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Double-Entry Journals


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What Is It?

Students can use a double-entry journal to help them study concepts or vocabulary, express opinions, justify an opinion using text, and understand or respond to the text they are reading. The double-entry journal is a two-column journal. In the left column, students write a piece of information from the text, such as a quotation or a concept, which students want to expand upon, understand better, or question. In the right column, students relate to or analyze the information that is written in the left column. For example, the student could title the left column "Quotes" and the right column "Reflections." In this instance, the student would copy quotes from the text in the left column and reflect upon what they mean in the right column.

Below is an example of how a language arts teacher who is teaching Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, could use a double-entry journal.

Double-Entry Journal for Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Quotations Reflections
"To be awake is to be alive." (from the chapter "Where I Lived and What I Lived For" I think that you can go though your whole life asleep if you don't stop and think about what you're doing. It's important to make conscious choices, especially when you're my age.
"I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this by the narrowness of my experience." (from the chapter "Economy") I disagree with what Thoreau says here. I think that you can know another person as well as you know yourself. I know my best friend as well as I know myself. Sometimes, I don't think I know myself well at all.
"Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe." (from the Conclusion) Sometimes it is difficult to tell the truth because you don't want to hurt a person's feelings or because it's hard for you to admit something. It was hard for me to tell my dad that I didn't want to go to the same college he did, but I was glad that I told him afterwards.

Why Is It Important?

Double-entry journals give students a way to interact personally with the text, by reflecting on and writing about their understanding of the material they are reading. Students can use the text to form an opinion and then use pieces of text to support their opinions. Students process the information and relate to the text, increasing reading comprehension.

Research by Marzano (1988) emphasizes the importance of metacognition and student learning. By writing about what they are thinking, students show their thinking process as they read, allowing teachers to redirect or encourage students to be more effective readers.

How Can You Make It Happen?

Double-entry journals can be used effectively for expression or for more concrete purposes. For example, if students are reading material in class that they can personally react to, then they can use the double-entry journal to express their feelings and opinions about the material. On the other hand, students may need to learn specific information such as new vocabulary words or historical events. In this instance, students can use the double-entry journal as a study guide.

Distribute a blank double-entry journal to students or show them how to create one in their notebooks. Have students draw a line down the center of a piece of paper to make two columns. Model the use of a double-entry journal with the class by displaying one on the board. First, show students how to use the double-entry journal in an expressive way. Think about a topic you are currently teaching that students can respond to personally or ask questions about. For example, if you are teaching a unit on abolition and the Civil War, in the left column write some interesting quotes or the names of some of the significant people who lived during that time. Brainstorm with students thoughts or reflections they have about the quotes or the people, and write students' comments in the right column. Discuss their thoughts and explain how reflecting in writing can help them consider the material more thoroughly.

Encourage students to work independently using the double-entry journal. To do this, consider some concrete information students need to know that relates to the material you are teaching. For example, write down some vocabulary words students need to know, some dates that are important, or some concepts or rules students need to master. Have students copy the terms in the left column. Break students into pairs, and have them define the concepts or terms using the column on the right. If time allows, have pairs join together into groups of four to compare their double-entry journals and discuss each other's reflections about the text. Instruct students to use their double-entry journals as study guides for an upcoming test or quiz.



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