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Fostering aesthetic response discourse through literature circles in the secondary classroom Clark, Denise Lynette

Abstract

Literature circles are being used in the classroom as a student-centered method to teach novel studies. There are many different approaches to literature circles that teachers may employ. This qualitative case study examines four of these approaches: Daniels' (1994) Role Sheets; Kooy and Wells' (1996) Response Journals; Post-It Notes or "stikkums" described by Simpson (1995), Samway and Whang (1997) and Paulsen (in Danieis, 1994); and the Placemat approach. The question guiding this study is which of these approaches is more effective in promoting high school students' aesthetic responses, enhancing their discussion, deepening their understanding of a text, and furthering their critical-thinking skills in terms of literary analysis. The study took place in my grade 9 English classroom where students were placed into small groups for a novel study and each group used one of the four approaches, with a fifth group trying a different approach each time they met for discussion. These discussions were tape-recorded, transcribed and then analyzed using two theoretical lenses. The first lens examined the data using Wilhelm's ten dimensions of response in order to see if all approaches promoted the same dimensions. In my second analysis, I analyze data through the lens of my own theoretical construct that is based on Barnes & Todd's (1995) exploratory and presentational talk, combined with Rosenblatt's (1995) notion of the aesthetic, lived-through response. This case study reveals that the various approaches promote different dimensions of response as well as different levels of aesthetic and efferent discourse. Not all approaches achieve Rosenblatt's (1995) aesthetic, lived-through response to literature. The implications for teachers centre around the learning outcomes they seek when implementing literature circles in their classes.

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