Looking for some fresh ideas for upper elementary literature circle roles for use with fiction and nonfiction books?
Then you’ve come to the right place!
I’ve Put Together a List of 19 Insanely Useful Literature Circle Roles that…
- Help you differentiate instruction.
- Pair well with fiction and nonfiction texts.
- Integrate seamlessly with math, science, and social studies book topics.
You’ll be more than happy that you added these literature circle roles to your literacy toolbox!
So let’s get to it!
NOTE: Literature circles function A LOT better if students have practiced the required reading skills for each role several times beforehand. That way, minimal explanation is needed for each role since students will have already worked several times with the strategy either in guided reading, whole group instruction, or centers!
#1 Character Critic
This literature circle role can be used with fiction or nonfiction texts. The Character Critic’s primary duties include observing and evaluating how one or more characters change throughout a book.
For example, in the chapter book, James and the Giant Peach, the Character Critic records the significance of how James’ character traits and actions change over time, or the student may want to focus on one of the other characters.
Nonfiction books such as biographies and autobiographies lend themselves very well to the Character Critic literature circle role!
This is a great role for analyzing characters!
The Connector makes and records text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections.
- Text-to-Self– Parts of the text that remind the reader of himself/herself in some way
- Text-to-Text– The book reminds the reader of another book with a similar significant “something”
- Text-to-World– Something in the book reminds the reader of a real-world situation
The reading skill of making connections seems simple enough, but the key is guiding students in making deep connections with real significance that will help them understand the story better.
The book, Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement, by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis, is a wonderful resource for ideas on helping students make deeper connections.
#3 Fact Finder
Your list of nonfiction literature circle roles isn’t complete without this one!
It really gets students digging for facts!
The Fact Finder records interesting facts about the book topic and shares them with the group.
I have students aim for at least five facts, but of course the actual number may vary. It depends on the grade level and academic level of each student.
You know what is best for your kiddos!
As an extension, students also write opinions about the topic and share with the group.
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#4 Graphic Designer
Though all of the literature circle roles in this list can be differentiated in some way, the Graphic Designer role is absolutely amazing for differentiation and student choice!
The Graphic Designer gets to choose any graphic organizer that he or she wants to fill out and share with group members.
What’s so great about the Graphic Designer role is that students choose a graphic organizer that they feel comfortable with. When appropriate, the teacher can also guide students towards more challenging graphic organizers.
Just make sure that another student in the literature circle group isn’t already doing a similar role (unless you don’t mind).
Have different sets of graphic organizers already copied for students. I have kept mine in colored manila folders near the student work station. Students are free to just take the one(s) they need.
Or better yet…
Have students sketch their graphic organizer on the literature circle role sheet and fill it out right there!
Works like a charm!
#5 Inference Detective
Prove it! Yes! Prove it!
That’s what the Inference Detective has to do.
The Inference Detective infers information from the reading based on pictures, clues from the text, and/or the characters’ actions/words- And he or she must provide evidence from the book to support those inferences!
The Inference Detective can’t just make inferences and then keep it moving. NO WAY!
This literature circle role requires the “detective” to show the evidence~from the book~to prove the inference.
If the evidence is based on prior knowledge, the Inference Detective must record and explain the evidence very clearly to the group.
Having an Inference Detective as part of your literature circle roles is a great idea because it works wonderfully with fiction and nonfiction texts!
#6 Literary Luminary
The Literary Luminary seeks the “sugar and spice and everything nice” in a text.
This student examines figurative language (all of those beautiful poetry elements), vivid descriptions, and interesting uses of parts of speech (such as strong verbs).
The Literacy Luminary has a way with words and shares with the group how the author uses special language to bring the story to life!
#7 Math Specialist
Literature circle roles aren’t normally math-related, but this role integrates the core subject very well!
I absolutely love the Math Specialist’s literature circle role!
The Math Specialist has the task of using some of the characters and any relevant information from the book to create one/two word problems or a mini math-related activity.
For example, if a literature circle group is reading chapter two from James and the Giant Peach, the Math Specialist may create a word problem such as…
James started doing his chores at 8:30 a.m. His aunts finally told him to rest six and a half hours later. What time did James stop doing his chores?
If the group is reading a nonfiction book about reducing wastes and recycling, the Math Specialist may want to share a graph with the group showing how recycling has reduced wastes over a ten-year period.
The Math Specialist role is very flexible and great for integrating math and literacy!
#8 News Reporter
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Retelling the story or a significant scene/part of the story using the 5 Ws + How is the News Reporter’s main job.
The News Reporter then reports the “news” to her group. This literature circle role is sweet, simple, and to the point.
Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?
- Who are the main characters? Who did what?
- What happened?
- What were the main events?
- When, where, why, and how did it happen?
And of course you could extend some of these questions to challenge your advanced learners.
Easy peasy, and oh, so effective!
#9 Question Guru
The Question Guru creates questions that will help group members understand the text better.
This literature circle role is fantastic for test-prep because it helps students identify different difficulty levels of questions so they in turn know how much effort is required in finding an answer within the text.
Have the Question Guru write at least four questions for group members to answer and discuss making sure that there is at least one question from each level of the QAR strategy.
In a nutshell, the Question-Answer Relationship (QAR) reading strategy facilitates students in categorizing questions into four groups:
- “Right There” Questions -answers that can be found easily within the text.
- “Think and Search” Questions -answers can be found in the text but require a bit more looking around.
- Questions that require students to infer the answers based on clues from the text are known as “Author and Me”.
- Lastly, “On My Own” questions don’t have answers that can be found in the text. Answers are based solely on the prior knowledge and experiences of the reader.
# 10 Quizzler
The Quizzler. What a name, right? Sounds a little like Sizzler. Remember that restaurant?! Can you tell I’m thinking of food?! 😋
The Quizzler literature circle role definitely adds a little sizzle to the group.
He or she creates a quiz or fun assessment of some sort for the group! This quiz tests group members’ understanding of the book (or maybe just a section or chapter).
Keep it simple. The Quizzler can make a true/false quiz, short multiple-choice, or a little game.
#11 Reading/Writing Connector
One way for students to become better writers is to model good writing to them using mentor texts.
There are designated “mentor texts” in some reading/writing programs, but in reality, any book can serve as a mentor text if it serves the purpose you’ll looking for.
As the Reading/Writing Connector reads, he or she takes note of any writing strategies that the author uses to make the writing more powerful and/or more easily understood by the reader.
Then, he or she shares these writing strategies with the group while pointing them out in the book.
The writing strategies that the Reading/Writing Connector finds will most likely fall into one of the “six traits of writing” categories.
Group members will then have a bank of writing strategies that they can practice using in their own writing during Writer’s Workshop!
Don’t you just love that?
Got a student who asks a million questions and is curious about everything?
Then the Researcher role is for her!
The Researcher’s main job is to dig up some background information about the author, book theme (s), historical references~ANYTHING RELEVANT to the topic of the book!
The Researcher’s duties can seem a little dull, so here’s how you can add a little pizzazz to this literature circle role.
Have the Researcher gather information not just from books but from online resources (most kids LOVE technology), magazines, and even other people. Interviewing others who know the topic well is so much fun!
Imagine students finding a way to interview current authors! How cool that would be!
#13 Sketch Artist
Visualizing is an important reading comprehension strategy, and it never ceases to amaze me how many students struggle with it.
This literature circle role will help you see what they are seeing. 👀
The Sketch Artist visualizes and sketches images that they have in their mind while reading the book. They may want to sketch a particular scene, chapter, character, or a symbol/icon that represents a common theme.
The student can add a few labels and captions if he wants.
The fun part is having group members guess what part of the text the Sketch Artist chose to draw!
Afterwards, the Sketch Artist tells group members what he actually drew and why.
#14 Summarizer (Fiction)
Writing a summary is not always as easy as it seems because students sometimes give too many details or not enough.
When writing a summary for a fiction text, the Summarizer writes a summary that includes the most important information from the beginning, middle, and end of the story.
#15 Summarizer (Non-fiction)
The difference between the two Summarizer literature circles roles is that the non-fiction format is not typically organized into beginning, middle, and end.
With non-fiction texts, the Summarizer takes main ideas from each part of the chapter, section, or book and writes a summary using those main idea statements.
For students to be good at writing summaries, I have found that the process requires A LOT of good modeling from the teacher.
#16 Symbolism Seeker
- What’s the “Big Message” in the book or chapter?
- What are the big themes or ideas?
- Is the author trying to teach me anything?
These are questions that the Symbolism Seeker must answer in some way, shape, or form.
This literature circle role requires a lot of deep thinking.
It’s extremely helpful if the Symbolism Seeker has a healthy foundation of prior knowledge and experiences connected with the themes and symbols in said book.
#17 Text Feature Analyzer
An important skill in comprehending nonfiction texts is how to use and analyze text features.
Text features include, but are not limited to…
- bold text
- an index
- labeled diagrams
- table of contents
A Text Feature Analyzer searches for and analyzes how the author uses text features to help the reader understand the text better.
He or she then shares that information with the literature circle group.
This is one of the literature circle roles that pair naturally with nonfiction texts, but there is definitely a place for it using fiction books.
Just depends on the specific features of a particular book.
#18 Wild Card
Does the term “wild card” ring a bell? Remember in the game UNO?
You could use a “wild card” to represent any number. (or at least that’s how I remember it! lol).
The “Wild Card” literature circle role can choose to share with her group ANY reading comprehension activity or strategy!
Pretty awesome, right?
The wild card gives literature circle roles a little more pizzazz!
#19 Word Whiz
The Word Whiz is always on the lookout for interesting vocabulary from the book that has special meaning or stands out in some way.
His main duties include explaining to the group how he used context clues to learn unfamiliar words.
He is also in charge of identifying multiple-meaning words from the text and explaining the various definitions.
The Word Whiz could also create a word work activity for her group to complete!
Sounds like fun, right?
The role of Word Whiz is a big task, but we know our whiz kids can do it!
There you have it! 19 Insanely practical literature circle roles.
As an added bonus, if you’re looking to integrate more technology into your literacy teaching, check out these cool literature circle tech tools that you can use to make literature circle roles even more engaging!
Happy teaching and learning!
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