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The Problem with Dialectical Journals

Well, at least we know how our students feel about dialectical journals (reading response journals or double-entry journals)… But, how should teachers feel about dialectical journals?

Teachers grapple with how to assign independent reading activities to help students interact with assigned novels or independent reading. Dialectical journals have been teacher favorites since literature-based reading pedagogy was popularized in the 1980s. KWL charts and variations upon the same theme have served as into-through-beyond activities within English-language arts, history/social science, and science courses. These activities remain popular with “balanced literacy” practitioners, who see the need for some accountability and, in doing so, part from their non-accountability “free voluntary reading” colleagues.

At surface level, these forms of reading response seem to assist students in reaching our goals of promoting independent reading comprehension. The thought/hope has been that if we can just get students to access their own prior knowledge of content and story schema, help students connect these to what the author has to offer, and  establish a relevant and personal connection/application to the readers’ lives… students will problem-solve their way to full comprehension and reading enjoyment. The pendulum has clearly swung from the author to the reader side of the equation.

The Problem with Dialectical, Reader Response, or Double-Entry Journals 

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After years of “teaching” these reader-centered approaches to independent reading, educators are starting to see the unfortunate results. Almost 60% of community college students and 30% of university students require at least one year of developmental coursework. And, yes, reading is the chief subject of this remediation. It’s time to re-think how we get students to practice and develop reading comprehension.

Good readers emphasize the author’s text, not the reader, in the author-reader relationship. Reader-response such as analysis, making connections within the text, inferences, and summarizing. Struggling readers desperately need to focus on and understand what the author has to say, and only incidentally what they bring as readers to the text. The near-exclusive focus by some reading-response theorists and practitioners on personal relevance impedes comprehension. Tier I and II Response to Intervention readers confuse “What it means to me” strategies with “What the author means” strategies. The latter is much more important for developing readers (and for that matter, all readers). Some personal application within teacher-guided class discussion makes sense, but should be secondary to teaching the text itself.

Where did teachers get the notion that the reader is the priority in the author-reader relationship? My take is that our university professors tended to over-emphasize the reader side of the coin in a misinterpretation of Louise Rosenblatt’s Reader-Response Theory. Nowhere does Dr. Rosenblatt downplay the centrality of the author-produced text in the reading process. For reader-response theorists, the focus in on interaction. It’s the give and take interplay between the author’s words and the reader’s input. The outcome of this transaction produces the meaning of the text.

In lieu of reader-centered dialectical journals (reader response journals or double-entry journals), teachers should provide the training to help their students interact

Accountability for Independent Reading

Independent Reading Accountability

with the text. Developing the internal reading monitor of talking to the text through self-generated questions and comments makes much more sense than keeping a personal reaction journal. But what about accountability? Marginal annotations, online book discussions, literature circles, parent-student discussions to name a few.

Help students learn and apply the five types of independent reading strategies which promote internal monitoring of the text: Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict. These SCRIP strategies promote the reader-author conversation and, thus, internal monitoring of text to help students achieve any teacher’s independent reading goal: “to get students to read and understand what they are reading on their own.” Following are FREE SCRIP Reading Comprehension Strategies lessons, model readings, and bookmarks.

FREE DOWNLOAD TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF PENNINGTON PUBLISHING RESOURCES: The SCRIP (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict) Comprehension Strategies includes class posters, five lessons to introduce the strategies, and the SCRIP Comprehension Bookmarks.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

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Each of the above resources is included for teachers to review components of my two reading intervention programs. Click on the provided links to view video overviews and to download sample lessons.

Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Science of Reading Intervention Program

Pennington Publishing provides two reading intervention program options for ages eight–adult. The Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) is a full-year, 55 minutes per day program which includes both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). The word recognition components feature the easy-to-teach, interactive 5 Daily Google Slide Activities: 1. Phonemic Awareness and Morphology 2. Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling 3. Sounds and Spelling Independent Practice 4. Heart Words Independent Practice 5. The Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables 1ith comprehension and word fluency practice for older readers The program also includes sound boxes and personal sound walls for weekly review.  The language comprehension components feature comprehensive vocabulary, reading fluency, reading comprehension, spelling, writing and syntax, syllabication, reading strategies, and game card lessons, worksheets, and activities. Word Recognition × Language Comprehension = Skillful Reading: The Simple View of Reading and the National Reading Panel Big 5.

If you only have time for a half-year (or 30 minutes per day) program, the The Science of Reading Intervention Program features the 5 Daily Google Slide Activities, plus the sound boxes and personal word walls for an effective word recognition program.

PREVIEW TEACHING READING STRATEGIES and THE SCIENCE OF READING INTERVENTION PROGRAM RESOURCES HERE for detailed product description and sample lessons.

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