Writer’s Notebooks

Last week I had a conversation with a middle school teacher who has spent her summer studying writing workshop and is excited to make writer’s notebooks the backbone of her writing instruction. This is my tenth year as an instructional writing coach and I’ve had the opportunity to see teachers put notebooks in action hundreds of times.

The truth of the matter is the writer’s notebook doesn’t always become the backbone of writing workshop. Sometimes it becomes a rote writing journal. Sometimes it becomes a sketch book. Sometimes it becomes a place to “fake” write. Sometimes it is forgotten.

Yet teachers launch writer’s notebooks with the intention that they will become a purposeful and integral tool in helping students become more efficient writers. I’ve been thinking about ways notebooks become a lifeline for young writers. Here is a little list so far.

  1. The teacher keeps a notebook in real-time. The notebook is fresh and the writing is real, not words written years ago and not words to pretend to write.
  2. Students are empowered to use notebooks in personal and unique ways. Teachers give enough choice for young writers to learn how to make the notebook useful.
  3. The notebook shifts according to the needs of the genre, audience, or purpose. Teachers support writers by providing structure for notebook entries.
  4. Notebook work is a predictable, regular habit. Notebook work is a critical part of writing workshop and is returned to throughout the writing process and over the course of the school year.

Want to think more about the ways notebooks can become a lifeline to the writers in your classroom? Check out some of the posts Stacey & I have written over the years regarding writer’s notebooks. Notebook Know-How by Aimee Buckner is another great resource. You can preview her chapter about using the notebook to support editing, spelling, and punctuation online at Stenhouse. We’d love to hear from you about ways you help sustain the lifeline of notebooks in your classroom.