In Search of the Truth: The Dialectical Journal

I am wondering about the Dialectical Journal form. My students complete dialectical journals as we read our novels, but I love this form that you attached . . . we do them in a journal notebook in class. Now that we are at home and all digital, I would like to use this form.

My question is . . . do you give them the writing prompt for the whole novel at the top, or would you give them a writing prompt for the first few chapters?

Thank you.

Peace, 

Mrs. Michelle B.

8th Grade ELA/Reading Teacher

 

Hello, Mrs. B.,

Thank you for writing and for your question. It gives me an opportunity to give you some ideas.

For novels and dramas and research projects, I give students four to five prompts:

  • One of the prompts, I reserve for me. It is the one I use to model the skills. That way, the students aren’t copying my examples because I have a different prompt; however, they see and learn my thinking as I go through the process: decoding the prompt; gathering concrete details; generating commentary; producing well-developed body paragraphs; building introductions with a debatable thesis statement; and creating a memorable conclusion.
  • I share all the prompts with the students upfront, and we decode each one. By decoding each one, students learn the skill of decoding prompts. And because we work on four in a row, the intensive focus helps them to understand the pattern, the process of decoding the prompt.
  • I tell the students that by p. 25, 35, or 50 (up to you and depending on the length of the text and the content demanded by the prompt), they must sign-up for one of the prompts. Only a certain number of students may sign-up for a prompt. For example, let’s say I have four prompts, and I have 80 students, then after 20 students sign up for prompt #2, it’s gone. This serves several purposes:
    1. I don’t have to grade 80 essays on the same prompt;
    2. Different students are attracted to different prompts, and these give them choices;
    3. I have lottery due dates to stagger my grading. Allowing myself 48 hours for every 35 essays, helps me to stay fresh, fair, and consistent in my grading.
      1. So here’s how it works: After the students sign-up, I put the prompts in a hat, and we draw for due dates! Let’s pretend I have four prompts in a hat. I’ll have one of my first-period students student draw a prompt from the hat —
        1. Prompt #3 is due October 1 (+10 points) – the ten points lessens the shock of being the first to submit an essay!
        2. Prompt #1 is due October 3 (+6 points)
        3. Prompt #4 is due October 5
        4. Prompt #2 is due October 7
  • I read the first couple of chapters or 25 pages aloud for the following purposes:
    1. To get them involved in the text;
    2. To teach them to make inferences;
    3. To model CD and CM entries for each prompt (that’s right – they have the four prompts, each one sitting at the top of a dialectical journal. And I provide 2-3 examples for each prompt;
  • Once they sign up for a particular prompt, I have them turn in their dialectical journals every few days to observe their reading and annotating progress.
    1. I take just a few seconds, just a quick glance to make sure they are on track with their concrete details and their commentary as they relate to the prompt they have selected.
    2. I tell them that they should have 5-10 entries per week.
    3. When they turn in their dialectical journals each week, they star their two favorite entries for me to grade. I glance at all of them; but, I score the two they choose. I also can see how they are interpreting the text as they read it.
    4. Typically, the ones they star will be the ones they ultimately choose to “Gather CDs,” develop the topic sentence for each body paragraph, add CMs, and produce the concluding sentence for each body paragraph. Some CMs will lend themselves to producing their introductions, their thesis statement, and their conclusion.