Please read yesterday’s blog post from yesterday. It is the focus for your third and final set of reader’s journals.

Today you are working on your reader’s journal amd synthesis paper—both due Monday.

Tuesday November 20

Today we’re working on our synthesis papers and reader’s journals for your final meeting.

What should you be focusing on for your next set of reader’s journals?

The Power of Language

Language is powerful because it can affect us in a variety of ways:

Intellectually, by conveying ideas/impressions/suggestions to the reader. Imaginatively, by conveying sensory impressions to the reader, especially visual and auditory effects. Emotionally, by creating feelings within the reader, e.g. excitement, fear, pity, anger, suspense. Aesthetically, by appealing to the reader’s sense of what is beautiful in the language. Physically, this is much more difficult to achieve, but a text that takes the reader on a terrifying roller-coaster of events filled with horror and gore might create such physical manifestations such as goose bumps, or, in extreme cases, even nausea; particular words or phrases may help to generate the moments of high intensity which make this possible.

When analyzing an author’s use of language, you want to avoid writing things that are vague (i.e., “It creates interest.” or “It helps create an image in the reader’s mind.” or “It helps the writing flow.”). Instead, be very specific about the effect that it creates for the reader. Here is an example of a student analysis of language. Notice how the student states her point, illustrates with an example, and then elaborates.

The author begins by making a direct address to the reader (“you”), instantly involving the reader in what is about to be written. The phrase “if you dare” would certainly create suspense by suggesting that this could well be an exciting and thrilling read. The ellipsis after this challenge has the effect of further drawing the reader in. The author has also written the passage in the present tense, thus bringing the reader even closer to the event by creating the illusion of immediacy.

At the beginning of the next paragraph, the phrase “late at night” definitely helps to set the scene and establish an eerie atmosphere because it intimates danger, as does the heavily punctuated reference to being “alone”. The frequent mention of the main character’s preoccupation with his / her book also adds tautness to the writing as the reader has already been strongly encouraged to believe that this character should really be much more vigilant.

The author then further ratchets up the tension, and the reader’s emotional engagement with the writing, by use of the simile “the isolation which completely surrounds you and which clings to you like a second skin”. It encourages the reader to imagine how vulnerable the main character is by the fact that he/she is all alone and far removed from any possible source of help. Furthermore, the reference to “a second skin” may well conjure up in the reader’s imagination a fleeting impression of nakedness, thus further increasing the sense of this character’s vulnerability.

The metaphor “darkness devours” is further satisfying in both an imaginative and intellectual sense because it suggests that the night itself is also a nocturnal predator. Because the darkness is depicted as being so pervasive, it implies that there is danger everywhere and adds even more menace to the writing.

In this final chunk, your focus should be on the author’s use of language. You may wish to review this list of literary devices.  As you focus on language in this activity, consider the following quotation:

One important thing that can be learned by reading slowly is the seemingly obvious but oddly underappreciated fact that language is the medium we use in much the same way a composer uses notes, the way a painter uses paint. . . . it’s surprising how easily we lose sight of the fact that words are the raw material out of which literature is crafted.

-Francine Prose

Thursday November 15

Your synthesis paper is due tomorrow on Google classroom. You can work on it this period. One of the chromebooks was not plugged in last night though. As I reminded you, if you don’t plug in the chromebooks, it’s your class that you’re hurting because my grade 10s are working in the inquiry den for the next few weeks. Plugging in the Chromebooks is your job. I get that it’s a pain. Figure it out.

If you are done your synthesis paper, continuing to work on your reader’s journals (These must be submitted to Google Classroom before class on Monday).

Chromebooks must be put away and plugged in at the end of the period.


Tuesday November 13

Today you will be working on your synthesis paper. See Google classroom for more information.

Your focus for the next literature circle meeting will be characterization:

How do Writers Develop Characters?

For many readers, one of the greatest pleasures in reading comes from discovering compelling characters who we care about and want to know more about. Perhaps one of the reasons character-driven narratives are so compelling is because we can find reflections of ourselves in these fictional, but rich and complex characters. In following the journeys of these characters we discover truths about ourselves that are often

Character Types


Character changes over the course of the story e.g, Harry Potter goes from bullied orphan to powerful wizard.

This is an image of the character Harry Potter.


Character stays the same over the course of the story e.g., Scar from the Lion King begins as an evil remorseless villain and is still remorseless at the end of the movie.

This is an image of the character Scar from The Lion King.


Character has multiple and sometimes even contradictory character traits e.g., Hamlet is philosophical and intelligent but he can make rash and hasty choices and get caught up in his emotions.

This image is of the character Hamlet.


Character only has one or two character traits. He or she lacks depth and complexity. This may result in a fairly stereotypical character. E.g., Ursula the Sea Witch from Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

This is an image of the character Ursula from The Little Mermaid.


Character with whom we identify. He or she is the one who faces a conflict which must be resolved. Sometimes he or she is referred to as the “hero”, but is not necessarily “heroic.” Nick Carraway is the narrator and protagonist of The Great Gatsby, but he is not heroic. He is complex and has many character flaws. Additionally, he is more of an observer than a participant in the romantic storyline of the novel.

This is a photograph of actor Tobey Maguire in the role of Nick Carraway from the most recent film version of The Great Gatsby.


The character in opposition to the protagonist. Sometimes he or she is called the villain, but is not necessarily villainous. Hank is the brother-in-law of Walter White in the TV show Breaking Bad. Walter is making and selling drugs, and Hank is trying to catch drug dealers. While Hank is a “good guy” for much of the show, he functions as an antagonist.

This is a photograph of actor, Dean Norris, in the role of Hank Schrader from the TV show, Breaking Bad.

Character Traits

Character traits are the words we use to describe a character’s non-physical attributes. Look at this chart for a list of character traits:traits-list


An author can develop characters in ways that are direct or indirect. Direct characterization occurs when an author tells the reader about specific traits a character has. E.g., Dan was bold and decisive. This is often not as effective as indirect characterization, where we learn about a character through his or her actions, what the character says, and what other characters say about him or her. E.g., Dan stood up and put both hands down on the long boardroom table. All eyes turned to him. “Here’s what will happen,” he began. Another way to think of indirect characterization is “showing” rather than “telling.” This allows the reader to form his or her own conclusions about the character.


Which characters are dynamic or static? Which are round or flat? Identify the protagonist and antagonist. What are they like? Does your protagonist have a foil? If so, which traits does the foil highlight?

Does your narrator use indirect or direct characterization? Which is more effective and why?

Has the author created any unlikable characters? Why do you think the author may have made this choice?

Thursday November 8

Yep. Another period to read and think. But I also want you to see what you’re going to be writing about after Monday’s literature circle meeting.

This assignment is not something you need to be working on now but I thought you might appreciate the preview:


Now that you’ve read and discussed the first part of your novel, you will piece together what you’ve learned and currently understand about your novel. This synthesis paper is not meant to be a summary of what you’ve read or a summary of the discussion you had; rather, it is meant to be a record of the conclusions (and supporting evidence) you have been able to draw from the author’s choices so far based on your reading and discussion. While you are not limited to discussing narrative voice, you should mention it at some point in your paper. Consider using this outline  to help structure and organize your response:


Yes/No Criteria
Paper is approximately 500 words
Writer makes use of an approved style guide (MLA, APA, or Chicago)
Writer includes properly formatted in-text citations for any quotations or specific references to the text
Writer organizes ideas using fully developed paragraphs – the writer states his/her point, illustrates using evidence, and explains how that evidence supports the point made
Writer makes specific reference to ideas developed in reader’s journals and explains how these ideas were supported, challenged, or otherwise evolved through the book club discussion
Writer draws conclusions about the choices made by the author

Submit your synthesis paper to your teacher. Your teacher will be looking for evidence and giving you feedback on the following success criteria:

  • I can make inferences while reading.
  • I can identify significant ideas in a text.
  • I can make connections between the text and my own experiences.

The outline will be posted on Google classroom.

Tuesday November 6

Your essay is due today in Google Classroom before midnight. Today you are continuing to work on your reading journal. Some of you said you couldn’t remember which essay topic you picked so check out this list.

As a reminder, you should be focusing on narrative voice for this reading journal as well as any evidence connected to your essay topic

Monday November 5

We’re going to be starting literature circles this week. You already have your novel and have started reading so let’s talk about reading strategies:

Reading Strategies

Using reading strategies is something that good readers do all the time, even if they’re not consciously aware of it. We choose different reading strategies for different purposes, and some of these strategies work better for individual readers than others do. For example, if you’re trying to understand a setting that you know little about, making connections between the setting in the text and other settings you’ve seen or read about before can help you understand the text better. As you read your first section, be deliberate about using some of the following reading strategies in order to help you with your reading comprehension. Think about the strategies that are most effective for you as a reader:

  • Making Connections to the Text: As you read, think about the different connections you can make to characters, events, settings, and issues in the text. There are three different kinds of connections you can make:
    • Text to Text: Making connections to other books you’ve read, or to TV shows, or movies that you’ve seen. What does the plot of this book have in common with the plot of one of your favourite movies?
    • Text to Self: Making connections to your own experiences. How is the main character like or unlike you? How is the setting like or unlike a place you’ve been to before?
    • Text to World: Making connections to the outside world. How are the issues in the novel similar to issues you’ve seen reflected in the media or in the world around you?

    This will help you relate to the story even if it seems far removed from your own experience.

  • Visualizing: As you read, use the clues from the text to help you picture what the author is describing so that it’s almost like watching a movie in your head. What does the main character look like? What kind of setting is he or she in? You can incorporate other senses to help you dive into the book. If you were inside the pages of this book, what would you be feeling, smelling, hearing, tasting? This will help you immerse yourself in the story.
  • Talking Back to the Text: Have you ever tried watching a movie with a person who is so involved in the movie that they feel the need to talk to the screen? For example, “Are you nuts? Don’t go up in the attic!” You can use the same strategy (in a much less annoying way) by using sticky notes to talk back to the book. Record your reactions, questions, and observations on small sticky notes and place them next to the text you read. If you give yourself a goal of three or four sticky notes per chapter, you may surprise yourself by finding you’re more engaged with the story.
  • Asking Questions: Another way to engage with the text is to ask questions as you read. Different kinds of questions will lead you to different levels of engagement with the text. A good tool for generating different types of questions as you are reading is a Q Chart.

See long description for this Questioning grid.

If you match up the words along the left side with the words along the top, you have the beginning of different types of questions. The questions that would fall into the lightest colour boxes tend to be thin questions. For example: Who is the main character? The questions that fall into the darkest colour boxes tend to be thick questions. For example: Why would the author choose a boarding school as the setting of his novel?

Being able to generate effective discussion questions will be an important part of this unit, because you will participate in four group discussions where you will be expected to prepare and respond to discussion questions.

Are All Connections Good Connections?

You know that one of things good readers do when reading is make connections. Connections can help deepen your understanding of a text, but not all connections can do this. These connections are “dead ends.” As you read and make connections, ask yourself: Does this connection add to my understanding of the text? If so, how? If not, mark it as a dead end and move on. That way you won’t be distracted by the connection.

Discussion Questions

For the purpose of this unit we will talk about three different types of questions:

Matter questions – These are questions that deal with the text itself. “What is Harry’s reaction to being told he is a wizard?”

Personal reality questions – These are questions that focus on the individual reader’s experience, knowledge, feelings, and values that are brought to the reading of the text.  “When would you (if ever) confront a parent about something he or she has done?”

External reality questions – These are questions that deal with the world and other literature, and with the experience, history and concepts of other peoples and cultures. “To what extent does Harry Potter fit the archetype of the hero based on what you know about mythical heros? How is he the same? How does he differ?”

The very best discussion questions are a combination of at least two of the above question types because they generate the most discussion. For example:

“When is it right to go against the social and political structures of the time, as Harry does in defying the orders from the Ministry of Magic? What are the parallels to our own world?”

(You’ll notice that a rich question may technically be more than one question combined).

Book Club Format

  • As You Read
      • Divide your novel into 3 roughly equal parts. As you read each part, you will keep a Reader’s Journal. Your Reader’s Journal will be a record of what you read, as well as what you thought about what you read. It is informal and not meant to be a final “published” piece of writing. It will be assessed as evidence of your reading process. Don’t wait until the end of your first section to write your entire Reader’s Journal. Your Reader’s Journal is meant to show how your thinking evolves as you’re reading.
  • Prior to Each Meeting
      • You will submit your Reader’s Journal to your teacher.
      • You will generate four different discussion questions: one matter question, one personal reality question, one external reality question, and one combination question (e.g., matter + personal reality). (This can be written at the bottom of your reader’s journal).
  • During the Meeting
      • Your teacher will provide an opportunity for discussions for each of the novels, and will also provide you with a specific time frame and forum for sharing your discussion questions. You will then be given a specific time frame in which to respond to at least four questions from your book club members.
      • The purpose of these “meetings” is to allow you to discuss your thoughts in a focused and meaningful way in order to prepare you for the synthesis paper.
  • After the Meeting
    • You will write a synthesis paper where you combine your initial ideas from your Reader’s Journal with the ideas generated from your meeting to draw some conclusions about what you’ve read so far.


In this section, your focus should be on the narrative voice. (But you should also be looking for any information that supports your chosen essay topic.) See

Narrative voices can be classified as first person (I), second person (you), which is very rare and not present in any of your novel choices, or third person (he, she, it). However, there are further classifications:

Narrative Voice Explanation Effect
First Person Involved The narrator is the protagonist of the story. He or she narrates the events that happen to him or her, but can’t narrate events that the protagonist wouldn’t know about. The reader closely identifies with the narrator. The reader is not able to “get into the heads” of the other characters.
First Person Observer The narrator is a character in the story but is not the main character or protagonist. He or she watches and reports on the main characters and events. The reader is more distanced from the main characters and identifies with the narrator’s outsider perspective. He/she might give the illusion of a lack of bias, but the reader must remember the narrator is still a character created by the author.
Second Person This is rarely used as a narrative perspective for an entire story, but may be used, for example, when a first person narrator addresses him or herself. The reader may feel as though he or she is being directly addressed, which can either distance the reader or involve the reader depending on the content.
Third Person Limited The narrator may be indistinguishable from the author, but only narrates the events from the perspective of one character (or may switch between a few characters). This distances the reader (and the writer) from the main characters and allows the reader to feel more like an observer than a participant.
Third Person Omniscient The narrator knows all and sees all. He/she is not limited to the perspective of one or two characters. This is the most distancing of all narrative voices and may invite the reader to analyse and pass judgement more readily.

 Reader’s Journal

What is the narrative perspective of your novel? Do you think you can trust the narrator (not the author–remember the narrator and author are different) to give you an honest account of what is happening? If not, how does that affect the way you approach the novel? Is the narrator likeable or unlikeable? What makes the narrator likeable or unlikeable? Relatable or unrelatable?

  1. As you read your first chunk of the novel, it’s helpful to break up that chunk into smaller sections.
  2. Consider using sticky notes to mark off your sections of reading. Once you get to a sticky note, jot down some thoughts. Those thoughts should include:
    • questions that you have about plot, characterization, theme, language, and symbolism.
    • personal reactions to what you read.
    • connections you’re able to make to your own life, other texts, and the world around you.
    • analyses of literary devices, including the use of language, metaphor, symbolism, and imagery. Review your literary devices from Unit 1.
    • conclusions that you’re able to draw about choices made by the author.
  3. You can use these notes to help you write your Reader’s Journal so that you don’t have to interrupt your flow of reading. However, don’t wait until the end of your first section to write your entire Reader’s Journal. It is meant to show how your thinking evolves as you’re reading.
  4. At regular intervals, reflect on your reading in your Reader’s Journal. Your journal should be written as a double-entry journal with your point form record of the important things you read in the left-hand column*, and your questions, inferences, connections, and analysis in the right-hand column. Point form notes are acceptable. A double-entry journal helps you to remember not to just make notes about what you read (the left hand column), but to remember to think about why the author may have made these choices and the effect these choices have on your understanding of the text.

*Don’t forget to include page numbers for each entry. This will help you later in your discussions and in your synthesis paper.

Here is sample of what one page of a Reader’s Journal might look like: