Using a Dialectical Journal in Chapter 3

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SWBAT cite textual evidence of key information in a literary text.

Big Idea

The dialectical journal... having a conversation with your text.


5 minutes

To open today's lesson, I will pose this question to the class:

  • Has anyone ever reread a favorite story or book?


From those who have their hands raised, I will ask them if they get something new out of the story every time they read it.  As part of this discussion I will tell my students about my favorite book, Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher.  I read it all.the.time.  Yet, every time I read it, I find some new little detail or tidbit I missed before. 

Our  plan for today's lesson is to reread chapter 3 of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer focusing on finding deeper meaning in the text than we did yesterday when we were reading simply for comprehension.

Getting Down to Business

40 minutes

It's kind of fun to use the Common Core Standards to freak the kids out once in a while.  As a segue into the dialectical journal activity and the idea of close reading, I will put Reading Literature 7.1 up on the board:

  • Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


I will have a conversation with my students about what this standards means and what tasks could be associated with it.  We talk about what it means to cite and analyze text and make inferences.  We also discuss how one cannot analyze a text he or she has only read once.  The most important part of a close read is the reread; they go hand in hand.

Once they are sufficiently scared that they will never, ever be capable of passing 7th grade, I introduce the strategy of the dialectical journal.  Using a dialectical journal will allow them to pull out important passages and document analytical comments they may  have.   I want them to get used to the idea that in this class we read and reread literature.  And once we've done that, we take notes on our observations and reactions to the text.  This is what real literature study is, and it is very different from "Reading" class!

This dialectical journal assignment has all but the last passage pre-selected for students.  They will only be choosing one passage on their own.

Because this is a note-taking strategy, I don't push the idea of complete sentences and answers on this type of assignment.

Did They Get It?

5 minutes

After I see a few students have completed their reread and are working on the dialectical journal, I will wander around the room to see how they're doing.  

The most common problem I see with this assignment is the large number of students who paraphrase their passages rather than analyzing them.  For the students who are doing that, I will draw their attention back to the prompting questions at the top of the sheet.  I will ask them, "Why is this passage important?" or "Why does this passage matter?"  Usually, these types of guiding questions will get them back on track.

I collect this assignment and score it as a formative assessment.