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!