Chris Adcock
English Language Arts, Composition and Rhetoric
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Dialectical Journal
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Journaling
  • Writing
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Dialectical Journal

    Dialectical Journal


    In this lesson, students will discuss the rest of “The Things They Carried.” They will also complete a Dialectical Journal entry and share it with the class.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Decide how you will put students in pairs and small groups for this lesson.
    • Plan how you will have students share their Dialectical Journal entries during class.

    The Things They Carried Share

    • Let students know how to pair up for this activity.
    • If necessary, explain the paradox that people could be “too frightened to be cowards.”
    • After the partner activity, lead a class discussion about the text.
    • Your role during a class discussion is to listen, take notes to represent group thinking, and to ask probing questions such as the following:
      • ✓ In what sense can intangibles (grief, terror, love, longing) have tangible weight?
      • ✓ What does the narrator mean when he says, “They carried their reputations”?
      • ELL: Phrases like “too frightened to be cowards” and “They carried their reputations” can be challenging to some of these students, but this can also be a great opportunity to invite students to share figurative language from their primary language. If time allows, consider inviting them to share examples of similar language with either you or the class.


    • Share your annotations from the homework with your partner.
    • Work together to clear up any confusion about the story.
    • If you chose different important passages, discuss your choices and try to reach agreement about which parts of the story are most essential.
    • Share your responses to the questions from the previous Lesson:
      • How does the narrator feel about the men in the story? How do you know?
      • What specific pieces from the text support your thinking?
      • What big ideas or thematic ideas are expressed in this paragraph?

    Dialectical Journal Entry

    • Model how to complete a Dialectical Journal entry.
    • Let students know how many Dialectical Journal entries to complete.
    • Give students ample time to write.
      • SWD: This is a good task to check in with students who have trouble with this type of writing to make sure that they’re on track. The homework assignment will require them to integrate their research with the text; this can be an appropriate time to assess whether they’re ready for that assignment.
    • When students finish writing, facilitate a discussion about the passages they found especially important.

    Work Time

    Follow your teacher's instructions to create at least one Dialectical Journal entry.

    • Create a Short Stories Dialectical Journal using the column headings in the sample.
    • Choose a phrase or one sentence from the passage you just read.
    • Write about why you think that passage is important to the whole text.

    When you finish, share your ideas with the class, making sure to refer back to the text for evidence and support.

    Comments and Questions

    • Put students in small groups and tell them how to share their Dialectical Journal entries with one another.
    • Make sure students share their comments and questions so each person receives some feedback on their ideas.
      • SWD: For students who have difficulties with peer feedback, you can take a moment before the group share to review appropriate positive comments that they might offer.


    Follow your teacher's directions to share your Short Stories Dialectical Journal entry with your group.

    • Respond to your classmates' entries with a positive comment or question.

    The Things They Carried Reflection

    • Have students revisit the research they did on the Vietnam era. Ask them to not just relate historical facts here, but to try to connect to the more personal aspects of the story and expand on how these aspects bolster their understanding of the time period.
    • To expand the homework, ask students to consider this question, “How do American writers use the short story to reflect elements of culture and society?”
    • Let students know if you want them to submit their writing to you.


    Complete a Quick Write on the following topic.

    • What does O’Brien’s story tell us about America or the American experience during the time period in which it is set?

    Open Notebook