Writing a Response Journal
A first reading or viewing of a text usually results in a rough general sense of the work. At this stage, your imagination and intellect begin working with the author’s or director’s words to recreate the characters, setting, and ideas included in the work. The details come more or less into focus depending on your knowledge and experiences.
A response journal is a record of your impressions to what you have read or seen. It relates specifically to your reactions to the text, helping you to explore and clarify your initial ideas about a literary work. You can learn, of course, simply by reading or viewing, but through the process of writing about a text, you will inevitably move into a deeper level of overall understanding.
Listed below are elements to include in a journal:
- Comments include telling about your reactions, what you like, dislike, or notice about the author’s language, techniques, or ideas. Make connections with other works you have read or seen. Consider the author’s point of view and frame of reference. Feel free to discuss the writer’s attitude (tone) and/or credibility. Note lines, phrases, or expressions that strike you. Why are they effective? How do they contribute to an overall understanding of the piece? Explore the meaning.
- Questions can be about whatever you don’t understand. Speculate about possible answers to these troubling elements. Your questions could also be about missing information, or an extrapolation of events depicted in the text.
- Predictions can be about what will happen next or what might happen if the story, poem, novel, or film had continued, or been updated.
If there are other striking or conspicuous elements about the text you wish to discuss, please include them. Do not limit yourself to the above suggestions. THINK your way through what you have read or seen; what you make of the text is unique to you.
Finally, you should both introduce and conclude your response with a brief introduction and conclusion. A good way to begin would be to state the author and title of the text, with a very general synopsis. The conclusion should wrap up your reflections, and leave the reader with a final thought or question.