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Lisa Shapiro

What Impact do Literature Circles have on Comprehension for Fourth Grade Girls?

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Comprehension is an area in which many fourth grade students struggle with and need support and guidance. In fourth grade, a main literacy goal is to help students get meaning out of the texts they are reading. Literature circles are a great way to encourage students to become thoughtful readers and develop strong comprehension strategies.  Literature circles are small peer-led discussion groups whose members have chosen to read the same story, poem, article, or book. While reading; each group member is assigned a specific role (i.e. discussion director, illustrator, word wizard, connector etc.). While reading, each member takes notes on their specific role. The group then comes together to share their ideas and findings. (Daniels, 2002).This qualitative research study was designed to explore the impact literature circles have on fourth grade girls’ comprehension. My research question was, “What affects do literature circles have on reading comprehension for fourth grade girls?”  The data that I collected over a three month period include: interviews with students and teachers, artifacts, observations and field notes. The data analysis strategy involved organizing and reviewing and coding data. I then began to analyze the data to look for patterns and insights into the girls’ comprehension.


I was able to identify three themes which highlighted the impact that literature circles have on comprehension. The three themes that I discovered were explicit instruction, connection to text and respect (related to interaction with peers). The girls’ had to have a clear understanding of each role, and understand exactly what was expected of them during our literature circles. The selection of the literature that was chosen was crucial to the girls’ comprehension of the story. Great thought needs to be put exactly into the stories that will be read in the literature circles; is this a book that girls will be able to relate to and identify with? Finally, when the girls’ feel like they are a viable and important part of the group and their peers are interested in what they have to say, it makes a significant difference in their comprehension gains. Respect is a key element to comprehension and intellectual development.

Each child in the group made positive gains in the area of comprehension.  All four of the girls made significant improvement in their comprehension. One girl went up one grade level, one went up two grade levels, and one went up four grade levels. After conducting the post interview, the language arts teacher said she noticed all girls were more interested in literature now, and they were implementing more comprehension strategies during language arts.

Through research and implementation of literature circles, I discovered that it does increase student’s comprehension. Explicit instruction of the roles helped to deepen comprehension.  As the connection to the text increased, the girls respect for one another improved. Overall, I felt that literature circles increased student involvement and gave the children the chance to enhance their comprehension skills.

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