In this week's reading, Tompkins discusses the advantages of personal writing. Tompkins begins the chapter by giving us the scenario of Mrs. Wheatley's sixth grade class that is reading Tuck Everlasting. In this scenario, the teacher emphasizes that she would like her students to relate the story to their own personal lives because this will increase their comprehension and provide them with a deeper connection to the text (pg. 106). I agree 100% with this stance on personal writing -- I believe that there is no better way for students to build meaning than to have them relate the text to their own lives. During my undergraduate studies at Geneseo, I took a class that required me to find strategies that would help improve students' reading comprehension using a particular young adult novel to illustrate my examples. I chose to use the YA novel The Giver by Lois Lowry (which is one of my favorite books!) because the story is told through Jonas's perspective; students could see Jonas's thought process and better understand his motives. I found that there was a lot of research supporting Personal Reader Response Journals -- particularly William Brozo (1989) states that it is through a personal connection that a text becomes meaningful and memorable. In my "imaginary classroom," I had students keep a journal while reading The Giver. At certain points in the text when there was an important event that occurred, students would put themselves into Jonas's shoes and write about what they would do if they were in that situation. For example, after Jonas began seeing color and feeling emotions such as love, students were asked "Would you be able to continue living in The Community which is predictable and comfortable, knowing that in doing so you would be missing out on all of the wonderful things that life has to offer? Why, or why not? Would you stay, or would you go off into unknown territory, leaving behind all of your friends and family?" When students write responses to questions such as these, they are interacting with the story because they are placing themselves within that story and thinking about how they would react, compared to how the actual characters reacted. In this way they are simultaneously engaging in character analysis, personal reflection, character motivation, and perspective/point of view.
Personal writing can also be helpful in simply gauging student's reactions or thoughts to certain events in the book and allowing them to express their opinions. Tompkins briefly discusses involvement responses in which students express their thoughts on the ending of The Giver (pg. 113).
Overall, I think that personal writing and reader response journals provide a multitude of benefits to students. It connects the process of reading with the process of writing and allows students to explore their thoughts on certain events in a story. Also, it allows students to respond to specific parts in a text rather than responding to the text as a whole. Breaking the text up like this will result in the students creating a deeper meaning and understanding the text on a more personal level.