Thursday, July 5, 2012

NKH - Chapter 2 (part 1)

Happy Thusrday, everyone! I hope you had an uber-enjoyable 4th of July holiday spent with those who are near and dear to you. I know I did! My friends and I spent our 4th of July at the ball park watching the Springfield Cardinals!. We also rocked out with Members Only (an 80's cover band) and were amazed by fireworks afterward.

As you all know I've been reading Notebook Know-How by Aimee Buckner. I just finished chapter 2 which focuses on "launching" the notebook in your writer's workshop. I thought I'd hit on some of the "ah-ha!" moments and some reflections I had while I was reading. There is so much going on in my head, I may need to break this post up into two parts!

I think one of the most powerful things Buckner does as a teacher is the intentional modeling of "living the life of a writer". She expects all of her students to use and maintain a writing notebook, so she uses and maintains one as well. She expects her students to write every day, so she is sure to make sure her students see her writing every day. I always knew modeling was an important part of instruction, but I never really gave any thought to writing in my own notebook in front of the kids. There are so many other things demanding my attention I really don't need something else monopolizing my time. However, it comes down to priorities. If I really want my students to become better writers and to live a writer's life, then I have to be the model for it. I also like how she writes notes about her students in her notebook. Not just academic notes, but also patterns/topics she sees in her students writing that will help inform her instruction later. 

I also love her use of literature in her writing lessons. This is a must, and again, this is something I need to do more of. It goes beyond simply reading the book and saying, "Oh this author is so wonderful! The words are great, and blah blah blah!" It's really digging deep into the book and trying to infer where the inspiration came from, the message the author is trying to make, and also analyzing the traits of good writing.

The next thing I loved about Aimee's use of notebook is that she asks the students to write from the front AND the back of their notebooks. At the back of the notebook, students take notes on lessons, try editing and revising strategies, and use it as a resource when they write independently. Students begin writing their daily, self-selected entries at the beginning of their notebook. This is something I never would have thought to try! To that end, students fill up their notebooks quickly and will need another before the school year is up. When it comes to organizing their notebooks, Aimee leaves it up to the kids. This is such a great way to empower students to take ownership for their own learning! 

Of course, some of our "precious ones" don't make it so easy on us. We've all heard this before: "But, Mr. B!!! I don't know what to write!!" Aimee provides teachers with a few strategies that will help students get their notebooks up & running, and to keep them writing. They are:
  • Storytelling - Not just writing a fiction story, but also includes narratives. Everyone has a story to tell!
  • History of a Name
  • Writing from a list
  • Questions - I want to share a quote about the purpose of this strategy because it really struck a chord with me. "The goal of this mini-lesson is to take one question or one thing they wonder about and try to think through it--to write what might possible be the answer or what thinking led them to this question in the first place." This is deep, meaningful learning here!
I could definitely go on with more from this part of the chapter, but I don't want to make this so long that it bores you. The next part of chapter 2 deals with helping students build writing stamina and fluency, which I will write about tomorrow. 

Thanks for reading and feel free to post your own thoughts and ideas in the form of a comment down below!


  1. I am so jealous of your patriotic 4th of July activity. My dad and I used to go to a 4th of July ball game every year...and then the dumb city of Portland thought we should have MLS instead of Baseball. No more Portland baseball.

    Chickadee Jubilee

    1. Laurie - Sorry to hear that! I don't really enjoy baseball unless I'm at a live game. And, this year was a huge step up from last year, because my wife and I both came down with some sort of weird stomach virus that totally put a damper on our July 4th plans. Hope your 4th was fantastic even if baseball wasn't included! :)