Dialogue Journals: Literacy Transactions of Fourth-Grade Students

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Virginia Tech

This study was designed to explore written responses of dialogue journals in a fourth-grade social studies classroom to better understand individuals' meaning-making responses during content-based lessons. The Transactional Theory of Literacy acknowledges that readers generate individualized experiences as they transact with literacy. Although Rosenblatt focused explicitly on the transactions readers make with text, this study expands the idea of these transactions to the more current, unbounded definition of text. Writing could be the tool used for students to record these transactions that lead to their continuously changing, individualized understandings. Through journals, students conversed with one another using written dialogue in the continued generation or restructuring of existing understandings in response to exposure of a content-specific text. The following research questions were addressed in the study: How do written responses of fourth-grade students made in dialogue journals express students' understandings of content-based lessons? 2) To what extent do dialogue journals motivate students in content-based lessons? Analysis of dialogue journals showed evidence of varying levels of understanding, the effective use of journals as a communication tool, and differences in statement types depending on journal audience and content materials used. The MUSIC Model Inventory (Jones, 2009) used to assess perceptions of motivational constructs related to use of dialogue journals in social studies lessons yielded positive results for all constructs measured. Therefore, the results of the study including word count findings, qualitative journal analysis, and observational files clearly showed evidence of dialogue journals being a motivating way of having students express their understandings of content-based texts.

dialogue journals, writing instruction, motivation, literacy transactions, content-based texts, elementary