L1 dialog journals
(contributed by Dr. Lynn)
Dialog journals are journals that are set up to facilitate communication between teachers and students. Traditionally, they are a form of interactive writing where students write on a topic and then their teachers respond in writing. Ideally, they are written conversations. They have been used with both native and non-native speaking students and have multiple benefits for both groups (Peyton, 1993). They are not something we normally think of using as a L1 strategy. However, we propose an alternative use for them in the mainstream classroom. One of the authors observed this type of dialog journal used with great success with 3rd grade level elementary ELLs who were on grade level in their L1, Korean. When the year began, the journals were almost exclusively written in Korean, but as the year progressed this balance shifted to the point where the journals were almost completely written in English.
In these dialog journals, ELLs write in their L1, using English when they know the approximate words and illustrations to scaffold their message. Teachers and students can then find a few minutes each week to review the journals, asking the ELL to explain to the best of his/her ability, what is happening in the journal entry. The teacher can then write a response to the ELL’s journal, highlighting new vocabulary using the ELL’s own illustrations. This type of strategy allows the ELL to take advantage of fluid writing time without spending so much time with the dictionary, constantly searching for unknown words.
For example, in Mrs. Williams’ 5th grade language arts class there is a student from Burkina Faso who has low literacy skills in English but has a high proficiency in French. Mrs. Williams does not speak or write French. However, twice a week she and Ismael sit down and discuss his dialog journal entry using the limited English language skills that Ismael possesses at the moment. Through rough sketches, a bilingual dictionary, hand gestures and mimicking they are able to discuss the dialog journal entry. Mrs. Williams later prepares a feedback response to their exchange, providing new vocabulary as well as clarification of any misunderstandings that arose. Ismael is able to review Mrs. Williams’ comments later at his own pace and use those comments in his next dialog journal entry.