Learning to Love Literacy

Four students pose with their folders

Fifth-graders in Margaret Costello’s class at Locust Valley Intermediate School all have jobs. They are illustrators, discussion directors, summarizers, connectorsand word wizards. These hardworking students don’t just stick with one job, but rather try out each of these jobs on a rotating basis. The roles are part of a literary circle/book club that Mrs. Costello is running in her classroom.

Assigned to groups, the fifth-graders are reading the book “The Great Gilly Hopkins” by Katherine Paterson. Groups of approximately four students each meet to discuss a chapter of the book that either has been read together in class or individually at home. Each student shares with their group the work they did at home for their assigned job.

The illustrator shares a drawing depicting their interpretation of the chapter, while the summarizer will read a description of the same section of the book. Connectors discuss how events in the story relate or connect to their own lives, and word wizards explain the meaning of advanced words that their classmates may not know. Discussion directors make sure the group discussion is flowing appropriately. The jobs are rotated so each student has the opportunity to perform each task at least once.

Anna Cavallo, a student in the class, said this method of working together helps her understand the text. She explained that when her classmates make connections to their own lives she is able to make sense of the story more easily.

Some students said they enjoy that the activity allows students to hear different perspectives of each chapter. Christian Ciccone said studying a book in this manner allows him to communicate his thoughts to his classmates. “We are all equal, sharing ideas, and it inspires me,” he said.

Mrs. Costello walks around the room visiting each group, offering her guidance as needed. She also gathers feedback on how this process is working to ensure the students are learning in the best possible way.

“Helping their peers learn is very powerful,” she said. “If they have ownership over what they learn, they will put more effort in and the learning will be authentic.”