 2 of 3

Introducing Literature Circle Roles to Students

Students define, question, and practice the different roles they will be playing in their Literature Circle discussions.

Lesson 3 of 3

Typical Discussion Day Structure

Students and teachers reflect on how their Literature Circles are progressing and identify ways they can make classroom conversations more effective.

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