Friday, June 6, 2014

The Writer's Notebook

This spring I took some time here to think about where I want to go with my blog.  I do know one of my summer goals is to reflect more about my teaching.  I want these posts to be similar to a classroom show-and-tell.  Still working on the what that looks like exactly, but I do hope teachers will share.  Sometimes tweets are just not enough, and I find myself wanting to know more.  Hopefully this will be a place to do that.

Teacher Show-and-Tell

I wrote here about the changing of professional development and how that affects my own PD.  Twitter is a constant source of do-it-yourself PD.  Tuesday night was no exception!  I participated in a debut chat, #ReadWriteChat, with moderator, Rachel Small and author/writer, Ralph Fletcher.  And what a chat it was!

Our discussion was centered around writer's notebooks.  Writer's notebooks are many things to different people.  This is an area of weakness for me as a teacher of writing.  I have tried organizing and using notebooks in different ways, but have yet to find the "right one."

Ralph tweeted that he was afraid "the notebook was in danger of becoming a workbook.  Teachers direct kids to try this or that."  I am not a worksheet teacher, and I do not want their notebooks to have this image tied to them.  But I do think a writer's notebook is a safe place to try new things such as a different lead, writing with descriptive words, or playing with words and dialogue.  His comment still has me thinking.  Is it a playground or is it a workbook?

I spend the beginning of the year launching the notebook, starting with making lists of topics and moving to writing entires.  This is where my dilemma begins.  Because I teach 4h grade and they don't care for rewriting things over and over, I try to make entries more of a "snippet" which leads to longer pieces.  I do not want them to write long pieces in their notebooks.  Instead we use yellow legal pads for drafting.  The latter part of the year, we typically do not use the writer's notebooks because we are more focused on our state writing prompts for our standardized tests.  If I only use these in the beginning of the year, what is the purpose of them?

During this chat, I thought I would ask Ralph how he would define the purpose of the notebook.
I loved his answer - "A place to collect the richness around me."  I agree with that.  I want students to capture in words their world around them.  To have a place to keep these words.  I just don't know how I want that to look.

Defining the purpose of the notebook and how to organize it is the question I have for you.  If you have some wise words of wisdom or thoughts to share about writer's notebooks, please leave a comment or write your own blog post and link it here in the comments.

Thank you for reading my first (and hopefully not the last!) Teacher Show-and-Tell!


  1. Hi Leigh Anne, I nominated your blog for "The Liebster Award". I thought of your blog right away because of the inspiration it always gives me! Here's more info about it

  2. Great post, Leigh Anne. Love that you're still thinking about our learning from the #ReadWriteChat/ Love that you're reflecting on how to improve your practice. Moving from notebook entries to drafts to published pieces was always a tough part for me. Then we started using Lucy Calkin's/TCRWP's Units of Study. I don't think I would ever have figured it out on my own. Good luck and keep us posted. :)

  3. Enjoyed reading this entry. Thank you for sharing your reflections.

    Love that line you heard from RF... "A place to collect the richness around me."