This year, I made a goal of implementing the use of writer’s notebooks in my classroom. The past couple of years I’ve noticed in my online research that more and more teachers were jumping on the notebook bandwagon, but no matter how much I read about it, I just couldn’t picture how it was going to look in my classroom. This summer I stumbled across a blog post on The Reading Zone that suggested reading the professional resource Notebook Know-How by Aimee Buckner as a guide for the use of Writer’s Notebooks. Wow! Am I every glad I bought this book! After reading the first couple of chapters, I could finally envision how I would use the notebook in my classroom. I could see how using notebook strategies would improve my students’ learning and my teaching. So, I went for it and started using writer’s notebooks this year.
I decided to have the kids use 3 ring binders and dividers to keep their notebook organized, as opposed to a spiral. There are six sections in the binder: daily entries, ideas, organization, words and sentences, conventions, and voice . The daily entries section is where kids put the daily writing activities we complete in class. The other dividers are related to the six traits, and students keep their notes from mini-lessons and resource hand-outs in the corresponding section. They also keep a pencil pouch in the front, and keep items such as pencils pens, scissors, tape, glue sticks and anything else they may need when writing and revising their work in class. You’ll notice I don’t have a place for the kids to keep drafts of formal writing papers. When we complete an assignment that will be taken all the way to the publishing stage, it is kept in a separate writing file in the classroom.
So far, the notebook has worked brilliantly. We spend a lot less time in class trying to find hand-outs and resource pages I’ve given them, which leaves me with a lot more patience and teaching time!
One of my favorite strategies I’ve used from Notebook Know-How is “What’s in a Name?” After reading Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes to the class, we all wrote about our own names. Some kids wrote about the history of their name, others wrote about what they do and don’t like about their names. The exciting part was that not a single child said these dreaded words to me: “I don’t have anything to write about!” They were excited to share what they wrote. It really made me happy to see them proud of their writing.