Due Dates

  • 1 entry/class; hand in your journal in/by class on the last day of each unit.
    • If you choose to use Google docs for your reading journal, please email me the share link by class on the days each unit’s entries are due.
    • If you choose to keep a hard copy journal, you will turn in each unit’s entries at the beginning of class on the days they are due.


You will keep a reading journal throughout the semester. This journal has many purposes: it introduces you to the kind of thinking and analysis we will do in this class on a daily basis; it helps you prepare for in-class discussion; it shows that you are keeping up with the reading; it will help you prepare to write your papers; and it will help us all to formulate the questions for the final exam in this class. Your reading journal should serve as a running record of your initial thinking about our course reading.

Starting on Wednesday, August 31, you will complete a short journal entry before each class. You will hand in your journal entries for each unit on the last day of that unit for grading (see the course calendar for due dates), but I trust you to complete each individual entry on time before each class period. This means that if you miss an entry, you should not go back and retroactively create that entry after class. There will also be random unannounced spot checks of your reading journal throughout the semester to ensure that you are keeping up with your entries. In the beginning of the semester, these spot checks will occur daily.

You can keep your journal in one of two ways: you can write your entries down in a dedicated notebook (but remember that you will need to turn in each unit’s entries separately), or you can use Google docs to create a document that you will then share with me when you turn in each unit’s entries. If you choose to use Google docs, please email me the share link by class on the days each unit’s entries are due.


Your reading journal will be graded on completion. As with absences from class, everyone will receive 4 free passes on reading journal entries throughout the semester. This means that you will be able to miss 4 journal entries without penalty.

Missing a journal entry means doing any of the following things:

  • Being absent from class. You do not need to complete an entry for a day you will be absent from class.
  • Coming to class but failing to write a journal entry for that day.
  • Handing in your reading journal at the end of a unit with a missing entry (or entries).

If you are going to be absent from class one day and still want to turn in a reading journal entry for that day, please email me your journal entry by class time. Even if you email me your journal entry, you should still record it in your journal so that when you turn your journal in at the end of that unit, I will see that it’s there.

Missing up to 4 journal entries will not affect your grade in any way. Missing more than 4 entries will drop your reading grade by at least a letter grade. Missing more than 6 entries will drop your reading grade to an F. I will not accept late reading journal entries, and it is not possible to make up missed reading journal entries.

Details & Requirements

Most of your journal entries will consist of two parts:

  • 1 specific pattern that you have discovered in the text
  • 1 question for class discussion

Occasionally, I will give you a specific prompt to answer for your entry/ies for a particular day or text. As the semester goes on, we may also tweak this journal entry format depending on class needs. In these cases, I will notify you in advance of any changes to the journal entry prompts or formats.

1 Specific Pattern

For your pattern, all you need to do is to write down any pattern that you discover in the text. A pattern is simply a repeated textual element. All I’m asking you to do here is to closely observe the text we are reading. If more than one text has been assigned for a particular day, just choose one to write about.

Your pattern might be organized around repetition: repeated words, repeated symbols, repeated metaphors, repeated settings. It might also involve change: how the meaning of a specific image seems to change throughout the text, for example, or how a particular character changes, or how the style of narration changes at a particular point. It might also have to do with the structure of the text: you might notice that certain chapters are organized in a particular way, or that the plot is repetitive or otherwise structured in a different or unexpected way. There are endless possibilities.

Once you’ve detected a pattern, cite 3-5 specific instances of that pattern from the text. This means that I want you to include specific quotes and page numbers from the text in your entry. This part of your entry should look something like this when you’re done:

Pattern: Description of overall pattern. How are all your pieces of evidence below related?

  • Description of example if needed. Do you need to explain exactly how/why this is an instance of the pattern you identify above?: “Example 1 from text. Notice how I am writing the exact quote as it appears in the text in my entry” (page number where I found the quote).
  • Description of example if needed. Do you need to explain exactly how/why this is an instance of the pattern you identify above?: “Example 2 from text” (page number).
  • Description of example if needed. Do you need to explain exactly how/why this is an instance of the pattern you identify above?: “Example 3 from text” (page number).
  • Etc

1 Discussion Question

All you need to do for this part of your entry is to formulate a question — or, more likely, a series of related questions — about the reading(s) for further discussion in class. This question should not be a yes/no type of question; in fact, it shouldn’t have a “right” answer at all. Nor should it be an opinion-based question (i.e., “Do you think x is a good idea/fair/unfair/etc? Why or why not?”). Instead, it should be based in the text(s) we are reading, and it should invite further, in-depth and specific discussion of that/those text(s).

There are many, many different ways you can formulate these questions. Here are a few examples:

  • You can ask about specific choices the author has made: Why did the author make a particularly significant choice on pg x? What is the effect of this choice?
  • You can ask about the theme(s) of a particular work: How does a particular theme change throughout the text so far, and what is the importance of this theme? Some specific examples of this theme are located on pages x, y, and z.
  • You can ask about the structure of a text: Why is this text structured in a particular way (point to some specific examples)? What is the effect or meaning of this structure?
  • You can ask about the pattern you found: I detected a pattern about x above. What is the meaning of this pattern? How might it relate to what we discussed in class about y on Monday?

Notice that “one question” often means “a series of related questions.” Notice, also, that each question refers to specific instances or examples from the text. You should always come to class prepared to talk about specific page numbers/passages that are particularly important to your question.