More Faye Brownie – Response Journals and Comprehension Activities

First of all, all information has been derived from Faye Brownlie’s – Grand Conversations.

As reflective practitioners, teachers and preservice teachers understand the benefits of reflecting on their learning as learning is a lifelong process, and so is our learning. As a particularly chatty individual and someone who learns best through conversation, I felt the greatest connection is learning about the use of discussion groups. But that was last blog posts focus. Today, I am looking at journal responses–off the bat, I am impressed by the amount of scaffolding presented in Grand Conversations. Here is what I learned.

  • Model effective journaling– explain your thinking while writing a response and let students contribute their ideas for what they notice about your process. By working together, this starts the process of co-created criteria for the class and ownership over ones learning.
  • Responses should always include ‘2-specific text references and personal analysis.’
  • Double entry journal (t-chart) with headings “what happened” and “my thinking” is one recommended journal framework.


Double Entry Journal

Faye Brownlie’s Grand Conversations presented these instructions for grade 2/3 learners.

  • Fold a page in half
  • Entitle the left-hand side “What Happened” and the right side “My Thinking” or “Text/Response.”
  • After reading, summarize what happened on the left hand side of the page and then write your thinking about what happened on the right side.


The goal is to have have equal amount of text on both sides–but it is clear that students will begin be more proficient at retelling events. Learning to make connections is a skill that will grow with practice. Here are examples from a grade 4 and a grade 7 student.


The United Journal

This is used largely after students so show growth and proficiency with the double entry journal.

The short version of this kind of journaling utilizes seamless transition in sentences whereby students make written connections to the text without the obvious folded line down the middle of the page. The goal is for students to write responses that shift between the event or meaningful quote from the store and reply to their own writing. It is kind of like writing a diary or log. Now, in 2017 as a man-child, I can’t image writing a log where I would have a fold down my paper and a t-chart–though maybe as an elementary student, that would be perfect!.

Combination Journal

I tried this in a practicum class, it is awesome. Students use sticky notes to mark areas of text where they would like to respond to in their next journal response. Student’s choose one of their sticky notes and write a more deep response about the area they flagged.

Building Criteria for Responses 


Faye Brownie discusses how she utilizes student responses and ask questions about how their work compares to the provincial writing standards and what the found powerful in their own writing. This is one way to build goals as a class and also set individual goals for growth–this is really the heart of what learning is.


What I love about this model is the use of students choosing criteria–it is collaborative and also requires ownership of ones work. For example, using a rubric created as a class, students can find evidence from their writing and compare it to their rubric and self-assess. Students can also ask other students to look for 3 examples chosen from the criteria that they would like peers to look for in their writing. This allows peers to edit work and look for what students are trying to improve on–and, give feedback accordingly. It’s safe, it requires ownership, and students are comparing themselves to their goals instead of other students.

Here is an example from Grand Conversations p. 39.




There are SO many ways to scaffold learning/reflection and to set students up for success in their learning. I am eager to continue my personal growth–the next two targets I have in mind for the final sharing exercise for this EDTE-500 assignment are culminating activities and assessment.





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