Meaningful literacy experiences and exchanges in the classroom depend on a core set of values. That set of values depends on an environment of trust. Literature circles work only if students will talk. And students will talk only if they're willing to take a risk. Which brings us full circle: success in literacy takes participation born of trust, a positive group dynamic built on sharing tasks, maintaining good working relationships, and examining group functioning. Nancy Steineke's experience in her high-school classrooms proves that a truly collaborative environment is at the heart of all she accomplishes with literacy. Her book tells why and how.

Nancy moves students through a series of lessons that refine their skills while deepening their interests in reading, writing, and listening to the opinions of others—essential academic skills at the core of any collaborative literacy task. She offers a multitude of practical strategies that include:

  • practices that encourage students to take responsibility for their work and behavior
  • teaching collaborative skills, then reinforcing their use
  • careful listening, questioning, and meaningful conversation about text
  • Literature Circle management and troubleshooting
  • timesaving and effective assessments for SSR, writing, Literature Circles, projects, and performances
  • high-interest writing projects and peer revision
  • developing portfolios that celebrate accomplishment.