Ideas for Writing in a Writer’s Notebook Based on information from: A Writer’s Notebook, Unlocking the Writer Within You By: Ralph Fletcher
What is a Writer’s Notebook? A writer’s notebook is not a diary! Writers react. Writers need a place to record these reactions. That’s what a writer’s notebook is for. It gives you a place to write down what makes you angry or sad or amazed, to write down what you noticed and don’t want to forget. A writer’s notebook gives you a place to live like a writer.
Unforgettable Stories What moves you? Whenever you hear a story that stirs something inside of you, take out your notebook and write! Look for stories that inspire, fascinate, fill you with wonder. What stories keep tumbling through your mind even when you try not to think of them?
Fierce Wonderings Pay attention to what haunts you, what images or memories keep running around in your mind even when you try not to think about them. What do you wonder about? Explore these questions in your notebook.
Writing Small Use the writer’s notebook to jot down the important little details you notice or hear about. Details make writing come alive! You can train yourself to notice the details around you. Use all of your senses. Reread your notebook and look for places where you are using vague, general words. What other words could you use???
Seed Ideas A writer’s notebook is just like an incubator: a protective place to keep our infant idea safe and warm, a place to grow while it is too young, too new to survive on its own. In time you may decide to go back to that idea, add to it, change it, or combine it with another idea. Don’t expect the seeds to sprout immediately. A writer needs patience.
Mind Pictures Pay attention to your world. Drink in the world through your five senses. Use your notebook to capture mind “photographs” you take of the world around you. Collect mind pictures wherever you are: the city sidewalk, YMCA, church, train station, pet store. Use all your senses. Try to describe as carefully and honestly as you can.
Dreams Get into the habit of writing down dreams before they leave you. Your notebook can work as an alarm clock to remind you to wake up and pay attention to what’s happening in your world, both inside and out.
Snatches of Talk Writers are fascinated by talk, obsessed with what people say and how they say it, how they interrupt themselves, the words they repeat, the way they pronounce or mispronounce certain words. The way we talk says as ton about who we are. Notebooks can be filled with dialogue. Learn to listen wherever you go.
Lists Many writers keep lists: favorite books, movies to see, ideas for all sorts of writing projects. Keep a section in your notebook for your favorite words, unusual words, new words, and remarkable words. Listing facts is one of the best ways to brainstorm about a subject that interests you.
Memories Memories just may be the most important possession any writer has. Our memories shape what we write. As a writer, you need to connect yourself with your own unique history. When you explore memories in your writing, pay attention to the feelings connected to it. Exploring a memory includes looking into not only what happened but also how it affected you then, and how it affects you know.
Writing that Inspires The notebook can work as a scrapbook to collect important relics from your life. You can also use your notebook as a different sort of scrapbook, a place to gather writing that inspires you. Use your notebook as a container to hold all the beautiful writing you collect.
Rereading: Digging Out the Crystals How do you separate crystal from dull rock? Reread and sift out the most valuable pieces, bits that spark your own original writing. Ask yourself: What seems interesting/intriguing? What stuff do I care about? What ideas keep tugging at me? What seems bold and original? Reread. Look for seeds. Look for sparks.
Final thought about what a notebook is from fifth grader, Briana Carlin. A notebook is where you keep dew drops from a dew drop morning. It’s where the sun sets. It’s the wind in your face at the beach looking out over the water. A notebook is where you’re playing with your dog. It’s where you have dreams about walking on rainbows. It’s where the good feelings and the bad feelings spend the night.
Over time in a writing workshop I hope to see students developing... • Sense of self as writers • ways of reading the world like writers, collecting ideas with variety, volume, and thoughtfulness • as members of a responsive, literate community • ways of reading texts like writers, developing a sense of craft, genre, and form in writing • a sense of audience, and an understanding of how to prepare writing into the world From: The Writing Workshop, by Katie Ray
What tone looks like and sounds like... • What’s on the walls and hanging around the room? • Look at the geography of the room. Does this look like a place where I am supposed to work with other students or where I should stick to myself? • Look to see where the teacher is in the room. Is she/he out where the students are, teaching alongside them while they work? • Look around to see what materials are in the room.
Look to see how neat or how cluttered the room is. • What kind of talk is going on in the room? • When the teacher talks, is it loud and direct like she/he thinks no one really wants to listen anyway? • What kinds of questions does the teacher ask his/her students? • Does the teacher’s response to his/her students show that he/she was really listening to them? • Watch to see how students carry on in the classroom.
Keep an eye on the clock. How is time used in the classroom? • Look at what students are working on in their writing. • Ask a student to tell you about writing workshop in the class. Does the student understand what this time is for? From: The Writing Workshop, by Katie Ray
Notebook Checklist • Keep your notebook with you at all times. • Date every entry. • Do not skip pages. • All drawings should have writing with them. • Number the pages. • Write daily. • Vary your topics. • Care for your notebook. • Make sure there is evidence of what you’re learning in your notebook.
Application/Homework Write in your writer’s notebook. Share your notebook writing experiences with your students. Bring a book to the next staff development meeting that you used to teach notebook/folder writing. Be prepared to share with your colleagues how you used the book to teach an aspect of writing.