Writerly Life

Gathering Notebook Entries

The writer’s notebook is at the core of any writer’s workshop in the upper grades. We use writer’s notebooks because it emulates the way many professional writers gather, store and nurture ideas for their published text. In writing workshop, notebooks are used as a tool to store ideas. Notebooks are “living” in that they can constantly be written in and referred back to as writers develop a piece or think about something new to write. They are an integral component of writing instruction in the upper primary and middle grades. Teachers should keep in mind that a writer’s notebook is a container for the writer’s thinking. Ralph Fletcher helps us understand what a writer’s notebook is in the following quote. “What is a writer’s notebook, anyway? Let’s start by talking about what it’s not. A writer’s notebook is not a diary:’Today it is raining. We have a substitute teacher named Miss Pampanella. She seems very nice We are going to have gym right before lunch.’ It’s not a reading journal in which your teacher tells you to summarize the main idea of a book, or write a letter to a character. A writer’s notebook is different from any journal you’ve ever kept before… a writer’s notebook gives you a place to live like a writer, not just in school during writing time, but wherever you are, at any time of day.”

Try It:

If you don’t already have a writer’s notebook of your own, you should start one now, and practice using it as you continue to read about the Writerly Life unit. Get a composition notebook and decorate it. Then choose a strategy from the possibilities for notebook entries handout below and make an entry into your notebook.

On the links below you will find many lesson ideas and resources for teaching students about keeping a writer’s notebook.

In the video below author Mary Amato demonstrates how she uses her writer’s notebook. This video could be shown to your class to help them understand how writers use notebooks to store their thinking.


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