The Reading Journal
UNDERSTAND AND REMEMBER THAT THIS IS A CRITICAL READING JOURNAL, NOT
A PERSONAL RESPONSE JOURNAL. THIS JOURNAL IS DESIGNED TO HELP YOU DEVELOP
CRITICAL THINKING AND READING SKILLS SO THAT YOU CAN BOTH DEVELOP AND
ARTICULATE LEGITIMATE READINGS OF A TEXT. Using reading journals,
we hope, will make your reading and learning personal. And as you attend
carefully to how you read and to what you personally make of your reading,
we believe you will be surprised to find that such things can improve
your enthusiasm for reading and your participation in the classroom.
By watching your own reading move from puzzlements through approximations
and misreadings to more and more satisfying readings you will gradually
develop a more realistic sense of what valid and legitimate readings
of texts are, and in class discussion you will more readily share
your readings and build on each other's perceptions instead of worrying
about who is right and who is wrong.
The core of your work in the course will be composed in your reading journal. We'd like you to get a separate spiral notebook just for this purpose and keep it together over the term (If you want to try and keep your journal on your computer, click here). It is essential to the course that you do the reading before the class/lecture in which it will be discussed, and that you make entries in the journal on the readings as you read them. You can add entries to the journal from lectures or classes. There is one rigid rule about the format of the journal--I want you to use the facing pages in a special way. Take all of your reading notes on only the right hand pages. Leave the opposing pages blank for later. (you might want to reverse this if you're left-handed.) The basic difference is that the right-hand pages are for comments on the reading. The left-hand pages are for comments on the right-hand pages. Keep the difference clear and make use of it--don't write continuously from front to back of the sheet.
The basic rule of thumb in using the Journal is this: EVERY TIME YOU STOP AND THINK, WRITE DOWN WHAT IS IN YOUR MIND ON THE RIGHT-HAND PAGE OF YOUR JOURNAL, USING COMPLETE SENTENCES.
More specifically --
When you read a work of fiction, you want to think about the following:
Other things to put on the right-hand pages:
When writing in the journal, use full sentences
instead of phrases. The demands of the sentence will help you
draw out your thoughts fully. Be explicit about the nature of your
surprise or change or puzzlement--what caused it in the text?
The journal will seem less of an intrusion into your reading if you
follow the natural rhythms of reading. Sometimes we're carried along
by the flow of a work, but the things I've asked you to note are all
signs that it's time to pause and reflect. Nobody reads a work straight
through or at a uniform speed. Only machines work that way. The journal
is a device to help you make more of the moments of reflection and
to preserve them for later reconsideration.
While the right-hand pages involve your direct
reactions to the text--your first gestures at making meanings
out of it--the left hand pages are for a completely different
activity. When you finish the reading for a particular author,
or after we've discussed them in lecture and class, go back and
use the facing pages to comment on your original observations
and to make something of them. Is there a pattern to the changes
you experienced? Does the end of the work tie them together?
Ideas adapted from Toby Fulwiler, University
of Vermont Writing Program Director;
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