What is a Response Journal?

Response journals require the students to write about what they felt while reading a book or listening to a story.

What is its purpose?

Response Journals record student feelings, responses, and reactions to reading texts. This strategy encourages students to think deeply about the materials they read and to relate this information to their prior knowledge and experiences. This interaction between reader and text extends the reading experience into the "real life" application of information.

Response Journals allow students to reflect on and raise questions about a text. These journals are especially valuable for promoting opinion making, value judgments, and critical thinking.

How can I do it?

  1. Explain the functions of the response journal to students. Stress that the journal is personal—a place to express ideas, feelings, questions, and opinions. Point out that there are no "right answers" in response journals. Successful journals capture high-quality student-text interaction.
  2. Provide a model journal for students. Make sure that this model includes observations, questions, critical judgments, opinions, and feelings. Explain that while all of these are appropriate, students should be able to distinguish opinion from observation and critical judgment from feelings.
  3. Provide journal sheets or booklets with prompting questions that will help structure student responses. Encourage students to record as many observations as they can.
  4. From time to time, organize the class into small groups and allow students to share their journal responses with their peers. Stress again the functions of the journal and the fact that there are no "right" or "wrong" answers.

Assessment and Evaluation Considerations

The response journal may be viewed as a piece of ongoing assessment. Journal entries can be evaluated when teachers read students' journals, when students share as a whole class, when students have literature circles, or when students have individual conferences with the teacher. Teachers may take notes on "post-it" notes or labels as they listen or confer with students. They may keep records of reading and writing strategies students have incorporated into their silent reading.

As part of self-evaluation, students may choose a piece of writing from their reading response journals they would like to include in their portfolio and explain what it shows they can do well or might do better. Students may look back through their journal and, with teacher assistance, evaluate which reading strategies have been most helpful for them as they read and set specific goals for their reading and writing.

Teacher Resources


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