Using Dialectical Journaling to Foster Reader Interaction

Recently, I had my students reread a story that they have now read 3 times.  We have taken Cornell Notes on the story, replied to a constructed response on the author’s use of characterization, and identified making inferences 

journal

as the strategy of choice to make meaning of what we read.  But I still felt that they really didn’t get the deeper meaning of the story – the impact that poverty had on the life of the main character.  I turned to my AVID English Language Arts Write Path book for help and found exactly what had been missing from my instruction – a framework for students to interact with the story.

After I quieted their groanings about having to read this story yet again, I explained to them that they were going to interact with the text a little differently this time.  I reminded them of how we had focused on vocabulary and the ways the author made the character more believable.  I then shared with them two words I’ve learned in a class I’m taking – efferent and aesthetic.  I wrote both words on the board and explained the difference – efferent reading has the main purpose of gaining information from the story to answer questions.  We were pretty good at that.  But aesthetic reading dealt more with how we interacted with the text – how we responded and reacted to what the author had written.

aesthetic efferent

The students were told to divide their papers into two columns (I’m not really a fan of the whole hot dog/hamburger fold thing, so I just told them they needed two columns and let them use their own judgement).  The left column was entitled What I Read – the right column was labeled My Response.  I copied a few of the sentence starters from the AVID book, modeled an example for them, and let them work quietly and independently for about 15 minutes.  As I walked around and reviewed their work, I was impressed – these kids were able to gain much more insight into the main character’s life and challenges than I would have been able to teach them!  (You can find a sample handouts for use in your classes here).  I’m sharing  a few examples from my class below.

dialectical 3

WHAT I LEARNED 

It was really important to me that each kid get a chance to share what they had learned, so we went around the room and allowed each of them to share their responses.  Time was getting away from us and we still had to take our end of year STAR360 test, so I skipped a boy who had reacted to a classmate’s response.  This kid has not willingly completed an assignment all year, so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But as the next student shared, I literally saw him shrink into his seat and slowly begin to disengage.  When the student was done, I apologized to my boy and allowed him to share.  The transformation was incredible!  He sat up tall, grinned a little, and proudly shared his reaction with his peers.  I learned to value each voice in my room – they are all learning, whether I can see it or not!

Have you used this strategy in your classroom?  How’d it go?