The use of dialogue journals in senior high English class

Date

2017-11-03

Authors

Lemmon, Kathryn Louise

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Abstract

This study was concerned with the use of dialogue journals in senior high school as a central feature of literature studies. The teacher-researcher gathered information from a Grade 10 English course in which the students used dialogue journals as a part of their course in literature studies. All students were asked to volunteer their journals for the study, and nine students' journals were purposefully selected for study. The study was designed to answer the following questions: (1) What is the nature of secondary students' responses to literary texts as revealed through their dialogue journals? (2) Do dialogue journals reveal development in secondary students' responses to literary texts, and, if so, along what dimensions can that development be revealed? The teacher-researcher developed a handbook to provide students with a structure for their responses. The purpose of the handbook was to give students guidelines or directions to examine literary text, without prescribing to the students what they ought to be looking for in the literature. Each guideline suggested in the handbook had been researched to determine if it had a theoretical basis for inclusion. All students in the Grade 10 English course, including the nine selected, completed the study of a variety of literary genres, including short stories, essays, poetry, drama, novels, and Shakespeare. Students were required to write about the literature in their journals three to four times a week, with the handbook used as a resource for possible responses. These guidelines also provided the readers with lessons on strategies readers which they may use to explore and examine literary text. The study was conducted over a fourteen week period. During this period the teacher-researcher divided the study of students' journals into “Early entries” and “Later entries”. These responses to the literary texts, both early and later, were separated into thematic units and analyzed in terms of the guidelines outlined in the resource handbook. Each of the response units were placed on a chart and labeled. Coding procedures began with the idea that students would attempt to follow the handbook, with provision made for students whose responses were diverse. Coding procedures were designed to find patterns in students' responses. The findings for Question I were: (1) Students' responses generally followed the categories outlined in the handbook, as they were encouraged to use the handbook as a guide for their responses. (2) Personal reaction was by far the most common and the most diverse of all the responses. Uncertainty and resistance to making meaning of literary text were more common in earlier responses, but lessened as students gained more strategies for making meaning. (3) Students rarely used categories of response such as using quotes or asking questions of the text. Only one student attempted a graphic representation [drawing] of a literary text. The findings for Question 2 were: (1) The average length, in words, of students' responses increased over the period of the study. (2) Students did not appear to judge the merits of a literary selection until they had had an opportunity to interpret their meaning of the literary work. (3) Students appeared to become more accustomed to using literary terminology as an integral part of their responses. The conclusion drawn from the study is that, while the dialogue journal may be of use in Senior High School English studies, there should be principles established to determine the value of journals. Further research will be needed to code variation of students' responses to the literature. An examination of teachers' comments in students' response journals will be necessary.

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English language

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