Literature Circle Group Roles for ELLs of Varying Proficiency Levels

Updated on August 3, 2017
KrisMarie29 profile image

Kristin obtained a BA in English Literature and an MA in teaching. Currently teaches English Lit and ESL at an International High School.


It can be difficult to facilitate engaging conversations in a mixed-level English proficiency classroom, especially when your students range from newcomers all the way to those students who have tested out of ESOL. The key is to group students heterogeneously rather than homogeneously. Groups should contain high-, mid-, and basic-proficiency students. High-level students should not bear most of the responsibility in the group, whereas basic-proficiency students should have a meaningful role. Assigning specific roles or tasks to students will ensure that everyone in the group has a purpose and everyone is accountable for producing something that will help reach the group’s mutual goal. Here are some examples of roles for students at each level.


  • Laminated group role cards that identify and explain each role
  • Highlighters
  • Markers or colored pencils
  • Sentence starters
  • The text students are working on

Group Roles for High-Proficiency Students

  • Discussion Leader – The discussion leader is someone who can create questions to drive the group’s discussion as well as facilitate the sharing of role responses.
  • Researcher – The researcher should be someone who understands search terms and knows how to use Google to find reliable sources of information.
  • Annotator – This student uses highlighters to locate important quotations from the text. They should be able to explain the importance of the quotations to the main idea of the passage.

Group Roles for Mid-Level Students

  • Summarizer – The summarizer should be able to write basic sentences that articulate what the main idea of the passage is and should be able to pick out the most important details.
  • Recorder – The recorder should be able to write down the words that group members are speaking. This student should be able to understand most of the words they hear and be able to spell.
  • Reporter – The reporter should be able to orally explain the group’s findings to the rest of the class. They should be able to speak in complete sentences and should be working on more complex sentence structures.

Additional Role Ideas for Students

Student role ideas for literature circles
Student role ideas for literature circles

Group Roles for Basic-Proficiency Students

  • Vocabulary Finder – The vocabulary finder should identify words that they do not understand and should define the words and identify synonyms that are easier to understand.
  • Illustrator - The illustrator will draw an important scene or part of the text and explain why that scene is important using words or phrases.
  • Connector – The connector will use words or phrases to explain how the passage relates to their life or the real world.


Include sentence starters on laminated paper or bookmarks to help students with the discussion. You can find sentence starter resources on Google. One of my favorites is this reciprocal bookmark.


I think ___________________________because ________________________________.

I disagree because ________________________________________.

The story says ____________________________which shows ____________________________.

You may want to create a script for the discussion leader to follow. The script should help the discussion leader explain what the next task in the discussion is and who is presenting. For example, “It is now time for the summarizer to summarize what the reading was about. Summarizer, please read us your summary.” The summarizer would then read their summary and the discussion leader would ask the group, “Is anything important missing from this summary?” before moving on to the next person to report their task response.

For more on group roles visit ReadWriteThink for a basic introductory lesson.

Lit Circles in Action

Do you use roles in your classroom?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Yvonne Teo profile image

      Yvonne Teo 

      2 years ago from Singapore


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)