Keeping a Class List of Writing Ideas: Discovering the Writer’s Life Blog Series


There are writing ideas everywhere.  Just yesterday, I snapped this picture of my youngest daughter chatting it up with an elderly gentlemen at the grocery store.


Do you see them there?  Sitting on the bench?  Something about the animated way they spoke and the hat he wore emboldened with NAVY made me think: I want to write about this.    

Because I live a writer’s life, I know ideas are everywhere. I know I have to write them down in my notebook or snap a picture or make a digital note, or I will lose my ideas forever.

We try to pass this habit along to our students by encouraging them to keep an ongoing list of writing ideas in their writer’s notebook.  In the beginning of the year students might be eager to make a long list of ideas.  How often, though, do they return to this list to add on?  The list which is meant to be dynamic and changing often becomes meaningless and unchanged as the months go on.

Kids need a model.  They need to see how a writer lives and thinks.  One way to do this is to keep a class list of writing ideas.

Let’s say you enter the classroom one morning to find a spider on the floor.  Eek!  You scream, all the kids scream, and chaos ensues.  After you have captured the eight-legged critter and restored a sense of calm, you say aloud to the class, “Wow, that would make a great story for someone to write.”  Add it to the list which hangs proudly by your classroom door.

As you introduce the math lesson on fractions, a particularly astute student asks, “Who invented fractions, anyway?”  You think to yourself hmmm, I don’t know.  The Egyptians? and then you say out loud, “I am not sure.  Let’s add it to our list of possible topics to explore in writing.”  You write “history of fractions” on the chart.

The kids pile in from recess, laughing and chattering.  As they settle into their seats, a few students retell the hilarious episode that just occurred outside on the playground.  It involved a swing, Jordan’s shoe, and good catch by one of the supervising teachers.  As the class continues to giggle, you walk over to the chart and write, “Jordan’s shoe mishap” on the chart.

Writing Ideas Chart

Click image to enlarge

Keeping a class list of writing ideas is not meant to replace individual student’s lists in their notebooks.  Rather it is to serve as a model for the class of how writers are always collecting ideas, always living the writer’s life.  Some students may choose to write about these topics, others may not.  However, everyone will benefit from seeing how writers collect ideas.

Discovering the Writing Life Twitter Chat


Please join us on Monday, February 8th for the Discovering the Writing Life Twitter chat. Use the hashtag #TWTBlog to join.  The chat begins at 8:30 EST.  We look forward to chatting with you on Monday.