Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Writer's Notebook: Truly A Wonderful Thing!

I don't know what to write, I have no ideas, I can't write a whole page... Have you heard these lines in your classroom?  I have a solution for you...incorporate a Writer's Notebook into your weekly writing routines.
 A Writer's Notebook is a personal place for your students to create and keep their ideas, wonders, topics, and memories. I started using Writer's Notebooks a few years ago and since then I have seen a marked improvement in the quality of writing that my students produce. The greatest benefit that I have found in using this writing tool is that students no longer have the excuse of, "I have nothing to write about!" Ideas are already collected neatly in a decorative bound book. It truly is a wonderful thing!
I was first introduced to this concept by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. She is a wonderful poet and exceptional writing instructor (check out her blog Poem Farm). When I first started teaching 5th grade, Amy recommended that I use The No-Nonsense Guide to Teaching Writing by Sharon Hill. This is a must have to add to your professional development shelf. Among other topics outlined in the book, their is a detailed chapter on introducing and implementing a Writer's Notebook into your classroom. Included in the lessons is the concept of "harvesting" an idea from your notebook.  A story, poem, article or any other genre of writing can be inspired by a whole entry or even just one word. Here is a sample of an entry that a student wrote and part of the published piece that it inspired.

In September I have students spend a few day collecting personal and magazine pictures that tell about their family, likes, dislikes, pets, hobbies, collections, dreams etc... The students then arrange them on the cover of a composition notebook. I give students gems (found in any craft store) to add to their cover. They really like the bling! When they are done I slather on a few coats of Modge Podge (decoupage glue found in any craft store) for durability. When the students get their notebooks back it really is a celebration and they love to show off their books to each other. The most important tip I have learned about keeping a writer's notebook is to be consistent! Make sure kids are writing in them daily or at a minimum of 3 times a week.  The years when I have had students write in their notebooks ALL THE TIME produced the best writing pieces.

Give it a try or if you already have students keep Writer's Notebooks then share your successes! As I get back into the classroom I'll share many more posts about using a Writer's Notebook. Stay Tuned!


  1. Amy, What a joyful post about notebooks. I'll never forget talking with you about your students' energy and excitement for writing. It still shines right through you here on this blog. I'm going to pin this post to my notebooks board right now. And if you would ever like to post about your own notebook at my blog, please just let me know. I would love to have you - amy at amylv dot com. Good luck with everything; I am thinking about you and sending positive thoughts your way. xo, a.

  2. Hey! I just found your blog and am happy to say I'm follower #10 :). This year I wanted to really get my students motivated in writing, so we spent some time decorating our writers notebooks. They loved it and I can completely tell a difference just doing that simple decorating made. They love their notebooks, they are proud of them, and the like to get them out and write in them. Such a great idea. I am always looking for fun ways to motivate my students, so your blog is just perfect! :)

    The Price of Teaching

    1. Hi Brianna, Thanks for the nice words and following me! It took me a few years to really commit and see the benefits of using a Writer's Notebook. You must take a look at The No-Nonsense Guide to Teaching Writing. It is a wonderful resource! It really makes you see how this notebook is different from the ordinary daily journey that I use to have my kids write in. Although, it’s really just semantics, calling it a Writer’s Notebook and showing kids how to get into their thinking makes it a great learning tool! Let me know if you have any burning questions about WN Bks. I’d be happy to help.


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