Recently I have been using academic reading circles, a deep reading activity, in the classroom for a few months now. They can be a challenge for students, but they are very engaged and do a great job in the process, and that’s when I know learning is happening! Below is some text I wrote about ARCs in my open textbook:
Academic reading circles, a reading activity designed by Tyson Seburn, are very similar to jigsaw discussion groups, but instead of breaking up bigger readings into smaller parts, readings are analyzed in different ways and then presented to a group or class. They are often used to help students collaborate while also digging deeper into an article or topic. Students are assigned one of the following roles to analyze the reading:
- Leader: The leader summarizes the main points of the reading and creates comprehension and critical thinking questions for the group to discuss. Check out this DOK chart for a good way to make discussion questions.
- Contextualizer: The contextualizer finds and researches at least 2 to 4 contextualized references that are NOT fully explained by the author. What are contextualized references? They are references used in the background information in an article. This could include people, organizations, places, events, movies, books, or other things that the author might assume the reader already knows about and thus doesn’t give the context. It can also include cultural expressions and idioms (e.g., “pulling my leg,” “George Washington is rolling over in his grave”).
- Visualizer: The visualizer finds images, infographics or charts for at least 2 to 4 facts the author uses and discusses why each image or graphic is relevant to the reading. The images should be related to background information (dates, statistics, contextualized references) and/or key facts (main references in the article; key people, places, events, cultural expressions).
- Connector: The connector writes complete answers (3-4 sentences) to how the article connects with other articles we have read or videos we have watched, a current or past event that you are familiar with, or an experience you have had.
- Vocabulary Master: The Vocab master highlights words 10-15 unknown key vocabulary words that repeat or are important for understanding the article, and gives a synonym, short explanation, or maybe an image to help classmates better understand the words.
With bigger classes, you will need to have students work in a group. There are 5 roles, so group them into groups of 5 and discuss what they learned in their role in a group presentation. However, you could also have students with the same role team up and do a class presentation.
Some teachers have students make a handout to give out to the rest of the group or class during their role presentation, but I prefer to use digital annotation. I recommend using hypothes.is, a free tool for interactive collaborative annotation, or Actively Learn. One of the great advantages of using digital annotation tools rather than a handout is that they give students the ability to add images and video to their ARC role information.
Here is a PowerPoint about academic reading circles by Tyson Seburn, who also literally wrote the book about it!
And lastly, by request, here is a general scoring rubric used for assessing student participation during ARCs. Feel free to share and edit to your liking! After ARCs, you might want additional comprehension and critical thinking checks with comprehension quizzes or tests, vocabulary quizzes, or writing topics related to the article chosen for the ARC activity.