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A Peek Inside My Writer’s Notebook

The bulletin board I made for the hallway
The bulletin board I made for the hallway

During the first few weeks of school, many teachers graciously invite me into their classrooms to launch writer’s notebooks.  I love talking to kids about the purpose of a writer’s notebook.  We discuss what a writer’s notebook is (a place to collect ideas, to remember words, to take risks) and what a writer’s notebook isn’t (a journal, a sketchbook.)  Then, I usually give the kids a peek inside my own writer’s notebook.  Wanna see?

Sometimes, I make lists in my notebook:

A list of possible memoir ideas
A list of possible memoir ideas

Sometimes, I draw a quick sketch in my notebook:

A sketch of my childhood home
A sketch of my childhood home

I made that sketch when I was beginning a memoir about my childhood doll.  I was trying to bring back as many memories of her as I could, so I sketched out my childhood home and thought about all the different things I did with my doll when I was younger.

Sometimes, I just want to get my thoughts out, unsure of what will become of them:

Some random thoughts
Some random thoughts

I wrote those thoughts as my daughter’s second birthday approached.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write.  You can see in the upper right hand corner I was questioning, “Do I write her a letter?  Write an essay?  Maybe a poem?”  I never did write anything, but I am so glad I saved those thoughts on paper.  I know I will need them someday.

Sometimes, I make a timeline of events if I am writing a story…

A timeline of events from a childhood mishap
A timeline of events from a childhood mishap

…and then I zoom-in on each event from the timeline:

A zoom-in of one my events from the timeline
A zoom-in of one my events from the timeline

Sometimes, I see a text that inspires me.  If I can, I copy it into my notebook:

Notebook Newspaper
This writer made a simple list of “9 things I like”

Then, I will try it out myself:

My list of 9 things I like
My list of 9 things I like

Sometimes, I develop a character in my notebook:

Thinking through my character's internal and external features
Thinking through my character’s internal and external features

Thinking through characters before I write always adds depth to my writing.

Sometimes, I collect words:

A list of words to use in my historical fiction piece
A list of words to use in my historical fiction piece

This is only a small peek into my writer’s notebook.  There are loads of other entries (writing long, webs, favorite lines, visual note-taking, etc).  Giving the kids a peek inside my own writer’s notebook shows them there is no “right” way to keep a notebook.  There are endless possibilities.

It works every time.  The kids are always eager to leave the carpet area and start writing in their very own writer’s notebooks.

Dana Murphy View All

Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer

8 thoughts on “A Peek Inside My Writer’s Notebook Leave a comment

  1. I really enjoyed this peek into your notebook! Thanks for sharing all you do via this blog! Question: Do you consider this blog a portion of your writer’s notebook? If so, how do you decide what you will write in the notebook and what you will post on this (or another) blog? What are your thoughts about students making the shift from the paper notebook to a digital blog? How would you encourage student blogging? Looking forward to hearing!

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    • Hi, Karen – great questions. This blog is separate from my writer’s notebook. What I write on this blog is in final, edited, publish-able form. In my notebook, I collect ideas, plan, and play around with my writing. I don’t ever actually draft in my notebook. When I’m ready to write a draft, I usually use Evernote (or Microsoft Word or Google docs… some kind of digital platform). I often plan the posts for this blog in my notebook by keeping lists of ideas or brainstorming ideas for a blog post. I hope that makes sense and answers your question.

      It would be the same for students. They would use a writer’s notebook to collect ideas, brainstorm, and think through their writing. They could then blog the finished pieces. Here are two great posts on student blogging to get you started: https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/guestblogcornwell/
      and
      https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/blogs-microblogs/

      Hope that helps – feel free to email me with any other questions!

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  2. This is the best post I have read in a long time, simply because it is a push to get me to use my notebook more. It is hard to use my own notebook with my students, when my entries and ideas are so sporadic. I don’t always “practice what I preach.” Thanks for giving us peek inside your writing place.

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