In my last post, I wrote about my personal learning as I was reading about strategies to help in launching the writer's notebook. There was so much "meat" in this chapter, I decided to break it up into two parts. The first section helps teachers get their notebooks going in the classroom as well as equips students with strategies to keep them writing.
The second section of chapter 2 is dedicated to establishing student expectations with the notebook and how to help students build writing stamina & fluency. The first strategy Aimee Buckner gives us is something she calls Daily Pages. Daily Pages are done before writing workshop even begins and is oftentimes done as morning work. Students are required to write a full page about anything they want, but cannot skip lines, write with huge letters, and must contain at least 100 words. When I read this, I thought she had to be kdding, but she doesn't count the words and uses it to "impress" the kids. Inevitably, they deliver! I love this strategy because it allows students to just write about whatever and allows them to "take the trash out, to clear their minds. It's okay to spend the morning writing about nothing on the daily page, as long as you are ready to write during writing workshop (pg. 23)." I had to use this quote because I could not do it any better justice.
Another strategy we are not unfamiliar with is writing off literature. It goes without saying that writers need to be readers, and a lot of our inspiration for writing comes from reading literature. The next strategy is also familiar to us teachers: using observations. We all want our students to become exceptional writers and exceptional writers create vivid mind movies (my term for visualizations) by using our senses and painting those pictures for their audience. In short... show, don't tell. Other strategies include writing from a word and lifting a line. Writing from a word can be a fun activity because students (at first) choose any noun and just start writing about it. Lifting a line requires students go reread their notebooks and find a line from another piece of writing that can be used to generate a new piece of text. This leads me to the final strategy: Reread & Highlight.
This strategy is so simple, yet I think it's often overlooked. The students simply look and reread through their writer's notebook looking for things they think are interesting or noteworthy. If they find something, they highlight it and notate off to the side why they like it or why it is interesting. This becomes a launching point for a new piece of writing. They also reread their notebook in search of patterns and as a way to reflect on their learning and writing. This isn't something that can be done just once, but it must be reread often as "seed ideas tend to hide (pg. 29)".
Aimee also goes on to discuss setting expectations and procedures for their notebooks. She outlines what she expects from her students and what the students can expect from her during writer's workshop. One great idea I got from this was to have students fold over any entries they may not want me to read. It could be that it's too personal or maybe they had a bad morning and needed to vent in their notebook. Students are not penalized for this because she makes it clear that action will be taken if she thinks the student is being hurt by someone, will hurt someone else, or will hurt themselves. Folded entries also do not count toward their required weekly entries.
I'm only finishing the second chapter of the book and I'm already walking away with new knowledge and wisdom for my own writing instruction. I'm excited to try out these strategies and I love the way they are mapped out for you in the book. It's almost like I'm observing in her own classroom, and I love that about Aimee's writing.
Stay tuned for Chapter 3 - Kneading the Notebook. I wonder what I will learn next?!