- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students need examples of notebook writing to feel comfortable writing it themselves. A big blank page can be intimidating for students who are not given any structure to follow. Here's how to offer the guidance and confidence they'll need!
- View models of notebook writing
- Gain an understanding of what kind of writing goes in a notebook
- Begin notebook writing
- Transparencies of pages from Amelia's Notebook, Max's Logbook, and your own notebook samples
- Chart paper and markers
- Individual notebooks for each child
- Notebook decorating supplies
Set Up and Prepare
- Make all the transparencies beforehand.
- If you don't keep a notebook yourself, write a few pages of what would be in a notebook. (It is important for students to see unpublished notebook writing.)
Step 1: Discuss with students: now that we know more about where writers get their ideas and why writers write, we are going to look at WHAT writers write.
Step 2: Display the book Amelia's Notebook, and explain that it is a published book that is just like a person's notebook. Describe how they will all be getting their own notebook this year and filling it with all types of writing. But what goes into a notebook?
Step 3: Show a transparency from any page of Amelia's Notebook on the overhead projector. Read through it as a class, noticing what she is writing about.
Step 4: Discuss any observations made: Amelia writes about her feelings, thoughts, wonderings. Amelia uses little pictures with labels to explain her writing, but there is more writing than illustration. Amelia writes about what she wishes or hopes for; Amelia writes about her new ideas, etc.
Step 5: Begin a class chart with all the observations students make from one or two pages of Amelia's Notebook.
Step 6: Use the rest of writing time to allow the students to decorate their notebooks. Don't write in them yet—let anticipation build!
Step 7: For the next few days, continue mini-lessons modeling notebook writing from Amelia's Notebook, Max's Logbook, and your own notebook. (This may be uncomfortable, but it makes a difference for the students to know that you write too!) Follow these lessons with additional chart observations and notebook decorating.
Step 8: By now, your students are itching to write! Don't give them any prompts of what to write about. Remind them that they have charts describing ideas that Amelia and Max used, where authors get their ideas, and their own thoughts from the worksheet in the previous lesson. It will be difficult for some students in the beginning, but allow them to try and they will eventually succeed. Just write.
Step 9: Assign notebook writing for homework and allow it during classroom time. The students should write every day!
Supporting All Learners
This can be very challenging in the beginning for some students. Some really need a guide to tell them what to write about, and this type of freedom can be scary. Make sure your expectations for your different students are varied. They certainly aren't all going to be filling up pages in September. Keep their different abilities in mind, and assign them different goals based on their abilities.
This is only the beginning! Notebook writing can serve as a tool for your Writer's Workshop throughout the year. The ideas that the students gather in their notebooks can be used as a springboard into any writing piece. Whether you are teaching personal narrative, poetry, nonfiction, or any other genre, these ideas can help fuel the initial steps.
You can explain the notebook process at Back-to-School Night or in a letter to parents. They should be aware that this is very open and free writing. This is just a place for students to get down ideas, not worry about spelling or grammar. Assure parents that you will cover spelling, grammar, and structure lessons throughout the year.
- Daily notebook writing
Ask questions of yourself and the lesson:
- What went well?
- What didn't?
- Are the students still really struggling to write?
- How can you continue to model throughout the year to alleviate the writing stress?
- How could you change the lesson to better suit the needs of your class?
- Ask questions and observe class discussions.
- I read the notebooks regularly to see what the students write every day. This is an extremely differentiated writing progress, so as long as they show constant growth, I am satisfied.