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notebooks: make ’em work for you!

What a great discussion Stacey got started about writer’s notebooks. To see it, read her post One Notebook or Many? (as well as others since, click here). I’ve been thinking a lot about notebooks this week too. It is one of the basics of writing workshop and essential for us, as teachers of writing, to keep. It’s one of the reasons Stacey & I post entries from our notebooks.

Like Stacey I have many notebooks. And this is okay. It’s been through keeping notebooks and trying new formats that I’ve found what works for me and what doesn’t. Trying a variety of approaches has also allowed me to have samples to show students. Then they can envision their own notebook format.

The important thing about a notebook isn’t how it’s organized. The important thing is that it makes a place for you to want to write regularly. Here’s the run down of my notebooks:

Composition Books — I love the composition books for the notebook I keep with my students. I love creating a collage on the front. And I love making secret pockets inside. I use this notebook to try-out everything I ask students to do. So, if they have daily homework, so do I. I glean focus lesson material & confer straight from this notebook.

Tabbies — One year I used a hard back, faux leather notebook & included tabs. My tabs went like this: Lists, Words, Quick Writes, Books, Stuff. My favorite tab was STUFF. It was fun the ephemera that emerged there.

Creative Inspiration — I keep a notebook dedicated to stuff that inspires my creativity. I collect magazine ads, photos, wrappers, tags, colors, textiles — anything and everything that makes me want to create. Stuff that is appealing to my eye. Sometimes I paint in this notebook. Sometimes I use markers that bleed through. Sometimes I write favorite words. This is a notebook with no rules — a place simply to let loose and create. It is an important part of my creative process.

Fancy Notebooks — You know, the ones that are special and totally cool. I have quite a collection of these. For awhile, I’d buy one that I just loved and then I wouldn’t write in it — I felt like I had to have something special to say . . . and I never knew if what I would write would be worthy to fit in these notebooks. That’s when I moved to the composition notebooks. I’ve evolved and am happy to say I’m ready for these totally cool notebooks. I’m ready to use them to record my everyday musings and I know that my life is worthy to be recorded in these fancy notebooks. In fact, as a tribute to the creative gains I’ve made this summer, I’m going to use one of these fancy notebooks for my classroom work this year. My 10 year old niece gave me one for Christmas and I used it for the personal essay unit I helped teach last year. That’s the notebook I’m going to continue using this school year. I hope it’s filled before Christmas. It’s teal and orange and it has sparkles. Completely worthy for my daily notebook entries. (Nice switch, eh — the notebook is worthy of my life . . . not the other way around!)

Good Happy Life Blog — This is the place I collect the everyday stuff that is happening in my personal life. Sure it’s not a traditional writer’s notebook, but it works for me — even better than a traditional one. I like that everything is dated and I know when it’s been too long since I’ve written. Currently, for instance, it’s been too long, way too long, since I’ve collected the stories of our lives. I know I’ll need to write tonight. I love the label feature. And I like how I take what’s there and create drafts to use in the real world. It’s a writer’s notebook that I think many of our “digi” kids would love.

Will you post a comment & share how you make your writer’s notebook work for you?

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

4 thoughts on “notebooks: make ’em work for you! Leave a comment

  1. Oh yeah — Jen, you reminded me I also have a notebook with just teaching ideas & things I’m learning. There’s another one. Plus I have a notebook that I keep professional writing ideas. They (writer’s notebooks) are piling up all around.

    And like you, I’m not overwhelmed by it. In fact, having different kinds of notebooks leads to my writing ideas being more organized.

    Stacey — I hope your arm hasn’t fallen off yet from all that recopying. It’ll be a nice tool to use when you have it all done. 🙂


  2. I am that type of person who likes to keep my thoughts in various spaces… so I have 4 notebooks! One is for my personal thoughts, ideas,etc. I am very random with it, no order just whatever I am thinking. I have a NB for teachers ideas. All of my thought on various mini-lessons, units of study, & other things I want to try out in the classroom go there. The third NB would be my school notebook. I am going to try Stacey’s notebook approach by tabbing my units of study to keep it organized and on hand for conferring with my treasures. The last would be my reading NB. Here I put my thoughts on stories, various strategies I have tried that I want my students to try this year as well, etc…..
    I often wonder if it is too many, however, I am not overwhelmed by it and it keeps me focused, cause lord only knows that I need it!


  3. I have a magnet that says “I’d give up chocolate, but I’m no quitter.” Hence, please realize that I won’t be quitting the recopying anytime soon, but boy is it getting tiresome!!! It’s a lot of work… you were right Ruth. I should’ve listened to you.


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