Thursday, April 2, 2009

Double Entry Journals

I recently read a book called Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses: A Unique Approach to Literature Circles by Faye Brownlie. (The copy I read was published by Portage & Main Press,Winnipeg, Manitoba, 2005.) Being new to teaching grade four, I was looking for some Literature Circle ideas that did not involve a tonne of planning or a tonne of work for me as a teacher. This book was recommended to me as a “different” approach to the traditional Literature Circles. I wanted to encourage meaningful conversations about the books being read and a meaningful type of response to the reading. What caught my eye when reviewing her book was this quote: “Frameworks for response writing should always be elegantly simple! And the types I present here are all elegantly simple” (Brownline, 2005, p. 27).

One idea I gleaned from her book was her “Double-Entry Journals.” She says that this is the most common journal framework, but has many variations. This is an idea I remember learning about in college a while back. Once I started using it in the classroom, I realized how useful a tool it was, and how it can span so easily across the curriculum.

The basic idea is this:
1. Take a loose-leaf paper.
2. Fold it in half.
3. Write the title “What Happened” (or “Events”) on the left side and “My Thinking” (or “Text Response”) on the right side.
4. Start with the “What Happened” side. At the younger grade levels, students can write a summary of the book or story. (At even younger grades, students can draw pictures or make symbols about what the story was about.) At the older grade levels, students can choose 2-3 key events that took place.
5. Then write a personal response on the “My Thinking” side.

This is how I used this idea in my classroom: I gave the students reading time. When the time was up, we prepared our Double-Entry Journal on loose-leaf paper. They summarized what they read about in the “What Happened” side and then gave a personal response on the “My Thinking” side. I encouraged them to think of all main actions they read to use in their summary, and use some of the reading strategies we have learned about (making connections, making inferences, etc) in the response side. We also recorded the book title and how many pages we read to monitor our progress in our books. The beauty of this wonderful idea recorded by Brownlie is that it can be used at all grade levels (Brownlie discusses its use for instruction from grades 2-8, and she gives some wonderful examples of expected outcomes). Another thing—it can be used in response to listening (oohh, I can test listening skills!!!) or student reading (group or individual). The other beautiful thing . . .it can be used in ANY subject. For example, I used this same idea in Bible. After reading a selection from the Bible, we followed the same format. We have also done the same thing in discussing biblical concepts. On one side we talked about “What is Hope” (where students wrote their definitions of the word hope based on the Bible story we read) and then wrote “My Thinking” (where students wrote about what they thought of the concept and how it played itself out in the Bible story). Use this idea in a similar fashion in Theme, Social Studies, Science . . . whatever!

And. . .this is an idea that can be used outside of the classroom. Tutors, parents and teacher alike can use this strategy. Because of the ease of writing about something the child or student is an “expert” on, the piece of writing can then be naturally used for editing and correcting purposes, like correct punctuation, grammar, sentence fluency, and so forth.

Feel free to leave a comment on how you have used this strategy or where you find something like this useful!

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