Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Writers' Notebooks -- What's the Big Deal?

As a self-proclaimed writer and soon-to-be-published author, I'm a tad embarrassed to admit that I never understood writers' notebooks until this summer.  I understood journals -- journals are easy -- but the difference between a journal and the ever-elusive writer's notebook?  I didn't get it.  Then everything changed.

This summer I attended a professional development class to help me teach writing based on standards and built on passion.  I never expected a writer's notebook to enter the conversation.  But boy, did it ever.  My professor had a bursting behemoth of a notebook on her desk, all but spewing papers, clips, and napkins onto the floor.  When she held it up for the class to see, she pointed at travel brochures she had accumulated over many road trips, menus with exotic food names, notes handwritten by friends and family, and an endless conglomeration of paraphernalia from her daily adventures.  Nowhere did I see an obligatory run-down of a blah-blah day.  Not once did I glimpse an essay.  Or haiku.  Or short story.  So this was a writer's notebook -- a concrete thought bubble brimming with inspiration.

Not thirty minutes after class, I stood in the back-to-school aisle (which seriously appears earlier every year) and picked out my fifty-cent composition book to claim as my own faithful companion.  I decided to glue scrapbooking paper to the right-hand side of each page spread as a background on which to washi-tape my inspiration.  The left-hand side I left blank for little notes to myself.  (I know I would forget why I taped that randomness in there otherwise.)  See, isn't it pretty?

Still, I needed to find a way to make this concept work in my classroom.  My students constantly complain that they "can't think of anything to write" or "don't care that much about anything."  Yeah, right!  I often wish I could point to something in a student's brain and say, "See?  You're interesting!  You think!  You notice things!  You have opinions!"  Now I can point to their writers' notebooks.  But how can I measure something as abstract as inspiration?  First, I put together a checklist of various inspirational categories I would like to see in my students' notebooks.  I then created page dividers for each of these categories:  fascinating words, inspirational quotes, sensory photos, etc.  Each divider has several examples so my students can get a good idea of what to look for in that category, and hopefully my examples will inspire them, as well!  I probably could have left it there, but I know some of my kiddos (especially the guys) will want a little direction as to the actual taping in of ideas, so I created a few cut-outs with space to write, as well as some comment cut-outs to eccentuate what they've found.  I think they turned out pretty well!

I can hardly wait for the school year to begin so I can descend upon my classroom with passion and inspiration, but until then -- happy planning it is!  (If you would like to see my student version in more detail, check it out in my TpT store!)

Happy Planning!

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