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Dialectical Journal Directions for All Classes

Dialectical Journals Suggested Writing Topics

Directions:  Here is a suggestion for how to set up your Dialectical Journal for your Summer Reading Project.  You can follow it or organize in your own fashion.  You're going to college someday, and no one there is  going to TELL you how to take notes.  However, you need to have a system that  will keep your thoughts organized and easy to access during class discussion and essay writing.

     Although you will not answer every question for your reading, you should use the prompts as a guide to help you interact with the assigned literature in a reflective and analytical way.  For the 2012-13 school year, all of my students from 9th to 12th grades should focus on the prompts regarding character development.  These questions will provide the basis for class discussions and essays, so careful completion of your journal will ensure a thoroughly done preparation for your assessments.

1.)  Divide each page in half with a T shape

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


Left Side:                                                                                Right Side:

Settingwhere and when the story                                           Setting:  Emotional reactions

takes place.  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 or studied?

Make  predictions regarding the conflict, plot,     Try not to be too literal when drawing 

related to setting shifts.         connections.     


Elements:  How did point   Elements:

of view, the conflict(s), foreshadowing,                                    Who has power, and who wants it?

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, and what happens                                           you?  What questions came

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

affect you?     Choose significant quotes    Analyze the quotes you chose.                            


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 and how they look or behave) or Indirect       What fantasy does your protagonist have?

Characterization  (what others say about them.)                         What ethics/values/power relations?                                                                                                                             

Author:                                                                                    Author:  How did the author

How did the author set his/her                                   use diction effectively?  Cite specific

tone and/or mood of the literature?                                             quotes to prove your point. What is style?                How do you analyze the author's style?                                                                                                                                                                                             

  You should also include in your journals any questions that you had regarding the reading, vocabulary you looked up, parsing of quotes, ideas for interdisciplinary connections.  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 in the text (significant quotes are noted and parsed) and outside experience (using historical, political, philosophical, psychological, or other literary 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 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 detailsWork 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.  This includes the use of Spark Notes, Cliff Notes, Pink Monkey Notes, Monarch Notes or any other on-line study guide.  This also includes watching the movie instead of reading the appropriate literature. 


0 (F-):  The assignment has not been done on time.  This will result in an immediate meeting with parents/guardians and the student to determine an alternative English class.