ading Journal is an effective way of recording your observations and questions while reading a complex text. It allows you to prepare for class discussion by collecting your insights or raising questions for us to pursue. It also helps you prepare notes on the material which may help with the quiz and also short answer questions that I ask you during the session.
Many of our weekly readings are subject to interpretation. As a reader, you bring a host of personal experiences, observations, and opinions to a text. This the core of critical thinking. How you fuse what you already know with what you learn from your new experiences is the key to the learning process.
A reading journal is not your first impression about the text, nor the summary of it. It is a layout of your experience of reading the text and your reaction to it. Were you surprised at how the writer described their viewpoints? Does the writer give you a new way of thinking about that topic? Was something shocking in the reading, or did it make you laugh? Does it connect to other classes or other ideas you had? Does it help you think about art in a different way?
The Reading Journal functions as proof of your engagement and interaction with the assigned readings, and constitutes 30% of your overall grade. If you just summarize some key points of the text, you have given no proof of your engagement with it. So do not summarize what happened in the reading; tell me what happened inside of your head when you read the text.
Here are some suggestions about how to write your journal:
1. Read through the assigned reading to gain an overall understanding of the material.
2. Jot down your thoughts while, and just after, you read.
3. Go back to your notes and try to make them full sentences, if they are not already.
4. While reading your notes consider your general impressions and then go back to those parts of the text that require more specific observations and analysis. You might use the following questions as a guideline (you do not have to answer them specifically; they are merely meant to help you focus): What are your overall impressions of the reading? What particular passages or details stand out to you? Why do you think they might be important? How does this reading relate to the themes we have been discussing in the lecture? The themes of other sources? The themes of the course as a whole? How might your personal experiences or background relate to the reading? What questions do you have about the reading? What passages or ideas were difficult to understand?
Each of the readings that are assigned for one week requires a single journal entry. A journal entry on a single reading should run a paragraph or two. Do not count words: write until you are satisfied that you have tackled at least one key idea. This is not an essay and does not need to give arguments, proof or summary. Unlike essays, these journals are first-take, personal, and can be filled with unanswered questions. You do not have to cover everything. Find some central aspect of the reading and focus in on it. You become the expert. Then you can teach the rest of us what you know.