Just what are the kids writing in those notebooks?

Mrs. V. left the following comment yesterday:

“Thanks for your details. Could you tell me more about their idea notebook nightly assignment? What are the requirements and how do you assess it?

Also, about how much time in class are you able to spend on writing per week?”

My students have the same writing homework each and every night: “Write an entry in your Idea Notebook.” It’s pretty straightforward since we spent three-and-a-half weeks in September and another two-and-a-half weeks in January focusing on notebook writing. The open-ended nature of the nightly writing homework allows each student to write the type of piece s/he wishes to craft that evening. A child might write a poem one night, a slice of life story the next, and a memory the following evening. (Click here to learn more.)

I use a rubric, which I adapted from a checklist in the back of one of Carl Anderson‘s Books, which I worked on with my students this year. It assesses the students’ notebook writing for meaning, genre, structure, detail, voice, and conventions. There are 14 different items on the rubric for which students either receive a √ or an x. Some examples of items on the rubric are:

  • You communicated meaning in your writing.
  • You developed the heart of your story or wrote more in places that help a reader understand the meaning behind your writing.
  • You used a variety of sentence structures so your writing has voice and therefore sounds like you.
  • You wrote in paragraph or stanza form, which makes it easy for someone to follow your writing.

Notebooks are assessed, for each child, once a week on a designated day. If a student’s entries are undated or if they have less than five entries for the week, then their notebook is not assessed and they receive no points.

To answer Mrs. V’s last question, the children in my class have Writing Workshop four times a week. Each Workshop lasts between 45 – 60 minutes.

Finally, for more information about how I use notebooks in my classroom, click here.