You don’t have to write, you get to write.

Nightly Writing Stats -- Two Writing TeachersAfter your students decorate their writer’s notebooks and you review your expectations, the notebooks go home.  This is exciting!  Who doesn’t love writing in a new notebook?!!? I’ll tell ya, there are plenty of students who aren’t enthralled with the idea of writing at home every night since they don’t think they have anything to say or because they’d rather be doing something else (e.g., sports, video games, texting).
Kelly Boland Hohne, of my section leaders at this past summer’s TCRWP writing institute suggested changing the way we talk about at-home writing. Her phrase will engage more students with the notion of writing beyond the classroom walls.  Instead of telling students, “you get to take home your writer’s notebook,” you can reshape it into “You don’t have to write, you get to write.”  Isn’t that a brilliant way of helping students understand that having the opportunity to write at night is a privilege rather than an assignment?
My former fourth and fifth grade students were expected to write at least one writer’s notebook entry (separate from any work they were doing on a draft) every night of the week, including weekends.  When it came to working with reluctant writers, I told parents they should write for ten minutes every night since I didn’t want my students to be in agony when they wrote.
The TCRWP recommends students write for 20 minutes per night.  Imagine if every one of your students “free wrote” for 20 uninterrupted minutes every night of the school year (excluding weekends).  That’s 3,600 hours of writing time over 180 days of the school year!  That kind of time investment will build students’ stamina for writing.  Add weekends into the mix.  If kids write for 20 minutes every night for all 36 weeks in a school year, that’s 5,040 hours of writing time outside of the school building!
Almost every school requires that students read nighly.  Why not provide students with the opportunity to write each and every night?  (NOTE: I believe this takes an investment from entire school communities from the students to the teachers to the administrators to the parents.)  If students write nightly, they should be able to write longer and stronger in writing workshop (and on standardized tests), their enthusiasm for writing will increase, and they will find the value in preserving their lives on the page.
So what should your students write about in their writer’s notebooks?
  • One of the largest topics covered here on TWT deals with writer’s notebooks. Click here for all writer’s notebook posts.  
  • Tara wrote about getting started with writer’s notebooks for our recent blog series. It contains lots of ideas for entry generation. Click here to read it now.
  • You can keep it simple and remind students that, according to author Deborah Wiles, stories come from three places:
  1. Brain {What you know (experience)}
  2. Heart {What you feel (how you feel about it)}
  3. Gut {What you imagine (making the meaning)}