Reader's Response Journals
"The Greatest Dying"
Writing responses to literature is an integral part of understanding
the ideas in the literature. Through the use of response journals or entries,
students can ask questions about the literature, respond to characters'
decision-making skills, make connections to their own lives, and make meaning
The following lesson allows the teacher to choose from a variety of
different ways to have students respond to the short story "The Greatest
Dying" by Frank M. Robinson. In addition, this lesson introduces students
to the idea of a dialectical journal or a reader's response journal that
may be used with other texts.
By writing responses to the story, students will:
- gain a better understanding of the story through writing and speaking;
- evaluate the decision-making skills of the characters;
- reflect on how the story relates to them and their society;
- draw on their own experiences and their reading to clarify meaning;
- express their thoughts in a variety of different modes.
Class Time Needed
One to two class periods would be necessary for the students to read
the story, write their responses, and discuss their responses with partners
or as a large group discussion.
On the student handout and overhead, students are given several different
ways to respond in writing to the short story they have read. They are
to follow these directions:
- Choose passages from the story to respond to.
- Copy the lines out of the book, place them in quotation marks, and
cite the page number for the passage.
- Respond to the passage in your own words, using one of the reader response
roles listed below.
- Write as much as you can, but no less than four sentences.
Reader Response Roles:
- Straight Talker: Speak directly to a character and "give your
two cents' worth". If you could stop the action at a particular point,
what would you say?
- Judge: Evaluate an action or a decision by a character or characters.
Do you feel a wise or a poor decision has been made? Why? What decision
would you prefer to have been made? Why? ¥ Memory Keeper: Perhaps you
remember a similar experience from your own life, about a time when you
kept something secret (like Reid Locke did) and because of that secret,
events began "to snowball." Describe that experience; explain
how it relates to the story.
- Artist: What visual images come to mind as you read the story? Draw
those images. Write also what your visual image means or represents in
- Palm Reader: What has occurred that you consider foreshadowing? What
do you believe will occur in the future? Why?
Depending on the experience of the students, the teacher may choose
to point out appropriate points in the story for the students to respond
in these reader response roles or he can leave the choice to the students.
After students have completed their journal entries, they will pair
up to discuss their responses. The teacher may choose to have a few students
share their responses with the entire class to promote a class discussion.
The journal entries can be used as a starting point for several other
activities, such as follows:
- Research one of the current theories for the extinction of dinosaurs
and write an informational essay to report to your class.
- Form groups of students who will espouse different theories for the
extinction of dinosaurs. After appropriate research and preparation, have
a class debate.
- Write an alternative ending from the point that Paschelke and Austin
find the pieces of amber and the claw hidden in the drawer. How would they
go about stopping the damage already done?