Launching Minilesson: Writer’s Notebook Unit of Study

I head back to school tomorrow. I am starting a new unit of study in both Reading and Writing Workshop (nonfiction and notebook writing, respectively). Hence, I thought I’d share my first Writing Workshop Minilesson of the new year about the multiple purposes writers have for using writer’s notebooks.

Minilesson Teaching Point: Writers understand there are multiple purposes for using a writer’s notebook.

Connection: Throughout my childhood I kept a diary on-and-off. A few years ago I came across some of the diaries I kept and realized they had different purposes at different times in my life. When I was in fourth grade, I used to write about my friends, who I liked and didn’t like, and about the things I’d do at recess. However, when I reread some of the diaries I kept in high school, I noticed that the pages were filled with records of my days from morning until evening. I’d often zoom-in on one part of my day when I wrote, but I always, for some reason, made sure to record what happened during the other parts of the day too, even if it was insignificant. I don’t recall why I felt the need to write down the trivial things that happened to me in a given day, but for some reason, I felt compelled to write down everything when I was 16 and 17 years old. I kept a diary on-and-off throughout my 20’s, but writing down the events of the day seemed to get, well, old (after a while)

By the time I reached my late 20’s, I stopped keeping a diary and started keeping a writer’s notebook. I began keeping a writer’s notebook because I wanted to work on the craft of writing. Instead of just writing about my entire day, like I did in my diary as a kid, I decided that it was time to improve my writing by trying to write with precision and clarity. Therefore, today I want to teach you that writers understand that there are multiple purposes for using a writer’s notebook.

Teaching: When I write in my writer’s notebook, I rarely sit down and write in the same place every day. In fact, I like to take my notebook with me so I have it whenever there’s something I wish to write about when I’m on-the-go. I’ve been known to write in the car (not while I’m driving!), in a park, at the mall, and in a variety of other places. I do this because I have become a careful observer of the world. I watch people and the way they react to things. And then, I write those things down. Sometimes those entries just stay in the notebook and other times I weave my observations of others into poems or short stories I write.

Keeping a writer’s notebook has allowed me to have greater flexibility with the types of writing I do. Unlike a diary where people usually write about their day, my writer’s notebook has been a place for me to experiment with lots of different genres of writing, such as memoir, personal narrative, fiction, and poetry. It’s important for writers to try to write in a variety of genres… it’s what makes your writing muscles stronger. Therefore, my writer’s notebook has become a safe place for me to do this. It’s within the safety of the pages of my notebook that I can try writing in poetic verse without anyone judging how good or bad it is.

Further, when I have ideas for an article I’m writing, I often nurture my piece in my writer’s notebook. My notebook is a place where I can try phrasing sentences in a variety of ways, until I’m satisfied with how they sound. It’s also a place where I can play around with a variety of introductions and conclusions.

Did you notice that I have multiple purposes for writing in my notebook? I use it on-the-go to capture ideas I don’t want to forget or observations of other people. I also write in a variety of genres in my writer’s notebook so that I keep my writing fresh. Additionally, I nurture articles I write professionally in my writer’s notebook. So, as you see, there are a variety of ways I use my writer’s notebook.

Active Engagement: So now it’s your turn to think about the purpose behind using a writer’s notebook. Would you stop and think about some of the reasons you, as a writer, use a notebook. (Give ~15 seconds of wait time.) Would you turn and tell your partner what purposes you have for using your writer’s notebook. (Students do this for 1-2 minutes. Then, share out popcorn style.)

Link: So writers, today and every day, I want you to remember that your writer’s notebook is a place where you can record memories about the past, aspirations for the future, and detailed entries about your present. Your notebook can and should have a variety of different types of genres of writing. It should be a place where you try out new techniques and strategies, a place where you react to the world around you, and also a spot for you to grow thinking about your life. Your notebook can be used for all of these things because, as you’ve learned today, writers use their notebooks with multiple purposes.

You’ll have about 25 – 30 minutes to write and then I’ll invite a couple of kids I confer with to share their writing. How will you use your writer’s notebook today? Would you create a plan box that show’s me how you’ll use your independent writing time today? C’mon up and show it to me before you leave the rug.

Mid-Workshop Interruption: TBD

Share: Process Share; Hand-out matchbook notepads for on-the-go writing at the end of the share session.

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Notes: My Mid-Workshop Interruption will most likely be about my new online writer’s notebook, which will be a rationale for the reason I have tiny matchbook notepads in my purse, in my car, and in other spots of my life so that I can always write on-the-go when I have an idea and my computer is not within reach (or I don’t have the time to write a full-blown entry). I made each of my students a couple of matchbook notepads for this purpose. I’ll be handing them out at the end of the share session.