aimee buckner · collecting · strategies · writing · writing workshop

Sharing a Notebook Lesson

Aimee Buckner’s Book, Notebook Know-How, is an excellent resource for providing kids with strategies for generating notebook writing. Since many folks who took our poll asserted that they wanted more info on units of study, I figured I’d post a minilesson of mine that is based off of Buckner’s Best and Worst Life Events Strategy. Here’s the minilesson:


TEACHING POINT: Writers use strategies to help craft small moment stories about their lives. One way to get started is by using the Seven Best and Four Worst Strategy.

MATERIALS: Writer’s notebooks, writing implements, clipboards (for students who desire them)

Here’s my list, which I show my kids:

Seven Best Life Events

  1. Walking into Jerusalem.
  2. Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time.
  3. The trip my mom and I took to look at Miami University in Ohio.
  4. All of my graduations (high school, college and graduate school).
  5. Being offered an internship at the White House and getting to meet the president.
  6. Getting engaged to Marc.
  7. My wedding day.

Four Worst List

  1. Having both of my grandfathers die just months before my Bat Mitzvah.
  2. Having my appendix removed.
  3. Being in a car accident while I was in college.
  4. Having an asthma attack on my 8th grade class trip and being taken to the hospital via ambulance.

CONNECTION: Writers, you’ve been doing an amazing job logging entries into your notebooks. I’m so proud of the volume of writing that has been going on in this class. I knew you had so much to say and I’m so glad that the idea notebooks have been helpful. Continue to use your idea notebook wherever you are and when you have something you want to write down. It’s so portable, which means you can continue to take it with you and write down all of the amazing ideas you’re having as you go through your daily life.

Today we’re going to try a strategy that good writers use to help them generate writing. A favorite strategy amongst writers, including myself, is to generate lists.

TEACHING: Lists focused around a common theme are an excellent tool to help you get started with your writing. When I can’t think about what to write about, I go back to my lists. You’ve already created some lists of things you can write about. However, I’d like you to watch me as I show you how I create a list. {This would be the point where you’d create your own seven best/four worst lists.}

    Demonstration: I recently made two lists in my writer’s notebook. One was called “Seven Best Life Events,” and the other was “Seven Worst” Life Events. I’m going to read both of my lists to you. As I’m reading them, I want you to listen to the way in which I recorded each item on the list.

    {Read both lists from writer’s notebook. Then, pick a couple of items to target and write some very precise sentences about. Just two sentences… otherwise the minilesson will run long.}

    Did you notice how I just wrote a phrase or two about each life event? I didn’t go into great detail. I put down just enough information to spark my memory so I could go back and refer to it in order to help me write a long entry in my writer’s notebook.

ACTIVE INVOLVEMENT {This is more like guided practice today since it’s longer than two minutes.}: Now it’s your turn to try it. Please open your notebook to the next clean page in the first section and write the date in the top right-hand corner. Then, in the center top of the page write “Best Life Events.” Now I want you to try to jot down the seven best things that ever happened to you. If you can’t think of seven amazing things, then just try to think of seven really good things. I’ll give you two minutes. Do the best you can. Students try it.

    Before we move on, I would like you to put a star next to anything on your list you feel you could write more about. (Give students 15 – 30 seconds to do this.)

    Now I’d like you to turn to the next page of your notebook and write today’s date (again) in the top right hand corner. Then, in the center top of the page write “Four Worst Events.” Now I want you to try to jot down the four worst things that have ever happened to you. I’ll give you another two minutes. Go ahead. Students try it.

    Please put a star next to anything on your list you feel you could write more about. (Give students 15 – 30 seconds to do this.)

    Look at all of the items you put a star near. When you write from a list it means to take an event or item from your list, write it on a new page in your notebook, then write the story behind it. And I know there’s a juicy story behind anything and everything that’s on your list.

{Ask anyone if they’d like to share, if you feel like the kids’ attention span is still there. They’ve been on the rug for a long time… making this minilesson not-so-mini. Therefore, use your best judgment at this point.}

LINK: So today I want you to try this. Choose something from either list and write an entry about it in the collecting section of your writer’s notebook. When you finish, you can repeat the same strategy or write about whatever else you wish.

Before you leave the rug, would you please create a plan of how you’re going to use your Workshop time today? What will you work on first, second, next, etc.? Your plan is your ticket off of the rug, so be sure to bring it to me before you head back to your writing spot. {Be a stickler for concrete, multi-step plans. This will make your Workshop run more smoothly.}

CONFERRING: Possible Writing Conference Teaching Points

  • Writers focus on small incidents.
  • Writers envision, then story tell, rather than summarize, starting by telling a small action that we did at the start of the envisioned story.
  • Writers write with specifics; so instead of saying “I played a game,” the writer names the game.
  • Writers include exact speech.
  • Writers punctuate as they write.
  • Writers write with paragraphs.
  • Writers stretch out the important sections of a story.

SHARE: Most likely a content share.

2 thoughts on “Sharing a Notebook Lesson

  1. Thanks for posting this. I really appreciate the reminder about plan boxes and the possible conferring points. What a good format to use for planning lessons! Every example makes it more concrete for me. Thanks again!


  2. Thank you so much for posting this. I am getting ready to teach this lesson, and you have put it into words so eloquently.. and in Calkins format!


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