After many struggles working with resistant and struggling readers, trying to get them to effectively and efficiently communicate ideas about the books they were reading, I finally found this format to be an effective solution. These five journal formats provide students with a step-by-step way of constructing paragraphs about their text, using specific evidence and context for their ideas.
These journals are based around students' choosing a book on their own to read, providing their initial reactions to a text, an assessment/analysis every fifty pages or so, until finally finishing their chosen text. (This structure assumes students have chosen a text around 200-250 pages, but the language can be easily adapted.) Students examine literary elements such as character, setting, theme, etc.
I typically would require students to type up their final responses into a complete paragraph, but you can also have them submit these sheets as-is, if you like.