Reading Journals

Model Journal Entries

Materials: You will need one full-sized, college-ruled spiral, composition, or loose-leaf notebook. This notebook should be reserved for journaling and notes for this class but should be kept separate from notes for other classes.

What is a reading journal?: In our class, your reading journals will be a place to try out and explore ideas concerning our readings and discussions without worrying too much about being evaluated. It is a place to experiment and to ask yourself, "How accurately can I explain or describe my/this idea?" The point of the journal is to develop a regular, habitual practice of figuring out what you think of our course materials. If you add to your journal consistently and regularly, you'll find that your thinking, your ability to make connections and to have insights will deepen. Above all, these journals are for you! You get a chance to develop your thoughts for different audiences in other assignments.

Requirements: You will make two kinds of entries in your journal: in-class entries and out-of-class entries. Each of these entries should be dated and given some sort of title or label.

  1. In-Class Entries: Sometimes, we will ask you in class to write for a few minutes on a specific question. We'll use these in-class entries to stimulate or conclude a discussion.
  2. Out-of-Class Entries: At least one day a week you will write a journal entry outside of class. These entries should be at least one page in length (but may go over) and they should engage with the week's readings. This should take 10-15 minutes. Sometimes we'lI will provide a specific question to think about, but the topic for most of these entries will be of your own choosing.

What should an entry look like?: Please feel free to write in the first person. Possible approaches include: looking at a passage or episode that puzzles, moves, or upsets you; considering the significance or motivations of a character; comparing this week's reading with last week's; arguing with me or a fellow student about an idea. We also encourage you to connect the course to your other classes, books, movies, current events, and your own life experience. Just remember to anchor the entry in the week's reading.

Grading: The journal is graded pass/fail and contributes to your participation grade. We will collect your journals at the end of the course and read a few entries chosen at random (or by you). In evaluating your journals, we'll be looking for these things:

  • Regularity & Length: Are the entries written regularly? Are the ou-of class entries a page or longer? Are the in-class entries of adaquate length depending on the time provided?
  • Appropriateness: Are the entries relevant to the course?
  • Engagedness, Vitality: Do the entries make serious efforts to grapple with an idea?

A minimum of 12 vital entries required to pass. Exceptional journals receive extra credit.

(Adapted from Christopher Jackson, Teaching with Reading Journals.
In: Teaching Concerns. U.Va. Teaching Resource Center, 2004)