Mardi Gras Beads, a Treasure Chest, and Notebooks

One of the best things about attending summer institutes hosted by the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project is meeting people from all over the country and the world.  This year, I landed up in a class with Kelly, who participated in the 2009 Slice of Life Story Challenge.  We spent the week working together in the class I took on non-fiction reading/writing connections.  I had lunch with teachers from Jakarta.  I chatted in the halls with teachers from as near as Brooklyn and as far away as Seoul.  Finally, I spent each afternoon, in James “Jim” Howe’s class, sitting at a table with two women from North Carolina and Wyoming and a man from Texas.

The four of us started talking about the ways in which we introduce writer’s notebooks to our students each fall during a short break Jim gave us.  The man from Texas, Russell Rhoades, blew me away with the way he presents his fifth graders with their writer’s notebooks each year.  I think it beats the way I’ve wrapped up my students’ notebooks in the past, which is why I wanted to share this Houston teacher’s way of handing out notebooks with you.

First, Russell buys a “treasure” chest from Hobby Lobby, which is a craft store.  Then, he fills the chest with Mardi Gras beads.  Before he places the notebooks inside of the chest, he includes quotes from Ralph Fletcher’s A Writer’s Notebook inside of them.  (Fletcher has quotes about notebooks being treasures.)  Then, he places the undecorated notebooks inside of the chest for the children in his class.  Finally, once each student picks out a notebook from the treasure chest, Russell gives each child the opportunity to decorate their notebooks with photographs and other items that make it uniquely theirs.

Do you have a unique way of presenting your students with their writer’s notebooks each fall?  It could be anything from serving them up on a silver platter to unpacking them from a suitcase (other people’s ideas, not mine).  Please share what you do for your kids with us!