hey y'all. I learned about reading journals/ reading logs for my Didactics of English exam. Has any of you ever used them to teach a novel?
Objectively speaking, a reading journal sounds like a good idea, but personally speaking, it doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy at all, so how would I get my students to use one? I'm afraid I'm a bit cynic and old-fashioned about these things. Nevertheless, I'll look for a short book to read and write a reading journal about so as to test this method on myself.
If you've ever used this method, how did your students like it? Did they learn more or think more about the novel than when using traditional approaches? Did they bother to write meaningful entries or did they just jot down some nonsense along the lines of "I didn't like this book because it wasn't interesting"?
Here's some tips from my textbook about keeping a reading journal about Harold and Maud (plus my cynical comments in blue; I suppose I'm the nightmare pupil from hell, except I'm the teacher )
• Relax; try not to hate this novel just because you have to study it at school! Students who have already read it liked it very much!
• Read slowly – if you roller-skate through an art museum you won’t be able to see the paintings in the first place.
Buy an extra notebook:
• this should be “nice” and inviting so that you really like to write things down;
• find a nice picture/postcard to go on the front;
• personalise your journal;
• if you like, use a special pen or colour for your entries.
Some people feel they like to use index cards, too.
Before/As you start reading, write a few sentences about
• how you feel about reading this book;
• your expectations in general;
• other novels you have read in English; my pupils will probably not have read any other novels in English, or in any other language for that matter
• studying texts in the classroom.
After the opening chapter(s) of the book, write about
• how you feel after reading these pages; I don't feel anything, sorry, I'm a stoic
• what emotions the book invokes in you; none, it's a book, not real life what's the point in wasting emotions on it?
• any links/connections between the book and your life; not telling. plus, if there were any connections, it would be my autobiography, not a novel
• any words or phrases that caught your eye while reading;
• your predictions about possible future developments;
• how long it took you to read a certain number of pages.
After your next reading assignment, note down
• how your feelings change (do they?);what feelings?
• which question(s) you would like to direct at a particular character in the novel;none. wtf?
• what you are confused about (events or characters);
• how you as the author would have changed the book;
• which images/pictures you liked.
After having read more than half the novel, jot down
• what questions you would like to ask Colin Higgins;
• which poems/pictures/music you know that might go well with the atmosphere of the novel; I don't know any poems/ pictures/ music (on a more serious note, my pupils probably wouldn't know any poems or pictures in the sense of paintings, either, or at least not enough poems to pick one that goes with the novel
• a rough summary of the events so far;
• which idea in the novel made you stop and think, or was new and exciting to you.
• Is there anything in H & M you feel provoked by? nope, I'm a weirdo, there isn't much that can provoke me, except reading journals
After finishing the novel, choose some of the following ideas and add them to your journal:
• Re-read the beginning of your journal: are your first impressions given new meaning now?
• What did you learn that you never knew before? is this supposed to be a reference book or a novel ?
• How have you changed (have you?) after reading the book? is this supposed to be a self-help guide or a novel?
• Who would you like to recommend the book to?
• Who should not read the book? Why not?
• Do you feel there is an opinion expressed by Higgins through his work? What is it? How do you know this? Do you agree/disagree with this opinion?
Since a reading journal is supposed to be very personal and informal, don’t limit yourself to the list given above – these are just suggestions. Here are some more ideas you might like to consider after you have read one or more chapters:
• Which audience is Higgins writing for?
• Collect newspaper cuttings, postcards etc. that you feel have some link to the ideas/events written about in Harold & Maude.
• Use a special colour to write down questions about the passages you have just read; after some time, go back in your log and see how many of these questions you can answer now.
• If you were a teacher, which aspects of the novel would you like to discuss in class? aha, a cheap trick to shift the responsibility to the pupils and make them sympathize with the teachers position!
• Talk to other people in your class: you might like to share the workload by concentrating on certain aspects of the passages you read, e.g. “a passage picker” who picks out key passages, “a vocabulary developer” who chooses a certain number of words that are essential, “a character critic” who picks one character and writes about his/her motivation, etc.
• What are the problems or conflicts the characters must confront? aha, finally a question that makes sense
• What is at stake for the characters in these conflicts?
• What discovery do the characters make?
• Are there any parallel scenes / any repetitions you noticed?
• Who is telling the story, and what effect does this have? at last, some down-to-earth narrative perspective stuff
• Are there any violent scenes in the passage? Why are they described in such a way? I sure hope there are
• How does the author use the idea of time? Are we given a chronological sequence of events?
• How are implausible or strikingly unrealistic incidents related to the more realistic/plausible elements in the rest of the novel?
• How do you feel about the ending?
• Develop a list of questions you might want to discuss about Harold and Maude
• Which do you feel are the four most important ideas in the novel?
• Do you feel manipulated by the author?
• Do you enjoy reading the novel? Why? Why not?