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Twenty Suggestions for Journal Responses by Andrea J. Kaston*

Personal Reactions:
1. A personal memory triggered by the piece
2. A list of questions that came into your mind as you read and thought about the selection
3. A drawing or collage inspired by the piece, along with the explanation of the image(s)
4. A poem or story inspired by the reading
5. A conversation between two parts of yourself about a point that’s unclear, a passage that puzzles you, or an idea that you have mixed feelings about
6. An imaginary dialogue between you and the writer about his or her ideas or about why the writer chose a particular style and genre; this dialogue could take the form of a debate or a series of questions that you then try to answer as you think the writer would
7. An imaginary dialogue between this writer and another writer who discusses the same subject
8. A discussion of the writer’s ideas by two or more real or imagined persons
Commentary and Analysis:
9. A discussion of the writer’s argument. Do you agree or disagree? Why do you find the way the writer presents her or his ideas effective or ineffective?
10. A discussion of how this piece connects with one of the other selections read in the class or how it relates to something you’ve read elsewhere
11. A notebook entry that you think one of your other professors (or a former teacher, a parent, or a friend) would write after reading this selection
12. A prediction of how the world would change if everyone suddenly agreed with this writer’s ideas
13. A cartoon commenting on the writer’s ideas
14. A consideration of how the writer’s ideas relate to issues in the news or to matters of public policy
Stylistic Experiments:
15. An imitation of the writer’s style
16. A translation of the writer’s argument into a different style or genre of writing. Examples: rewrite an academic essay as a short speech directed at a particular audience; rewrite a complex argument as a lively editorial; rewrite an extended personal narrative as a brief objective report
17. A rhetorical shift: if there’s a particular audience that you think would be bored or offended by the writer, rewrite a paragraph or passage in a voice the audience would be more willing to listen to; or rewrite a dull, stuffy passage to give it more pizzazz
18. A translation of your own previous notebook entries into another style or medium (e.g. take a response written in prose and convey the same message through a drawing, poem, or dialogue)
19. What would you add to what you wrote or drew earlier? What does that entry say to you now about what you were like as a reader, thinker, or reader when you recorded the original entry?
20. A comment on notebook entries so far. What do you notice? Do you see any patterns in your responses? Do certain types of responses stand out, that is, seem more interesting, express your thoughts more fully, or feel more forced? If you knew nothing about yourself except what you saw in this notebook, what conclusions would you draw about yourself as a student, thinker, writer, or person?
Journal web site developed by the module author
This a website devoted to a journal assignment based on Kaston’s twenty suggestions. It includes:
  • Objectives and Requirements
  • Journal Strategies (samples of more than 40 journal entries that develop Kaston’s approaches)
  • Table of Contents


* Kaston, Andrea J. “Resources for Teaching.” Rereading America. Ed. Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. 12-13.