Reading Journal Options

Active reading is real reading.

Rotating Options for Entries:

A. (ALWAYS, 4pts.)

1) Vocabulary: contextual and dictionary definition

2) Literary Device

-identify a device (see figurative language)

Then, choose TWO (8pts. each):

B. 3-Level Questions

(3 questions and answers or 9

questions without answers)

C. Collect and Connect

D. Freewrite

E. S/M/T

F. T.A.C.

G. Visual Interpretation

H. Glossary Entry

Students are always required to complete A*, but they may choose two or more of the other options to include in their journal entry. A thoughtful and deserving journal will make use of a variety of options.

*Sometimes a student will make the decision to complete A1 or A2 if their reading doesn’t provide examples of both.

Maybe add appendices: of rubrics? Check +/- might be helpful. Also link to Common Core standards? sample Works Cited page?

Obligatory A: Vocabulary

A1: Record one or more vocabulary words from your reading. Consider using to get your definition; it’s a comprehensive and wonderful web resource!

Contextual Definition: First, define the word in the context of what you read. You may be close or far off, the point is to think about it. Predict the definition in your own words.

Dictionary Definition: Then, look up the word in a physical or online dictionary and record the best definition that fits the context. Lastly, cite the source you used in parentheses immediately after the definition.

A2: Literary Device

Write down the name and an explanation/definition of the device for which you have an example. Record the example; oftentimes, basic figurative language examples are evident and worth recording. Make sure to use appropriate quotation marks and parenthetical citation. You do not need to analyze the use of the technique.

Example: After reading Joan Didion’s “The Santa Ana”

A1: FRETS in “The baby frets. The maid sulks. I rekindle a waning argument...”.

Context-I think it might mean that the baby is fussy. It is definitely something negative because “sulks” and “argument” are negative in this context.

Dictionary-verb-to be constantly or visibly anxious (“Fret.”

A2: Imagery-when language appeals to the senses and allows the reader to feel as if they are experiencing the story/text first hand.

“The Pacific turned ominously glossy during a Santa Ana period, and one woke in the night troubled not only by the peacocks screaming in the olive trees but by the eerie absence of surf” (Didion 131).

Review with students: what is context? and a contextual definition?; review the concept of citing, what is a source?; review some basic examples of figurative language. How do we record within quotations, what is the difference between single (replace double within double) and double; what is an ellipses?

Option B: 3 Level Questions

3 level questions, 3 modes of thinking, 3 ways to approach your world.

1st level -factual, obvious, explicit, you can put your finger on the answer.

2nd level -inferential, analytical, the answer is in the book, just not in one place. Usually, you’ll have to have read a portion of the text to know the answer.

3rd level -critical, reflective, thought-provoking, this kind of question is all about the thinking it provokes. This question rarely has one answer because an individual’s experience will determine how they answer.

Note: Hypotheticals, i.e. “What if” statements are discouraged as they are seldom based on the reading and may imply that a student has not read the required material. If you choose this option, you need to EITHER write one set of questions (one from each level) and the answers OR 3 thoughtful sets of questions (3 each--9 total) with no answers.

Example: After reading Joan Didion’s “The Santa Ana”

1st-What is a “foehn wind?”

2nd-In what ways do the Santa Ana winds affect the behavior of Los Angelenos?

3rd-Why do you think Didion believes residents in Los Angeles live on the “edge?”

Review inference/inferential: what does it mean, how does one do it? Conventions in speaking and writing about authors, e.g. never refer to an author by their first name unless you know them personally. Practice as a class before individuals work on their own. NOTE: You may either complete 3 sets of 3-level questions (9 questions total) or give three questions (1 from each level) with their answers.

Option C: Collect & Connect

AKA: dialectical or double-entry journal, t-graph, quote and analysis.

Essentially, you will collect evidence from your reading and observations and then analyze or brainstorm ideas/connections related to that evidence. Collect evidence that strikes you as interesting, or important. Connections should be varied, and may range from personal to abstract; they can be written in bullets or sentences. The amount you collect is dependent on how much you have read: one quotation per short chapter is appropriate.

Example: After reading Joan Didion’s “The Santa Ana”



“Easterners commonly complain that there is no ‘weather’ at all in Southern California, that the days and the seasons slip by relentlessly, numbingly bland. That is quite misleading” (Didion 132).

-I wonder if Didion imagined an audience of Southern Californians?

-I was once an Easterner, having moved out here in 1992. I recall saying similar things, until I realized, or became acclimated to the So. Cal. seasons.

-L.A. is anything but bland, but the persistent mania that seems to take hold of its residents is so consistent that it has a numbing effect.

-Didion alternates between sentence lengths --as if someone is asking a question and she is answering it.

Emphasize that collecting can involve anything in any discipline, it is simply the item you will reflect on. Naturally, in English class, textual quotations are often what we examine; however, the collection is about finding sources, and sources can be anything, e.g. pottery, painting, data, tv show, wildlife, interview, music, etc..

Option D: Freewrite

Based on your reading, brainstorm a creative way to interpret or share what you have read. The most important thing is for you to interact with your reading and make meaning based on your experiences and interpretation.


Need an idea? Try to write a quickwrite, lyrics, a poem, a play, a letter, a diary entry, a gov’t form, a suspension notice, a public complaint,a series of Tweets or instant-messages, a Facebook newsfeed for characters, an extra chapter, a prologue or an epilogue, the back cover blurb, or a foreigner's perspective. Mimic the author’s style and write a short paragraph from your perspective. Write a lesson as if you were to teach the book.

Example: After reading Joan Didion’s “The Santa Ana”



IT was a seasonally warm summer, and on this particular evening the sun reflected off the pavement to antagonize the wilting women who dined outside the local Whole Foods. They tried to stay fresh, sipping mango smoothies and eating flash fried organic zucchini flowers --they desperately sought the attention of passers-by. John had decided to leave his new Prius home and encountered some difficulty biking while catching their eye. His new role in the just-picked up series called “Organic in Venice” led him to believe that he might be recognized. His celebrity, or sense of celebrity was his biggest weakness. They did notice him and quietly raised their eyes without raising their heads. Once John had secured their interest, he pretended not to care by looking straight ahead. It was a game. Everyone was a loser, although some felt the faint effects of being a winner.

Option E: S/M/T





  • wind(s)
  • smoke
  • fire
  • weather


Didion proposes that the Santa Ana winds are a part of the cultural landscape that contributes to Los Angeles’ variable personality.


Through her analysis of the symbolic Santa Ana winds, Didion exemplifies how similar the behavior of the wind is to the behavior of Los Angeles’ inhabitants.




Record symbols from your reading.

Carry over one or more of the symbols that might have some recurring ideas. Break down the symbol into their literal denotation and figurative connotation.

Determine which of the motif’s connotations reflects the author’s universal message. Write a statement that reflects their message.


-movement of air as determined by weather, natural forces, blows from one direction to another.


-bad or good omen


-carry messages, whispers, smell.

-variable, unpredictable

Review definitions of symbol, motif and theme. Define denotation and connotation.

Option F: T.A.C.


Choose a quotation that warrants analysis. Although it doesn’t have to be, It can be the same quotation you used in your collect & connect.

Topic Sentence: Write a topic sentence that reflects the idea you will explain in your analysis.

Context: Who is talking, what is going on, why, where, how? Provide a context for the quotation. In nonfiction, refer to the credentials of the speaker or the source. Your Context and Quotation can share a sentence.

Quotation: Record the quotation in quotation marks with a proper parenthetical citation. Use ellipses marks to indicate deleted language. Only use the language you plan on analyzing.

Translate: Translate the language into your own words; elaborate on the context if necessary. Lead into your analysis.

Analysis: Explain all parts of your quotation as it supports your Topic Sentence.

Conclude: What are the more thoughtful implications of your analysis? Like a good concluding paragraph, end with a larger and more meaningful idea that is directly related to your Topic Sentence.

Example: After reading Joan Didion’s “The Santa Ana”

Topic: Didion proposes that the Santa Ana winds are a part of the cultural landscape that contributes to Los Angeles’ personality.

Context: Toward the end, her essay culminates in more general, but altogether more daunting, statements about the weather. Didion claims

Quotation: “Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability” (Didion 133).

Translation: Didion contrasts the weather of Los Angeles to that of New England while simultaneously comparing the influence of each location’s weather on the inhabitants.

Analysis: She argues that the “weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse” is directly linked to the “quality of life” in Los Angeles. Weather is very much a cultural aspect for a group which shares it. In New England, weather affects how individuals negotiate their lives in such dire temperatures: they wear coats, and shovel snow, burn fires, eat richer food, etc. In Los Angeles, our weather defines our shared experiences as well. Earlier in her essay, Didion cites fires, murder and death, and the authors who write about them, as evidence of “the violence and unpredictability” of life in Los Angeles.

Conclusion: As much as, the Santa Ana winds reflect how life in Los Angeles can be marked by “impermanence” and “unreliability,” so can the postcard picture blue skies and coastal breeze. Perhaps it is the contradiction that stirs Didion to write; perhaps we grow to desire the never-ending perfection of a Hollywood postcard. Nevertheless, Didion reminds us that our temporary comfort will only end in “catastrophe;” and it would seem that our personalities, like the weather, are destined to “show us how close to the edge we are” (Didion 134).

Review what makes a good topic sentence; review context: why is it necessary, what is the difference between fictional and nonfictional context. What are the rules in quoting a text? What makes a good conclusion review FLTs.

Option G: Visual Interpretation

Based on your reading, brainstorm a creative way to interpret or share what you have read. The most important thing is for you to interact with your reading and make meaning based on your experiences and interpretation.

Your drawing may be a literal depiction or creative interpretation; either way, it should be original. Stick figures are okay. Color and shading are always appreciated. It should demonstrate effort and textual thinking. Give the quotation from the text that inspired the drawing, if appropriate.

Need an idea? Try to draw a comic strip, a bulletin, a movie poster, an ad, a storyboard, a PSA (public service announcement); what might the character doodle in their notebook? Feeling particularly artistic, try paint or pastels. Or, go digital: create a series of memes, photoshop an image...create something new!

Example: After reading Joan Didion’s “The Santa Ana” this blogger’s cartoon seemed appropriate: Steve Greenberg, Oct 23, 2007

(see Fig. 1).

Your art should

be original.

Fi Fig 1.

Option H: Glossary Entry

Glossary entries are a way to expand your analysis of literary devices.

  • Identify and define the literary device: e.g. metaphor, simile, hyperbole, personification, paradox, understatement, pun, allusion, alliteration, imagery, symbol, onomatopoeia, et cetera (AP students: all tropes and schemes qualify; we refer to them as a term or technique).
  • Record an example for the literary device you defined.
  • Analyze how the excerpt 1) contains your definition of the device; how the excerpt 2) operates to convey the author’s message (enhances the writer’s craft); and, how the excerpt 3) addresses WHAT the author says, HOW they say it, and WHY they said it (see Rhetorical Flow Chart).

Example: After reading Joan Didion’s “The Santa Ana”

Personification: A figure of speech in which a thing, an animal, or an abstraction is endowed with human characteristics (“personification”)

Example: “...a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes,...” (Didion 131)

Analysis: (What, How and Why) Didion’s use of personification to describe the wind allows the reader to associate the wind with human characteristics. The wind whines like a human and reminds us that we behave with more trepidation when a Santa Ana wind begins to blow. Whining is not only a distinctive behavior but also depicts a distinctive human sound, perhaps a childish one; this sound resonates with the apprehension a person might experience when hearing a child whine, or the apprehension a Los Angeles inhabitant might experience when hearing the wind whine. Didion’s use of personification emphasizes how the weather of a particular environment, not only shapes the behavior of its population, but how the perception of weather can justify mood and motive. (see Pathetic Fallacy) In her efforts, Didion successfully embodies the moods which a Santa Ana conjures: apprehension and trepidation. We, the reader, finally acknowledge that our behavior is as much a part of our sensitivity to the wind as it is the wind’s power over us.

Review definition of figure of speech: expressions that imply meanings beyond or different from their literal meaning in order to achieve vividness or force. Common figures of speech include hyperbole, metaphor paradox, simile, personification, etc.. !!Refer back to Flow Chart: WHAT-->HOW-->WHY (LANCE BALLA: CLAIM>CONCEPT>CONNECTION)

Works Cited/Bibliography

Works Cited*

Didion, Joan. “The Santa Ana.” Common Threads: Core Readings by Method and Theme. Ed. Ellen Kuhl Repetto and Jane E. Aaron. Boston: Bedfords/St. Martin’s, 2014. 131-134. Print.

Didion, Joan. “The Santa Ana.” The Language of Composition: Reading, Writing, Rhetoric. Renee H. Shea, Lawrence Scanlon, Robin Dissin Aufses. 2nd Ed. Boston: Bedfords/St. Martin’s, 2013. 49-56. Print.

“Frets.” Google One Box. 2013. Web. 22 Aug. 2013.

Greenberg, Steve. “The Satan Ana Winds.” Cartoon. z_Steve Greenberg’s Cartoons. Ventura County Star. 23 October 2007. Web. 16 Aug. 2013.

“Personification.” The Longman’s Dictionary of Literary Terms. 2006. Print.

*Because of Google Presentation Format I was unable to format the Works Cited page correctly. Please see me for correct way to indent entries.

As an example of a Works CIted page: emphasize the various kinds of entries and the different kinds of places to go to get the format.

The Santa Ana


There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sand storms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to flash point. For a few days now we will see smoke back in the canyons, and hear sirens in the night. I have neither heard nor read that a Santa Ana is due, but I know it, and almost everyone I have seen today knows it too. We know it because we feel it. The baby frets. The maid sulks. I rekindle a waning argument with the telephone company, then cut my losses and lie down, given over to whatever it is in the air. To live with the Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior.

I recall being told, when I first moved to Los Angeles and was living on an isolated beach, that the Indians would throw themselves into the sea when the bad wind blew. I could see why. The Pacific turned ominously glossy during a Santa Ana period, and one woke in the night troubled not only by the peacocks screaming in the olive trees but by the eerie absence of surf. The heat was surreal. The sky had a yellow cast, the kind of light sometimes called “earthquake weather.” My only neighbor would not come out of her house for days, and there were no lights at night, and her husband roamed the place with a machete. One day he would tell me that he had heard a trespasser, the next a rattlesnake.

Unfortunate that I had to paste this into 4 slides, but I’d rather have it here and attached to the original document.

The Santa Ana continued

“On nights like that,” Raymond Chandler once wrote about the Santa Ana, “every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.” That was the kind of wind it was. I did not know then that there was any basis for the effect it had on all of us, but it turns out to be another of those cases in which science bears out folk wisdom. The Santa Ana, which is named for one of the canyons it rushers through, is foehn wind, like the foehn of Austria and Switzerland and the hamsin of Israel. There are a number of persistent malevolent winds, perhaps the best know of which are the mistral of France and the Mediterranean sirocco, but a foehn wind has distinct characteristics: it occurs on the leeward slope of a mountain range and, although the air begins as a cold mass, it is warmed as it comes down the mountain and appears finally as a hot dry wind. Whenever and wherever foehn blows, doctors hear about headaches and nausea and allergies, about “nervousness,” about “depression.”

In Los Angeles some teachers do not attempt to conduct formal classes during a Santa Ana, because the children become unmanageable. In Switzerland the suicide rate goes up during the foehn, and in the courts of some Swiss cantons the wind is considered a mitigating circumstance for crime. Surgeons are said to watch the wind, because blood does not clot normally during a foehn. A few years ago an Israeli physicist discovered that not only during such winds, but for the ten or twelve hours which precede them, the air carries an unusually high ratio of positive to negative ions. No one seems to know exactly why that should be; some talk about friction and others suggest solar disturbances. In any case the positive ions are there, and what an excess of positive ions does, in the simplest terms, is make people unhappy. One cannot get much more mechanistic than that.

The Santa Ana continued

Easterners commonly complain that there is no “weather” at all in Southern California, that the days and the seasons slip by relentlessly, numbingly bland. That is quite misleading. In fact the climate is characterized by infrequent but violent extremes: two periods of torrential subtropical rains which continue for weeks and wash out the hills and send subdivisions sliding toward the sea; about twenty scattered days a year of the Santa Ana, which, with its incendiary dryness, invariably means fire. At the first prediction of a Santa Ana, the Forest Service flies men and equipment from northern California into the southern forests, and the Los Angeles Fire Department cancels its ordinary non-firefighting routines. The Santa Ana caused Malibu to burn as it did in 1956, and Bel Air in 1961, and Santa Barbara in 1964. In the winter of 1966-67 eleven men were killed fighting a Santa Ana fire that spread through the San Gabriel Mountains.

Just to watch the front-page news out of Los Angeles during a Santa Ana is to get very close to what it is about the place. The longest single Santa Ana period in recent years was in 1957, and it lasted not the usual three or four days but fourteen days, from November 21 until December 4. On the first day 25,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains were burning, with gusts reaching 100 miles an hour. In town, the wind reached Force 12, or hurricane force, on the Beaufort Scale; oil derricks were toppled and people ordered off the downtown streets to avoid injury from flying objects. On November 22 the fire in the San Gabriels was out of control. On November 24 six people were killed in automobile accidents, and by the end of the week the Los Angeles Times was keeping a box score of traffic deaths. On November 26 a prominent Pasadena attorney, depressed about money, shot and killed his wife, their two sons and himself. On November 27 a South Gate divorcée, twenty-two, was murdered and thrown from a moving car. On November 30 the San Gabriel fire was still out of control, and the wind in town was blowing eighty miles an hour. On the first day of December four people died violently, and on the third the wind began to break.

The Santa Ana continued

It is hard for people who have not lived in Los Angeles to realize how radically the Santa Ana figures in the local imagination. The city burning is Los Angeles’s deepest image of itself. Nathaniel West perceived that, in The Day of the Locust, and at the time of the 1965 Watts riots what struck the imagination most indelibly were the fires. For days one could drive the Harbor Freeway and see the city on fire, just as we had always known it would be in the end. Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The winds shows us how close to the edge we are.

— Joan Didion, The Santa Ana (“Los Angeles Notebook”/Slouching Towards Bethlehem), The Saturday Evening Post, 1965.

Reading Journal Options 2015 Pust - Google Slides