Dialogue Journal Writing

Dialogue Journal Writing

A dialogue journal is a written conversation between two or more people. Through the use of notebooks or computers, the two write back and forth to each other on a regular basis on topics of their choice. Quite often the teacher and each student in the class write back and forth, and there are benefits to such a one-to-one exchange. It is possible to get to know the students, better understand their language problems, and create a personal way to motivate each student. It can also teach students that we write to an audience, that we think about the reader as we write.

If it is impossible for the teacher to write to each student, an alternative is to respond to close-knit groups. Each student still writes to the teacher, but the teacher’s response is in a single entry to the entire group.

Although a teacher-student dialogue exchange has many benefits, there are also problems.

First, as experienced teachers know, writing to each student or even to groups of students can be an extraordinary amount of work for the teacher, even impossible if the teacher has a large class.

Second, many students believe that the teacher probably cannot relate to their view of the world so they write about what they think are the teacher’s interests and do not consider discussing what genuinely interests them.

Third, there is the problem of status. Some teachers want to really reach students, but even when the teacher tries hard to establish a special rapport, some ESL students will resist.

This is especially true for students who are from countries such as Asia where the culturally based rules demand that students place the teacher on a hierarchical level above the student. In brief, it would be impolite for the students to complain, criticize, or openly write a topic that could cause the teacher to lose face or that could upset their harmonious relationship.

Considering these factors, an alternative is to have students communicate with each other through journals. This is what Karen Bromley does with “buddy journals,” which she uses to connect immigrant and American children in sharing language and literacy. With journals students can feel free to establish rapport based on shared interests, problems, and tastes without worrying about status or about pleasing the teacher or taking his or her time.

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