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Primary Educational Resource for Humanities, Foundations I Honors, Creative Drama, and Theater Workshop

Foundations I Honors:  Dialectical Journals


     A note to students and parents:  Many students have assured me that they know how to take notes but show me plot summaries, which demonstrate comprehension on a very low or literal level. Others explain that they can remember elements of literature without taking notes.  With all due respect, this is not what I am observing in the classroom.  Therefore, I have assembled a note-taking practice called the Dialectical Journal.  Please read directions carefully You will be allowed to use the notes you take on any DIRT (Did I Read This?) quiz all year.

Dialectical Journal Note-Taking 

Directions:  Please use this outline for note-taking this year.  It is suggested that you read the story or poem once through first without stopping to take notes.  Then take a moment to think about what literary elements you found most significant (important) to the uncovering the meaning of this short story or poem.  Was it the setting?  Did the character development intrigue or confuse you?  Did you enjoy the suspense or pacing of the author's style?  Pick one element.        

      Use the prompt questions below to guide you into a thoughtful and specific discussion of these elements.  Although you will NOT answer every question for your reading, you should use the prompts as an aid to help you interact with the assigned literature in a reflective and analytical way.  This will help you avoid plot summary. These questions will also provide the basis for your oral participation, so careful completion of your dialectical journal will ensure a thoroughly done preparation for your oral assessment, as well as a useful aid in DIRT quizzes.  

 The Grading Rubric for Homework follows the directions. 

1.)  Divide each page in half with a shape

2.) Double-space so that another reader or the teacher may comment on what you are writing.

            Left Side:                                                                                Right Side:

Setting:  where and when the story                                           Setting:  Emotional reactions

takes place and any changes.  Note                                           to the setting.  Did it remind

the importance of the setting.                                                     you of something in your own

Note any important symbols or                                                   life or something you have

motifs that unlock theme for you.                                                read, seen, or studied?

Make  predictions regarding the conflict        What tone is derived from that related to setting changes. setting?  How?  Give

examples by picking quotes  and analyzing them for  meaning.  Literary Devices:  How did point

of view, the conflict(s), foreshadowing,                                      Literary Devices:

plot complications, the climax,                                                 What complications could

consequences to character actions                                           you predict?  What symbols

or decisions, the final resolution                                               or motifs confused

of the problem, OR  what happens                                          you?  What questions came

to the characters at the end of the book                                   up as you read the book?

affect you?  Don't do them all.  Pick what     How did you answer them?  

interests you.              


Characters:  Briefly describe the characters                              Characters:  Who do these

as you meet them.  Explain how they relate                               people remind you of?  Why?

to one another, how they change both                                       Were they believable?  Why

physically (externally) and the way they                                     or why not?  Did you agree

think or act (internally).  Who is the                                           with their actions?  Why or

Protagonist?  Who is the Antagonist?                                          why not?  What would you

How does the author develop his characters?                            have done in the same

Direct Characterization? (What the characters                            situation?                     

do or say) or Indirect Characterization                                      Ethics/values/cultural      differences?           

(What others say about them.)                                                                                                                                

Author:                                                                                   Author: 

How did the author/narrative voice                                             What is the author's tone?

use diction effectively?  Cite quotes What mood did it create?

to prove your point.                               What is the author's style?                                                                                         How do you analyze an

Was the author successful in creating  an author's style?

a piece of Good Literature?  Why or why 

not? Be specific.  Back up your opinion

with quotes or specific detail that will

prove you point.                                                                                                                                                                                                     

You should also include in your journals any questions that you had regarding the reading, ideas for interdisciplinary connections, or vocabulary words that you may have looked up.  Dialectical Journals are kept to demonstrate the close reading skills you have developed.  I may also have you exchange journals with your peers.  That is why I have asked you to double-space them.

  Rubric for Response Journals:

 4 (A): Demonstrates a thorough understanding of the book in terms of comprehension, interpretation, and evaluation as is shown by perceptive and insightful reflective thinking about the text. Supports this thinking with specific evidence from the text (significant quotes) and outside experience (using literary/philosophical lens).  Displays judgments about the literary quality of the text and also supports these judgments well with specific evidence from the text and by using outside information from other disciplines.

3 (B): Displays a complete and accurate understanding of the book in terms of comprehension and interpretation but does not extend the meaning of the text through imagination or the use of an unusual lens (which can be determined through the “predictability factor”).  Supports thinking with specific evidence from the text (significant quotes) and outside experience using a literary/philosophical lens. A less effective, but nevertheless good and conscientious attempt is made to connect the text through references outside the text from other disciplines.

2 (C): Displays an incomplete understanding of the novel/play/poem in terms of interpretation.  Does not look beyond the surface of a discussion of plot or makes some notable misconceptions about the interpretation of the book.  General observations are not supported through the use of significant quotes and analysis of those quotes.  Does not support thinking with specific evidence from the text and/or outside experience or makes generalizations and suppositions that are unsupported.

1 (D): Demonstrates misconceptions about the plot in terms of comprehension.  Close reading skills need sharpening.  Makes no attempt at analysis, and basic plot is summarized. Vague generalizations are used to avoid specific details.  Work is done with no attempt to fulfill the expectations for this Honors class.  In other words, you waited until the last minute and then wrote down anything you could think of to “get by.”  Please drop this course.  “Getting by” is not a course objective.

50 (F):  Minimal, unacceptable effort is expended.  Bare bones plot summary of events are sloppily written without interpretation or analysis.  Also includes the use of Spark Notes, Cliff Notes, Pink Monkey Notes, Monarch Notes or any other on-line study guide.  This additionally includes watching the movie instead of reading the appropriate literature. 

0 (F-):  The assignment has not been done on time.  Late work of this kind is difficult to make up since the class discussion is inspired by and based on students' response notebooks.  If students are unprepared, they are unable to take part in informed discussion.  This, then affects their class participation grades as well as any quizzes that are given.  0's are also given to students who copy the work of others.  Unfortunately, the student who gave their work to a peer to be copied also gets a zero.  After all, without cooperation, cheating can not occur.