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23:Metacognitive Double-Entry Journals

Journals and note-taking strategies help students organize their thoughts, provide a reference for later study, and afford an opportunity to think about a concept on the reader’s (or thinker’s) own terms.  However, teachers notice that the journals students write sometimes lack substance or higher levels of cognitive activity.  In section 2.3 we explored a double-entry journal that directs students’ attention toward the features of the text.  Here, you’ll learn about a metacognitive double-entry journal which provides a form of support that helps students realize that different types of cognitive activity occur during reading (Burns, 2004).  As students write their double-entry journals, they follow a traditional procedure of placing their direct observations from the story in one column (note-taking) and their comments on the opposite side (note-making) (See Figure 23.1).

However, after extensive modeling, students also learn to code their journals in the left-hand margin with a number which corresponds to one of six strategies (see Table 23.1).  You will see that strategy number four asks students to make focal predictions about word meanings, strategy two asks students to make global predictions about events in the text and how they relate to each other, strategy five asks students to make inferences, and strategy three asks students to think about questions that can lead to predictions and clarifications as they read.

[Insert Table 23.1 about here]

Step by Step

  1. Select an appropriate text passage and use a think-aloud protocol to model for students how each strategy is identified as you read, how to take notes in the left-hand column, and how to make notes in the right-hand column. Then model how to code the strategy in the margin.  Each note-taking entry in the double-entry journal also includes the page number and sentence from the text that prompted the student to write the entry.
  2. Have students try this on their own. Small group work may make this technique manageable for students who struggle with the concept of identifying the strategy; e. g., guessing a word meaning, predicting what happens next, etc.

Applications and examples

When Dr. Burns first implemented the metacognitive double-entry journal with her fourth-grade students, she found that they often struggled with the process of slowing down the reading process to record their thoughts in the journal.  Student also recorded shorter sentences instead of working with the ideas in longer sentences because they did not want to write down the longer sentences.  As a result, she modified her strategy to allow students to simply record the page number where the passage that prompted the metacognitive realization appeared.  In order to make the tool comprehensible for her students, she also changed the term “note-taking” to “What the story says” and the term “note-making” to “What I think.”

[Insert Figures 23.1a & b about here]

Tiffany, a third-grade student in Dr. Burns’ class, created this double-entry metacognitive journal for Balto, The Dog Who Saved Nome

(Davidson, 1996) (Figure 23.1a).

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