Illustrative Examples of Units of Practice

Literature Link Up


Literature Link Up is an extension of the Literature Circles structure by Harvey Daniels. This unit has been developed to add another dimension to student reflection and communication. Using web pages and electronic bulletin boards, students are invited to share ideas and discuss novels, articles of interest or poetry on line.

Subject:                    English Language Arts -Literature

Learning Level:       Grades 4-6 

Author(s):                 Trish McIntosh



It is difficult to freeze frame a dialogue so that students can self –assess and reflect on their discussion skills. With a tool such as an electronic bulletin board, we have the opportunity to revisit our discussion and evaluate our skills. We also have the opportunity to extend discussion time beyond the constraints of a 30-minute class.



Literature Circles are formed. These are groups of four or five students choosing to read the same book, poem, story or article. These groups usually are formed in one classroom; however, with on line literature circle groups, we can extend the invitation to students in other classrooms with internet connections. The group will stay together for approximately eight weeks depending on their familiarity with the literature circle roles and the length of the novel or piece of literature. Students will work for about 30-45 minutes a day for approximately 6 to 8 weeks. (See Daniels(1994) Literature Circles page 18)


Beginning On Line Literature Circles

To prepare for this on line discussion the teacher can use Yahoo Invites to set up a message board. The teacher will e-mail each student in the group, inviting them to an on-line discussion. (Yahoo invites gives teachers the control to have a small group discussion or open it up to others.)

The teacher will walk the students through the invitation in their e-mail box, clicking on Yahoo Invites and posting a message to the board.

Students meet and agree how much they will read each day in the during independent reading time. ( It is important that they adhere to their decision and not go ahead of the others. For those having trouble keeping up, it is necessary to build in teacher intervention and support.)

Each day the students are given 15 minutes of uninterrupted reading time. After the reading time, each person prepares a role for the literature discussion group.

When beginning online discussions, the role to focus on will be the discussion director. The job of the discussion director is to develop a list of questions to stimulate thoughtful discussions.


1. What was going through your head when you read the part …?

2. How did you feel when you read this......?

3. Did today’s reading remind you of anything that happened in your life? Can you describe the connection?

4. If you were that character, what would you do?

5. Why did the author write this book?

6. Can you describe a part where the author created a snapshot with words?

7. What was your favorite sentence or part of today’s reading?

8. How could the author make this a better story?

On line

 The discussion director posts questions on the message board. Each student in the group has a chance to visit the message board and post a reply. The challenge is to keep the discussion going, building on the ideas of others, adding more questions and bringing in the information from the roles that each student has prepared after the independent reading time.

More Advanced On line Discussion

For a more advanced version of on-line discussion, the teacher could build a web page for one book or several books. Have students create illustrations using the illustrator role from the Literature Circle Activities. The pictures can be created digitally, or manually created and scanned or photographed using a digital camera. Students may then write a summary or an invitation to read and discuss the book. There are many sites where teachers have free access to building a simple web page if your school does not have the hardware or software. In Nova Scotia you can apply to Ednet for free web space. Once the web site is setup you can connect it to a bulletin board. I have used bravenet’s free bulletin board service, but continue to search for something to use that is relatively inexpensive and advertisement free.



Rubric for Discussion

Students focus on what makes a good discussion or good questions by designing a rubric for evaluating questions.
For example: 



The project I have been working on has a group of biographies presented by students, while most of their discussion took place at Yahoo Invites, we added the bravenet bulletin board for future readers to discuss these books.



To obtain Nova Scotia teacher web space, contact the webmaster at Ednet.