Creating and Using a Reading Journal

Reading Journals are formal responses to reading. they are designed and agreed with the learners to help them read a novel purposefully and effectively, as part of a learning experience.

If you want to use a Reading Journal with your learners, you should introduce the concept of the Reading Journal to them, agree the questions and tasks for the journal, and then agree of the response format with them.

Stage 1: The Reading Journal Concept

Introduce the idea of the Reading Journal to the students and elicit their thoughts on what a journal is and what it is for.

Stage 2: Reading

Then set this reading text as a task before agreeing the shape and scope of the reading journal.

Ask the students to read the text and make notes about the purpose of a journal and what benefits it has. Then discuss their reactions as a class

Stage 3: Designing the Reading Journal

The first stage is to think about possible Journal questions and tasks. Here is a page of sample Reading Journal questions and tasks for you to consider. Remember, you should agree such questions with your learners.

The second stage is to agree what the Journal is going to look like. Is it going to be:

  • a blank page?
  • a notebook?
  • a preformatted electronic or paper document?

You might want to think out using other elements

  • mind maps?
  • infographics?

The simplest solution is probably the best – a nice blank page notebook of A5/A4 size.

Really, the format of the journal is the least important aspect. The most important is what questions will be answered in the Journal?

Using a Reading Journal

How can we use the Reading Journals in the course?

Well, you can ask the learners to read the books (silently) in class and complete the journal tasks. Or you can set the reading and journal completion tasks as homework. Or do both. 

It is important that you use the journal entries for some tasks to show how immediately useful the journaling is. Learners who have not done the journaling tasks will find it more difficult to do these tasks.

A suggested sequence is:

  1. The learners read a chapter (ideally in class) and do the journal tasks.
  2. You then do tasks based on the chapter, focused on what the Journal tasks were. For example:
  • Discuss the events of the chapter.
  • Discuss the developments of the story.
  • Discuss the development of the characters.
  • Discuss the themes and topics related to the chapter.
  • Look at some of the language of the chapter.
  1. You should bring in other reading and listening tasks. These could be related in some (perhaps tangential) way to the book, or they could be completely different topics to cover the necessary topics for the final examination. You should evaluate the learners on their performance with these additional tasks.
  2. You should also set speaking and writing tasks, again with an eye on the book and other topics, and evaluate these.
  3. Repeat.

© Robert Buckmaster 2022