English Composition Book Project Ideas: How to Use a Double Entry Journal
I taught high school English for a number of years before moving on to the university level, and I was always looking for different book projects that would keep students motivated and focused while reading. One project that I came to use with some frequency is a double entry journal.
What is the Purpose of a Double Entry Journal?
A double entry journal enables students to think and analyze a text at a higher level, and it gives each student an opportunity to express his/her own thoughts related to the reading. It allows students to become more involved with the book by giving them a sense of freedom over the analytical process— students are able to analyze what they deem important, what sparks their interest.
This type of freedom is perfect for honors, AP, and gifted classes that are particularly skilled at sniffing out significant passages, key symbols, or important themes. With that said, a double entry journal can be still be well suited for general classes as well. A teacher can provide additional structure (see below) so that students are guided in their responses.
How Does a Double Entry Journal Work?
The student will divide their papers into two sections with a vertical line down the center. On the left side, they will copy down short quotes (properly cited) from the book the class is reading that they find interesting in some way. In the right column, they will write their analytical literary response to the quote on the left.
Students should take care not to merely summarize the quote or tell the plot before or after the quote. Each analysis/discussion should contain at least one literary term.
For greater structure, the teacher can provide the quotes that are to be analyzed. Another idea is to structure the double entry journal around important symbols (which you can provide for them in the left hand column if you wish) and students can discuss their meaning in the right
What Should Students Write?
Students should write reactions/interpretations/analysis of to the quote they select. These reactions can include their own opinions, disagreements, interpretations, and events in their life that the quote reminds them of, comments about grammar, and guesses about the meaning of new words. In effect, students are talking back to the author or speaker as theywrite their responses.
It’s important to remember, however, that these responses should still be analytical in nature.
Double Entry Journal FAQs
I’ve shared this book project with teachers in the past and I’m always asked the same questions
FAQ 1: Can’t students just find random quotes, complete an analysis and then not read the book?
A: Of course they could. Just as they could find the answers to a study guide without reading the book. However, just as we can easily identify plagiarism, it’s very easy to notice, based on the depth of the responses, a student who has and has not read completed the reading.
FAQ 2: How many journal entries do you typical require?
A: It depends on the length of the book and on the class (be it AP or general), but 10 is usually the minimum.
FAQ 3: When do you assign the double entry journal book project? When is it due?
A: I always assign the double entry journal when students begin reading the book so that students can work on it as they read. I encourage students to keep journal (folded) in their book. (This is one of the few assignments I didn’t require to be typed). It was due upon completion of the novel.