Suggestions for Implementing Writer’s Notebooks

Sep 16, 2009 by

    • Try to provide a time for daily notebook writing.  A consistent time works best.
    • Do NOT assign  notebook writing as bell work.
    • Use bound notebooks rather than loose sheets of paper.  Do not allow students to tear pages out of their notebooks.
    • When first implementing notebook writing, begin each session with a modeled writing lesson on the overhead or chart paper.  You can gradually decrease (but not eliminate!) the frequency of modeled lessons.
    • Demonstrate various stages of writing for emergent writers: picture writing (drawing), scribble writing, random letters, temporary spelling, and conventional spelling. See Invitations by Regie Routman pp. 216-221 for an excellent explanation of how to introduce these stages to beginning writers.
    • Teach students how to select topics for notebook writing.  See Helping Students Choose Topics for ideas.
    • Always have students date each notebook entry (by writing it or using a date stamp).
    • Encourage students to cross out rather than erase their mistakes.  This keeps their thinking visible.
    • Allow emergent writers to use unlined paper.  Consider allowing them to use fine line markers instead of pencils.
    • Have students who are writing on lined paper skip lines.  This provides space for revision and editing.
    • Use the independent writing time to conduct individual writing conferences with students.  The conferences may be informal—simply walking from desk to desk to provide praise and support as needed.  Or they may be more formal conferences where the child meets you at a designated conference table to discuss his/her writing.
    • Transcribe the text of writers who are in the picture writing, scribbling, and random letters stages.
    • Provide a time for oral sharing at the end of each writing session.  It works best to have an assigned number of students share each day.  Students who do not wish to share may “pass.”
    • Collect notebooks periodically to monitor student progress.  Make note of skills and strategies that should be addressed during an individual writing conference or during a whole group mini-lesson.  Take anecdotal notes on student’s writing assessment and evaluation form.

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