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Fifth-grade Students’ Perceptions of How they Experience Literature Discussion Groups


Evans, Karen S. “Fifth-grade Students’ Perceptions of How they Experience Literature Discussion Groups.” Reading Research Quarterly, vol. 39 no. 1, 2002, pp. 46-69.

(This article is freely available through the Academic Search Premier database on Badgerlink)


Based on a lack of students’ perspectives on literature discussion groups in research, Evans sets out to investigate students’ experiences of participation in discussion groups led by their peers. In this yearlong study of one fifth-grade classroom, Evans participated in and observed students’ literature discussion groups. Students experienced various structures of literature circles throughout the year. They chose from 8-10 books for each literature circle and worked in their groups at least twice each week in addition to mini-lessons, independent reading time, read-alouds, and debriefing.

The researcher used transcribed discussions, transcribed group reflections, and videos of student groups in order to share with students what took place. Evans then asked students basic questions about their perceptions of what took place in their literature discussion circles, documenting what they thought and cross-referencing their perceptions with her own notes and observations. Three themes emerged from students, including the idea that students do have a clear understanding of what is necessary to have effective discussions; gender makeup within groups can influence participation and experiences in discussions, and; a bossy group mate can influence participation in discussions.

Classroom Application

Educators may be most interested in transcription from the students themselves. As fifth-grade people, they are well aware of what it takes to successfully participate in a literature circle and share candid reviews of what is and is not helpful for effective participation. Another aspect that might be most useful surrounds academic tasks involved and the texts being read. Students’ perceptions coincide with what we know about offering choice and students’ ideas about good books, all based on students’ lived and social experiences.