Breathing life into texts with reading circles

Meredith Lade is passionate about bringing reading to life! In this 5-minute overview, Jonathan Hvaal asks Meredith to talk about a few quick pointers on a technique called ‘reading circles’, and explain how it could work across many different learning and teaching contexts.

What’s the ‘reading circles’ technique about?

It’s an approach to developing reading skills which involves several students reading the same text, but from different perspectives. Students then come together to share their perspectives, and it helps them to engage with the text at a deeper, cognitive level.

How does it work?

Each student chooses a ‘reading role’ before they start reading, and they have a clear task to do before they come together to share. There are a lot of possible roles to choose from, but some of the most productive are:

  • Question maker
  • Researcher
  • Illustrator
  • Word wizard
  • Connector

The ‘Connector’ role, for example, asks the student to find something in the text that relates to their own experiences, their family/friends, their country, another text they’ve read or real-life events. They are asked to share these connections with the group, and encourage others to talk about connections they can make between the text and their lives. It really encourages students to make meaning of a text.

What challenges does the ‘reading circles’ approach help with?

We’ve all experienced reading lessons where the text is too long, challenging or beyond the level of the students. Reading circles goes beyond the reading as ‘product’, or the focus on getting 8/10 comprehension questions right. It adds variety to the reading process and really encourages students to deepen their understanding of a text because they keep coming back to it from a different point of view. There’s less emphasis on right and wrong.

What are the key benefits?
  • Active engagement: students are doing something with the text, they have choices (reading role, questions, research topics)
  • Critical thinking: it gets students to look at texts from a deeper level, and from multiple perspectives
  • Flexible and adaptable: you can use it with different levels of learners, different contexts and different text types
What would you say to teachers thinking of using it, but not sure if it’ll translate into their teaching context?

I first heard about ‘literature circles’ about 15 years ago whilst doing a training course with a group of Taiwanese high school teachers. They were doing peer teaching on developing reading skills and presented to me on what was then a very novel approach to reading short stories and poems. I really liked the idea of a ‘flipped classroom’ in that context, with students doing their reading outside class, then coming together to share perspectives in class. I’ve adapted it, choosing different roles and using short texts in the classroom. You can adapt it to listening or reading texts, use it with songs, newspaper articles and academic texts. It can also work well online, with students preparing their roles and posting perspectives in online discussions.

You can watch the short conversation with Jon and Meredith below:

Interested to try reading circles in your context? Get example lesson plans and more materials by contacting or You can also connect with them and hear more about teacher development on Yammer.