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Throwback Week: A Peek Inside Dana’s Writer’s Notebook

 

THROWBACK WEEK ON #TWTBLOG

 

This week on Two Writing Teachers, we each chose another co-author’s previously published post to feature as part of our very own Throwback Week. I am kicking it off, with a great one, originally posted by Dana. Enjoy!

Winter break is coming soon, replete with its promise of snowy days spent sledding down hills or curled up inside, watching the world turn white. Or, for those lucky enough to live or visit a warm climate, it is a chance to fuel up on vitamin D and long days outdoors. Winter break is a time for all of us, students and teachers alike, to stop and catch our collective breaths. It is a time for us to enjoy family, traditions, and good eats. Winter break can also be a wonderful time, for students and for teachers, to actually get some writing done. 

In August, Dana gave us a peek inside her writer’s notebook. She shared a host of strategies she uses to generate ideas and to sketch out possibilities. This year, consider sending kids off to winter break with an armload of tips and goals set for ways they can spend some quality time with their writer’s notebooks. And, consider trying some of these strategies yourself!

I have a date with my writer's notebook during the break.
I have a date with my writer’s notebook during the break.

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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.

Anna Gratz Cockerille View All

Anna is a staff developer, literacy coach, and writer, based in New York City. She taught internationally in places such as Sydney, Australia; San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and Auckland, New Zealand in addition to New York before becoming a staff developer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University (TCRWP). She has been an adjunct instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College, and teaches at TCRWP where she helps participants bring strong literacy instruction into their classrooms. Anna recently co-wrote Bringing History to Life with Lucy Calkins, part of the 2013 series Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing (Heinemann). She has been a researcher for Lucy Calkins, contributing especially to Pathways to the Common Core (Heinemann, 2012) and Navigating Nonfiction (Heinemann, 2010).

7 thoughts on “Throwback Week: A Peek Inside Dana’s Writer’s Notebook Leave a comment

  1. Dana, that would a great post–I get that question all the time–how to manage taking the notebooks home. Loved that you shared your notebook in this blogposts and that Anna re-shared it–I missed it the first time around.

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  2. Thanks for this post Dana. I love that you mention there is no right or wrong way just endless possibilities, I think this is so true, I paint in mine with watercolours, it helps me with the emotional side of writing, it’s really basic sketching stuff really. I have been wanting to ask this question for a while and now seems the right time. I am wondering how teachers get the kids to bring their writers notebooks to and from school everyday. I know I have time set aside each day for the kids to use these books and I want them to take them home but am not sure how to do this successfully. Do other teachers have trouble with lost and missing WNB’s. Whathappens if kids don’t bring them to school sometimes, ever??? I would be so appreciative of any tips and tricks as I really think they should have them with them all of the time. We are on Christmas holidays now until end of Jan but I would really like to start this routine off well at the beginning of the new school year. Thank you 🙂

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    • This is a great question. In our district, we do let our kids take them home. I am not sure I have any surefire answers for you, but it is a common dilemma. I will blog about this when we return from our Winter Break.

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  3. I love your bulletin board idea. I have been wondering what I can display outside my room other than just final drafts of essays. But I think an even more interesting display would be of the students pre-writing processes, particularly if they are encouraged to use graphical and colorful representations of their thoughts. Thank you for the inspiration!

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