Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - A response journal

Created for TeachersFirst by Brenda Walton, Ed.D.

Teacher Notes and ideas from the Thinking Teachers

This unit will guide students through personal responses to Annie Dillard's Pulitzer Prize-winning book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. They are keyed to the Harper Perennial Edition (1999) ISBN 0-06-095302-0, but the pages are the same as the more recent Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition (2007), ISBN 978-0061233326, that is also available as an eBook. The prompts ask students to annotate their printed books with highlighters, but eBooks make this option easier and possibly less costly.

These prompts and thought questions offer ample opportunity for students to respond and relate to the text. Teachers may want to use them as traditional pencil/paper journals or have students respond using a variety of electronic tools. Here are just some of the options. You may want to use varied approaches to allow students choice:

  • If your students are reading on eBook readers, have students use the annotation features for personal notes, then choose their favorite or “best” responses to share on a class wiki, social network, or blog. If you are using tablets, students may need to copy/paste their chosen response and save it via a “cloud” sharing tool such as Evernote (reviewed here).
  • Have an appointed student scribe copy/paste the quotation they are responding to onto a class blog along with the prompt. Students can respond as “comments” on the post, also refuting, arguing, or agreeing with each other. Learn more about blog tools  in TeachersFirst’s Blog Basics for the Classroom.
  • Use a social network designed for schools, such as edmodo (reviewed here) or Collaborize Classroom (reviewed here), to post the prompts and allow students to respond. Use Vote or Suggest options in Collaborize Classroom for students to argue, elaborate, or agree with others’ responses.
  • Make responses oral or visual using Ed.Voicethread (reviewed here). Have students upload an image that signifies their response and “comment” orally explaining their thoughts. Of course, they will need to prepare notes and should be accountable for speaking clearly and formulating an organized response (not a ramble).
  • Offer the option for students to make a visual response using Glogster EDU (reviewed here). Their glog could include the quote, images to support their thinking (properly cited, of course), and text boxes with their written thoughts.
  • Use any of the multimedia tools reviewed at the TeachersFirst Edge to respond with a combination of words, images, and sound.
  • Invite students to create a video response from their best journal entry and post it on SchoolTube (reviewed here) or TeacherTube (reviewed here).
  • Have students make a student-generated a class wiki “study guide” to Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Each wiki page can represent a chapter, and a different small group can be responsible for posting at least 4-5 responses to the prompt for that chapter. The aggregated Study Guide can serve the entire class as a lead in to an essay test or other final assessment. Add a layer to the challenge by requiring each student to respond (in thoughtful prose) to at least 3-5 other students' writings, using the discussion tab. Learn more about wikis in the classroom at the Wiki Walk-through.
  • Ask today’s students what tools they would like to use to both respond and share their responses. They are certain to have creative alternatives to “journal writing” that still build the same skills.


Student response journal instructions