July 22 2017

A Meaningful Writer’s Notebook

 My Red Clay Writer’s Notebook

This summer I had the  opportunity to be involved with the Red Clay Writing Project (RCWP)  for two weeks. They are a part of the larger organization, the National Writing Project that is based in the USA.

During my Red Clay experience we did a LOT of writing! One of my biggest take away was how I became very attached to my writer’s notebook. I couldn’t believe how much my book meant to me by the end of the two weeks. I realized that this is the feeling I want my students to have about their notebooks.

So why did my notebook become so meaningful?  Surely if I could finger that out my students could have the same experience.

What I realized . . . What I am now thinking . . .
1 I had chosen my own notebook. I wanted a notebook that would encourage me to write. Students should decide what kind of writer’s notebooks they want to use and what they should look like.
2 Every day, there was a short writing time (10 minutes) before the main writing block. At the end of the two weeks, I had several different kinds of writing that I had started. Short focus time can give every student, regardless of ability the chance to capture some sort of writing on the page in 10 minutes, and overtime have a small collection of potential writing ideas.
3 A prompt was provided that we could use or not use. This took the pressure off trying to think of something to write on the days when I was not feeling inspired. On days that I was inspired, I was good to go! Providing a prompt can be a helpful starting point. It’s like a safety blanket that students can use when needed.

 

4 I wrote about what I wanted to write about. Students do not have to feel pressured to write on a specific topic.
5 I liked sharing small bits of my writing in my notebook. Students can share small amounts of their writing.
6 I liked that I didn’t have to worry about sharing what I had in my notebook with others. I could concentrate on my entry instead of worrying about comments from other writers. When students need to, they can be private about their writing.

 

7 When I looked through my notebook, I liked that I have different types of writing, sketches, things I have taped in, etc. Students should be encouraged to record their writing ideas in different ways.
8 I liked that it was okay to cross things out, skip lines, and have unfinished work. It’s not about having a perfect looking notebook. Notebooks do not have to look perfect. Instead it should look like a place where thinking is happening.
9 I liked that I could write on one side of the page and if I wanted to say more about the same topic, I wrote on the opposite page. Leaving the left hand side of the notebook empty gives the opportunity to revisit and add to a previous idea.
10 I decided what my writer’s notebook means to me. A writer’s notebook should be meaningful.

From this reflection, I came up with 10 things about a meaningful notebook that I want students to understand.

 

A Meaningful Writer’s Notebook means

1. You choose a special Writer’s notebook.

2. You write every day for at least 10 minutes.

3. You decide your writing topic.

4. You decide if you want to use a writing prompt.

5. You decide the writing you want to share.

6. You decide when you share.

7. You can write, sketch, put things in it, use colors, etc.

8. You are not trying to have a perfect notebook.

9. You revisit your writing and sometimes add more.

10. You write about things that are meaningful to you.

My plan is to share this list with my students to help them see how much ownership they have over their individual notebooks. I expect that once we start working, the students and I will tweak or change some of the items.

 

Writing Together,

Sonia

 

 

July 20 2017

Writing Together!

Welcome to Our Writing Space and to the writing journey that I am about to take with my students this coming school year. My name is Sonia and I teach writing as a special to K-5 students in a Title 1 school.  The majority of our students speak more than one language. We have over 42 different languages in our school. I was a homeroom teacher for many years before becoming a writing teacher three years ago. During that time I taught all the core subjects, but my passion is teaching reading and writing through a workshop model.

My biggest challenge is that I see my students once every six days for 40 minutes. I’m not able to do anything about the schedule, so I have to think outside the box. I’m a firm believer in the writing workshop model and so I keep trying to develop ways to use its structure within my classes. Homeroom teachers see their students every day so they have the opportunity to work through specific writing programs that are meant to be implemented daily. What can I teach in 40 minutes when I see students on a six day rotation?  Surely they won’t remember anything!

After thinking about my students and their out of school habits, I realized that they spend a lot of time watching their favorite weekly TV shows and are able to remember the ins and outs of the different stories. So I decided that I needed to structure my teaching in a bite-size way. By this I mean, I teach bite-size lessons (a little at a time) and I then build on each bite. Keep in mind that the students get most of their writing experience with their homeroom teacher and I’m a support. My goal is to reinforce what they already know about writing, and to help them grow as individual writers.

Writing is such a vast topic and can be overwhelming when trying to think where to start when you want to help students grow as writers. Of course, looking at state standards for writing is one place to begin, but where do you go once you have done that? I decided that at the start of this school year, for grades 3-5, I’m going to put a lot of emphasis on keeping a writer’s notebook.

Why start there? I have observed that when students are given the opportunity to write on self-selected topics, they’ll often say, “I don’t know what to write about!” In writing workshop students are encouraged to choose their own topics, which is great, but if they don’t know how to come up with ideas they’re lost. Before students can write anything they need to have some ideas. They need to have writing ideas at their fingertips!

My Personalized Writer’s Notebooks

I see a Writer’s notebook as . . .

a place to hold thinking, ideas and thoughts,

to try new things, a place to practice, to revisit ideas,

a tool to support writing, and

meaningful.

When I taught fifth grade, at the beginning of each school year I always centered the first writing workshop lesson around students personalizing their individual writer’s notebook.  I would explain that the purpose of the notebooks and we would use them throughout the year, but they were never seen as a meaningful tool. I would also start a writer’s notebook, but would often abandon it because of the pressure to complete other necessary teaching duties. I’d be in the do as I say, not as I do mode, but this year I want to say, “We’re doing this together!”  So my goal is to keep a writer’s notebook and write alongside my students for the entire school year.

Writing Together,

Sonia