Dialogue Journals. Reading Response Journals. Letter to the Teacher. There are a lot of different names! No matter what you call them, these journals are a great way to individually interact with your students about reading.
I have only done dialogue journals with second graders before, so I decided to do some research on how to best go about this process with fifth graders. I met with the reading teacher at my school and she gave me some great ideas. I also came across the blog, Teaching My Friends. Nancy has some awesome posts about using these journals in her classroom! Here are the links to her posts:
Definitely check out her posts to get some ideas. A lot of what I am implementing came from Nancy!
When I started out, I knew that I wanted students to write about more than just a summary of the story. I wanted them to use some higher level thinking skills and, let's face it, summaries are just plain boring. They are boring for the kids to write and for me to read. I really wanted to get inside their heads and have them share what they are thinking as they read.
I started out with a lesson on what a Dialogue Journal letter looks like. I wrote a letter to them about a book that I had read and we pulled apart the letter to see what should be included. The blue post-its are the parts of a letter and the basic information that should be included (author, title, etc). The pink post-its show my thinking (feelings, questions, thoughts on the book, etc).
Then the student received their Dialogue Journals. Each journal has a colored smiley face on it. This corresponds to the day that they will write their letter and pass in their journal. That way, I only get 5-6 to read each day and not 25 on Friday!
The inside of their journals includes several tools for the writer. First, is their "Words to Learn" page. This was an idea that I got from my reading specialist. There are two pages stapled on the inside cover of each notebook. It has one box for each letter of the alphabet. When a student misspells a word in their letter, I mark it and it is their responsibility to write it on their chart. If it is a word that they will use often (such as character), they now have their own dictionary to refer to when spelling it in their future letters.
On the next page, is a sample letter from me. It is the same letter that we used in our mini-lesson. I include this as a point of reference for my students.
Next, I have included Thinking Stems for the students to use if they are having difficulty coming up with ideas on what to write in their journals. This idea came from Teaching My Friends. She has a link to the original document as well.
As the year progresses, I will continue to do mini-lessons on how to write a variety of letters (non-fiction, unfinished book, etc). I will also have the students switch journals and respond to each other throughout the year to see the conversations that they can have with each other.
Do you use Dialogue Journals in your classroom? What does it look like? I am always looking for new ideas!
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