Gendered Power in Literature Circles
Literature circles have been used extensively for the past few decades at the elementary level for the purposes of increasing engagement and motivation through peer-led discussion. Some researchers, however, have found that these discussions may not be as empowering as teachers would like to believe. Issues of power and positioning, especially in regards to gender, have been shown to be an issue in some literature circles at the elementary level. This may be due in part to the idea that literacy is gendered and boys and girls think about and enact literacy differently. Both boys and girls have been shown to attempt to gain and maintain power through positioning their peers negatively in literature circles. Because of this, literature circles may not be as beneficial as they could be, and may actually lead to further stereotypes and negative attitudes toward literacy. Based on the issues seen in these literature circles, I will make six recommendations for creating more effective literature circles. The recommendations are: use explicit instruction, create a safe environment, provide discussion support, carefully select groups, frequently assess the literature discussions, and provide a variety of texts. These guidelines will help teachers create positive literature circle experiences for students while diminishing issues of power drawn along gender lines.