2) Ten Journal Prompts
Journal Prompts (You may click on this link or see the 10 prompts below)
Overview: Each of these ten different homework assignmentsrequires you to first actively read an assigned text andthen criticallythink about what you have read. You willexpress your comprehension of the text through one of the options below (yourteacher will tell you which format to use each night). Some of these assignmentsmay be used more often than others, depending on what kind of text the class iscurrently reading. For instance, the CharacterInvestigation works well with a novel or short story, while a Précis lendsitself better to a non-fiction article or speech. Below you will see directions for eachassignment followed by an example of that assignment. Most examples use thetext Of Mice and Men by JohnSteinbeck (literary text) or “I Havea Dream” by Martin Luther King (non-literary text.)
Proper sentence structure,punctuation, and academic vocabulary should be used on every assignment,regardless of which of the ten formats you are using. Homework Assignments areworth 10-20 points each. Late homeworkwill not be accepted. DO NOT LOSE THIS PAPER! YOU WILL NEED IT ALLYEAR!
Objective & Explanation: The purpose of thisactivity is to interact with the text by analyzing significant quotes in orderto explore the author’s development of plot, character, or theme (in literarytexts), or the author’s support for an argument (in non-literary texts.)
Directions: As you are reading,keep track of what you feel are important or meaningful quotes from thetext. Then, choose the threequotes that you feel are most significant, or that best prove you understoodthe entirety of the reading assignment. Then:
A) Writethe quote down (include page and properquotation punctuation);
B) Establish the context for your quote in 1-2sentences (who is talking to whom? Whenand where in the story does this quote occur? What is being discussed prior tothe quote?)
C) Explain the quote and analyze itssignificance in 3-4 sentences (Why isthis quote important?
What is really going on here?)
Example ofQuote Analysis:
A.) Quote 1: “Guyslike us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got nofamily. They don’t belong no place. . . . With us it ain’t like that. We got afuture” (17).
B.) Context: Inthis passage George is speaking to Lennie. Before George and Lennie reach the ranch, they camp for the night in abeautiful clearing and George assures Lennie of their special friendship.
C.) Analysis: Thisshows that George refuses to see himself as just another drifter like all theother ranch hands. He and Lennie share a dream and this is what keeps themgoing. Furthermore, this conversation functions as a mantra that George repeatsto help Lennie and himself stay focused on their dream of one day having aplace of their own.
2. NOVELQUESTIONS: LEVELS 1,2,3 Questions
Objective & Explanation: Novel questions are youropportunity to interact with the text as you read. The act of thinking ofhigher level questions will make you a stronger reader and allow you to intelligentlydiscuss the text with the class.
Directions: As you complete a reading assignment, note significantpassages (try using stickies). You will choose one or two passages to askquestions about, and then you will answer your own questions. Be sure to citethe page number of the answer wherever possible. You will write a total of fivequestions and answers, using the format below:
A. Ask and answer two “Level 1 Questions”: Level 1 questions focus on content or the“what” of the reading. These can deal with basic understanding of events, plot,and character.
B. Ask and answer two “Level 2 Questions”: Level 2 Questions focus on the author’sstyle and ask the “how” of the novel. These can focus on the author’s use ofliterary devices
C. Ask and answer one “Level 3 Question”: Level 3 Questions are universal questionsthat ask the “why” or “so what” of the text: the tone, themes, and universalmeaning of the reading.
D. Ask one “Bugs Me Question”: The“Bugs Me” Question is a chance to ask the author a hypothetical question,something that doesn’t make sense to you or that bothers you when reading; noanswer is needed!
Example of Novel Questions:
A. “Level 1” Questions: (contentor “what” of the reading)
Q1: What does Lennylook like?
A1: Lenny is a large, lumbering, childlike migrant workerwith a mental disability (13).
Q2: What happens toLennie’s puppy?
A2: Lennie accidentally kills his puppy in the barnbecause he uses too much force (55).
B. “Level 2” Questions: (author’sstyle or “how” of novel)
Q1: How does Steinbeck foreshadow Lennie’sdeath?
A1: One example is when Candy’s dog is shot whichforeshadows that George may also have to put Lennie to “sleep.”
Q2: What figurativedevice is used in the following sentence and what idea does it convey: “On thesand banks the rabbits sat as quietly as little gray, sculptured stones” (2).
A2: This is anexample of simile; the comparison shows how statue-like the rabbits werestanding.
C. “Level 3” Question: (universalquestion, “why” or “so what” of reading)
Q: Why doesGeorge feel he has to kill Lennie?
A: George feels it is his responsibility to kill Lennierather than allowing him to be killed by an angry mob. In doing this, Georgedemonstrates his level of compassion for Lennie.
D. “Bugs Me” Question: (askthe author something that doesn’t make sense or bothers you)
Q: Why is Curley so mean to everyone, especially Lenny?(no answer needed)
3. PRÉCIS: A PRECISE SUMMARY
Objective& Explanation: Précis is a Latin termmeaning a concise (short) summary, and it is often written in a very specificformat. For our purposes, a précisis college-level summary of a text in which you provide key information aboutthe text itself, its argument, and its purpose. This will teach you tosynthesize what you have read and pull out the most important elements.
Before you read,list the following information about the text:
A. Whatis the title of the piece? Turn thetitle into a question (you will answer this question later after reading the piece).
B. What is the genre (literary type) of the piece?
C. Who is the author of the piece?
D. What is the date of publication for the piece?
E. Who does the author intend to be reading orlistening to the piece?
F. Make a prediction about the content and purposeof the piece based on title and author.
After you read, do the following with the text:
G. Claim: In a single coherent sentence give thefollowing:
G. Support: In a single coherentsentence give an explanation of how the author develops and supportsthe major claim. Format: First theauthor_______, then________, and finally ________.
H. Audience: In a single coherentsentence give a description of the intended audience and/or the relationshipthe author establishes with the audience.
J. Answer your “title question” from Question A.
Example of a Précis:
A. Title: “I HaveDream” / Title Question: What is Martin Luther King’s Dream in thisspeech?
B. Genre: PersuasiveSpeech
C. Author: MartinLuther King, Jr.
D. Date ofPublication: 1963
E. Intendedaudience:Specifically, Congress of United States during the March on Washington, butalso intended for all Americans listening in the crowd and on the news.
F. Prediction: I predictthat Martin Luther King is probably going to share his dream of a betterAmerica.
G. Claim: In hisspeech “I Have a Dream” (1963), Martin Luther King, Jr. argues that, based onour own Constitution, all Americans should be treated equally, regardless ofrace.
H. Support: In hisspeech, King supports his claim that we should all be treated equally by firstproviding examples of injustices against African Americans, and then painting apicture of a better America.
I. Audience: King’s audience is both Black and White, but he uses “we”in order to emphasize his belief that we’re all Americans, regardless of thecolor of our skin, and that we should all demand equality.
J. Answer toTitle Question: King’s dream is tosee a just America in which people are judged by the content of their characterrather than the color of their skin, and that all can live freely in harmony.
Objective& Explanation: The purpose of this activity is to analyze thedevelopment of a key character from your reading by placing yourself in thatcharacter’s shoes.
Directions: Choosea significant character from then choose one of the following options:
A. Character-to-Character Letter: From thepoint of view of a character of your choice, write a one-page letter to anothercharacter based on an event or problem that occurs in the reading. Be sure touse first person and write as the actual character would write (language,style, etc.)
B. Diary or Journal Entry: From the pointof view of a character of your choice, write a one-page diary or journal entrythat discusses a key event from the reading.
C. Other: Do another character-related taskas explained by your teacher.
Example Character-to-CharacterLetter (yours would be a full page):
Option A: Letter from George toLennie
I feel real bad about what I did. Even thoughyou’re not here, I want to put down in words, why I did what I done. If Ihadn’t killed you, that bastard Curley woulda done it. And that ain’t right. Iwas thinking about Candy’s dog and how Candy knew he should have been the oneto shoot it. So I knew that you had to die because you killed Curley’s wife(even though I know you didn’t mean to), and I know that you would have wantedme to do what I did.
Icouldn’t stand the thought of you getting bullied, or tortured. I also wantedyou to die without knowin’ you’d never get to reach that dream we always talkedabout. Compared to all the other fellas around here, you’re still one of thebest people I know. I feel real badabout what I had to do, but I don’t see no other way. I’ll never forget you,don’t worry about that.
Your friend always,
5. CREATIVE WRITING RESPONSE
Objective & Explanation: The purpose of thisactivity is to move beyond the text in a way that is creative and that reflectsa deeper understanding of the reading. This activity will allow you to show offyour creative side.
Directions: Choose one of the following options:
A. Interview ofa Character: “Conduct” a writteninterview with a character that explores a significant issue from the reading.Use question and answer format; one to two pages.
B. AlternativeEnding: Write a new ending for thestory or chapter that takes the plot in a different direction than the authordid. Be sure to mimic the author’s style; one to two pages.
C. Poem or Song: Write a poem or song of at least 20 lines thatoffers an interpretation of events or theme from the reading.
D. Obituary: Write an obituary (an article written after a persondies that that summarizes his or her life) about a significant character; onepage.
E. Informal LetterHome: Write a letter home from asignificant character; one to two pages.
F. BusinessLetter: Based on the events of thereading, to whom and for what purpose would a major character write a businessletter? Write that letter using formal business letter formatting and language.One to two pages.
G. NewsArticle: Write an article for anewspaper that provides the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, why, and how) of anevent from the reading. Don’t forget a headline! One to two pages.
H. Editorial: Write a newspaper-style editorial (opinion piece)about a significant issue form the reading. Be sure to take a clear side on anissue; one to two pages.
I. Storyboard or Comic Strip: Create a graphical illustration using picture andtext that incorporates key plot elements of the reading. Product should consistof six or more panels. Must be school-appropriate and make use of color.
J. Other (yourchoice, ask teacher for permission)
Example CreativeWriting Response (Option C, Poem):
Ihad me a dream,
‘Bouta place of my own;
Ipetted a puppy,
Butit didn’t last;
WhenI petted a girl,
Theend came fast.
Butthen, what is?
Butthat’s the biz.
Mybest friend George
shotme in the head;
Iwound up dead.
Butwhen you gotta go;
It’sbest if you’re sent,
Bysomeone you know.
6. ARGUMENT PARAGRAPH
Objective& Explanation: The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate understanding ofyour reading by writing a well-organized argument paragraph that clearly answersa prompt and asserts an opinion.
Directions: Read the prompt ortask (question given by your teacher) before reading the assigned text. As youread, keep track of passages that address the question. Develop an answer to thequestion as you read. Then, formulate aclaim that answers the prompt and write a formal, organized argument paragraph thatsupports your claim. Your paragraph should be 8-10 sentences. When writing out the completed draft, be sureto write all sentences so that they flow together as one paragraph. (Anargument paragraph, when finished, will resemble a mini-essay without paragraphbreaks). Use the format below to organize your thoughts:
A. Claim: First, answerthe prompt/question by clearly stating your opinion and what you want to proveabout the reading; 1-2 sentences.
B. Support/Evidence 1: Next, back up your claimby quoting one passage that obviously proves your point. Be sure to give thecontext of the quote (lead-in) and the page (citation); 1 sentence.
C. Analysis/Commentary: Then, analyze and discuss this first quote.How does it prove your claim? What is the deeper meaning? Why is itimportant? What connections can youmake? Argue your point in 2-3 sentences.
D. Support/Evidence 2: Now, quote a secondpassage that obviously supports your claim. Be sure to give the context of thequote (lead-in) and the page number (citation); 1 sentence.
E. Analysis/Commentary: Then, analyze and discuss the second quote youchoose. How does it prove your claim? What is the deeper meaning? Why is itimportant? What connections can youmake? Argue your point in 2-3 sentences.
F. Closing: Wrap up your argument paragraph by reminding thereader of your overall claim. Summarize your main points.
Example ArgumentParagraph (your paragraph should not include the labels inparenthesis):
Sample Prompt: Was George’s decision to kill Lennie at the end of Mice and Menan act of cowardice oran act of heroism?
[Claim:] At the end of the novel, George actsheroically when he make the difficult decision to kill his best friend, Lennie;George is obviously trying to save him from a worse punishment. [Support1:] In their last conversation together, after he had killed the girl, Lennie begged “Let’s get that placenow,” and George replied, “Sure right now. You gotta. We gotta“ (72). [Analysis:]George has given himself the responsibility of being Lennie’s protector, andthis he does until the end. When he sees that his friend has no way out of thecrime he has committed, George chooses to let Lenny believe that all theirdreams will still come true. George decides to be a real friend by endingLennie’s life in the most humane way he can muster: “The hand shook violently,but his face set and his hand steadied. He pulled the trigger” (75). [Analysis:]George didn’t want Lennie to die, but his courageous decision shields Lennieand allows him to retain his blissful ignorance until the end. By shooting him,George spares his friend the merciless death that would be delivered byCurley’s lynch mob, but he also puts to rest his own dream of a perfect world.This shows that George is in fact sacrificing his own dreams to take care ofLennie, which is truly the deed of a hero.
7. CORNELL NOTES
Objective& Explanation: Cornell Notes are a specific style of note-taking invented by aprofessor at Cornell University. The purpose of this activity is to thinkcritically about the text by deciding what the most important pieces ofinformation are and arranging them into organized, college-level notes.
A. Before reading, prepare your paper so that there is acolumn on the left-hand side for listing questions, and a wider right-handcolumn for general note-taking. (See example below). Be sure to label yournotes with the title and page numbers of the text.
B. As you read, list the most important points from thetext In the right column. Remember these good note-taking strategies: do notcopy the text word-for-word (instead, put it into your own words); do not usecomplete sentences; do use bullets and/ or numbering, do skip lines to keepnotes easy-to-read.
C. After reading, formulate questions about theinformation you recorded in your notes; write these questions in the leftcolumn. (Hint: if your reading has headings or bolded topics, you can oftenturn these into questions.) Finally, at the bottom page, write a 1-2 sentencesummary of your notes.
Example of Cornell Notes:
8. LITERARY DEVICE BREAKDOWN
Objective& Explanation: The purpose of this activity is to familiarizestudents with the language and terms used to analyze an author’s craft andstyle. (These include device such as:metaphor, simile, personification, point-of-view, characterization,foreshadowing, tone, mood, flashback, etc.)
Directions: Whilereading the assigned chapter or passage, keep an eye out for the author’s useof literary devices. When finished, use your Literary Devices Handout to chooseone literary device that you wish to investigate further and then discuss itusing the following format:
A. Definition: Record the literary device you’ll be usingand define it.
B. Example:Record the quote or passage that exemplifies your device. Be sure to give thecontext of the quote and a page number citation.
C. Function:In three or four thoughtful sentences, explain how your chosen example illustratesyour literary device and give analysis. Why does the author use this devicehere? What is the significance? What is the impact on the reader? How does thisrelate to the text as a whole?
Example Literary Device Breakdown:
A. Definition: Foreshadowing- the author’s presentation of events and scenes in a work offiction or drama so that the reader is prepared to some degree for what occurslater in the work. This can be part of the general atmosphere of the work, orit can be a specific scene or object that gives a clue or hint as to a laterdevelopment of the plot.
B. Example:An example of foreshadowing is present in the opening paragraph of the finalchapter of Mice and Men, where George realizes he is going to have tokill Lennie in order to keep Curly from killing him: “A water snake glidedsmoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head side-to-side…a silent headand beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head…” (99).
C. Function:Steinbeck’s poetic description of an unaware snake being killed by a birdforeshadows that, Lennie will be killed by George, innocent and unaware of thedanger surrounding him. Just as the snake is naturally going about his routine,Lennie simply cannot help being what he was naturally born to be. But in nature, the weaker are inevitablydestroyed; perhaps Steinbeck is suggesting here that humanity is no different. Lennie is eventually shot in the head by hisfriend, just like the snake who was “plucked out by the head.” Theforeshadowing here serves as a reminder to the reader that humanity is stillpart of the world’s natural order: Lennie is vulnerable and defenseless, andthus doesn’t stand a chance of surviving in such a cruel world.
9. TEXT CONNECTIONS
Objective& Explanation: The purpose of this activity is to encouragestudents to make personal connections to the text. Often while reading, we arereminded of experiences in our own lives that are similar to those experiencedby characters in the text. Other times, a passage can remind us of a currentissue, societal problem, or historical event. All of these connections allowreaders to engage more fully with the reading and therefore think morecritically about it.
Directions: Choosea passage from your reading that makes you think of a memory, experience,emotion, societal issue, or historical event. Then follow these steps:
A. Passage: Record the quote or passagethat you’ve chosen with page citation.
B. Context:Explain what is happening in this passage.
C. TextConnection: Identify what kind ofconnection you made with this passage. Was it personal, social, historical? Inthree or four thoughtful sentences, explain this connection, giving details andcomparisons that show significance. How does your connection give you an evendeeper understanding of or insight into the passage?
Example Text Connection:
A. Passage: “ ‘ Of course Lennie’s a Goddamn nuisance most of the time,’ saidGeorge, ‘but you get used to goin’ around with a guy, and you can’t get rid ofhim’” (41).
B. Context:In this passage, George is trying to explain to Slim why he sticks with Lennieeven though he understands Lennie has special needs and is often a burden tohim.
C. Text Connection: This quote reminded me of afriend I had in 4th grade named Cassie. Nobody liked her because shewas a little bossy, a little strange, and she was also a bookworm. I got toknow her on the bus one day, and she latched on to me, I think because she waspretty lonely for friends. Turns out, she was actually really friendly andloyal, just like Lenny was to George. At times, she was also a burden to mebecause she was unpopular, which everyone who’s ever been in fourth grade knows,made me unpopular for hanging out with her. But I just couldn’t hurt her feelings and make fun of her like everyoneelse or leave her all alone to face her tormentors. Thinking back on all thisand making this connection to the reading has given me more insight into whyGeorge didn’t just abandon Lenny. At a certain point, you just start to caremore about another person’s well-being than your own popularity or image.
10. “THEME”OLOGY STUDY
Objective & Explanation: Theme is the mainidea or message of a text. The message can be about life, society, or humannature. The purpose of this activity is to trace the author’s development oftheme across the text.
Directions: As you read, consider the author’s messageto you. What is that message (theme)? Find lines in the text that support yourunderstanding of this theme. Record the quotes, with citation, and then provideexplanation and analysis showing how each quote helps to develop the theme. Usethe model below to format your assignment:
In (textand chapter) , one theme that emerges is ____________________________________.
A. One piece of evidence that supports this theme is:“_____________________________________________________________________________”(p.)
B. A second piece of evidence that supports this theme is:“_____________________________________________________________________________”(p.)
C. A third piece of evidence that supports this theme is:“_____________________________________________________________________________”(p.)
Example “Theme”ology Study:
In Chapter One of Of Mice & Men, a theme that emerges is theindividual’s quest for companionship.
A. One piece of evidence that supports this theme is whenGeorge tells Lennie, “Guys like us that work on ranches are the loneliest guysin the world…but with us it’s different…we got someone to talk to who gives adamn” (13-14). [Analysis:] In this passage George and Lennie introduce to thereader their well-rehearsed rendition of what makes them different from all theother loners and drifters that work on the ranches. They know they have eachother, and this is satisfying because all of us desire companionship.
B. A second piece of evidence that supports this theme occurswhen Candy learns of George and Lennie’s plan to get a place of their own andwishes to join them: “Maybe if I giveyou guys my money, you’ll let me hoe in the garden and even if I ain’t no goodat it. An’ I’ll wash dishes an’ littlechicken stuff like that. But I’ll be onour own place, an’ I’ll be let to work on our own place” (60). [Analysis:] In this passage, Candy learns of George and Lennie’s dream, and offersmoney to help them achieve it if he can be a part of it. All three are tired of the life of the hiredhand, drifting from place to place with no one and no place that belongs tothem. This dream will end the life ofthe desperate loneliness they have always known.
A third piece of evidencethat supports this theme occurs in a conversation between Crooks and Lennie: “’S’pose you couldn’t go into the bunk houseand play rummy ‘cause you was black. How’d you like that? S’pose youhad to sit out here an’ read books… A guy needs somebody—to be near him.’ He whined, ‘A guy goes nuts if he ain’t gotnobody (72).’” [Analysis:] In this scene, Crooks, an African American, describes the desperateloneliness he feels. Because of thecolor of his skin, no one will associate with him, and he spends his fre