Friday, May 31, 2013

Science and Society Lit Circles

Every once in a while, I get a wild hare to be a language arts teacher... I'm the big science nerd teacher, and there is SO MUCH incredible science non-fiction out there that I want to share with my students.  I have a handful of back years of Best American Science Writing as well as Best American Science And Nature Writing that I pull out now and then for articles - either individual choice read-and-report or whole-class readings.

I have an idea for a bigger "science lit circles" project for next year... One of my dears lent me The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and I just *have* to share it with more kids.  So I've got an idea of picking a whole bunch of science non-fiction and letting kids choose books in groups of three or four to read, discuss, and ultimately share with the other groups.  Of course, I've already found a TON of options, both books I've already read and books I'll need to read this summer to evaluate.  (See below for my working list)

But - while I'm a pretty kick-ass science teacher and can put together awesome projects investigating science phenomena - my non-fiction reading skills development and literature analysis pedagogy is pretty close to non-existent.  I read Nancie Atwell's In The Middle back when I first started teaching, and have run a few readers' workshops... poorly.

So... what resources are the best for setting up lit circles, especially with *non-fiction*?  What are the best new graphic organizers, journaling techniques, asynchronous conversation formats for lit circles?  I'd love to catch up a little on the latest and greatest progress in readers' workshop, non-fiction reading skills development, and lit circles and book groups!

Science Lit Circles Options: Working List

(I teach a "gifted" population, so many of these are quite above-grade-level books.  But I DO have below-grade-level readers, and just 'cause some test as "past high school" doesn't mean they'll be able to fluently interpret all the concepts in these books... So I need to figure out how to guide them as they read!)

Books I've read, loved, would totally include:

  • Stiff, by Mary Roach
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
  • Collapse, by Jared Diamond
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
  • Mutants, by Armand Marie Leroi
  • Where The Wild Things Were, by William Stolzenburg
Books I need to read (or re-read) to evaluate for middle schoolers:

  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman
  • Crazy, by Pete Earley
  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • Hallucinations, by Oliver Sacks
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, by Oliver Sacks
  • Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World, by Nick Lane
  • The Panda's Thumb, by Steven J Gould
  • My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs, by Brian Switek
  • Brain Rules, by John Medina
  • What's Going On In There, by Lise Eliot
Any other book suggestions?


  1. Lindsey,

    I am totally digging your idea and format for Lit Circles. I have been struggling with finding the best ways to integrate asynchronous formats and techniques that will push my gifted students as well as expose them to different themes and genres of literature. I teach gifted students in the elementary grades but their reading ranges are so diverse it's difficult to choose one or two titles to stick to. At first I was thinking of letting them choose their own book and to focus more on themes as opposed to reading the same text. I have some more planning to do and will check out your working list. I appreciate you for sharing this great idea and will definitely share anything if I come across it.


  2. Thank you for your thoughts, Elle! I've seen my school's language arts teachers use lit circles to great effect! Books along the same themes - like graphic novels of coming-of-age or memoirs of adolescents during war time - but with a variety of specific focus and of reading level.