Our students spend a lot of their independent writing time working in writer’s notebooks. They use the notebooks to collect ideas, to play with language, and to take risks they might not otherwise take in a rough draft. As a district, we have experimented with several ways to get students’ writing out of the notebooks and into a draft. This is one of those ways.
During a unit on memoir writing, the 4th graders made numerous entries in their writer’s notebooks over the course of several weeks. They made lists of possible topics.
They tried out several different types of leads.
They practiced writing similes.
They practiced writing dialogue.
They made a timeline of the event and wrote a little about each part.
After writing several entries around their topic, they were ready to create a draft of their memoir. They looked through their notebook entries, mining them for usable pieces. They circled and starred the bits of writing which they thought they might use in a draft. The classroom teacher and I took the stack of writer’s notebooks to the copy room and copied the relevant pages from each student’s notebook.
The students cut apart their notebook entries and pieced them together to create a draft.
As students began piecing together their entries, we noticed gaps in their stories – places where the writing was not fully developed in the writer’s notebook. We noticed spots that lacked detail or needed a transition sentence or two. For this purpose, we had blank scraps of paper available for students to add and revise their writing as they went. So, some of the writing in the draft was from the writer’s notebook, while some was “new” writing that was added during the drafting process of cutting and taping.
The classroom teacher and I were pleased with the finished memoirs. We agreed that this process was time-consuming and would not be used for every writing unit. However, it was a great scaffold for the beginning of the year. Throughout this process, students experienced, in a very tangible way, how to go from notebook to draft. Students saw that only bits and pieces of notebook writing might be used in a draft. Students read and reread their drafts to find gaps in their writing and filled in the gaps as they drafted. This turned out to be a wonderful lesson in revision. Students thought about where to insert dialogue or a simile.
Students used the cut-and-tape method as one way to move out of their notebooks and into their drafts. Through this process, they learned to make choices as writers.
Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer