What is a Writer's Notebook?

What is a Writer's Notebook?

Good question! I was thinking the same thing when I first arrived at my new school. 
The 'official' notes I was given describe a Writer's Notebook as a book:
  • in which writers unpack individual ideas as seeds for writing and shape those ideas into a topic and text type,
  • designed to collect personal thoughts, ideas and observations,
  • that allows you the opportunity to explore topics of interest and passion,
  • where you can unpack your thinking explicitly by using graphic organisers,
  • that provides a structure to investigate and choose appropriate text types,
  • that supports you in making decisions about your writing because you have ownership of topics and text types,
  • that provides authentic assessment opportunities, as you are choosing a text type to suit your audience and purpose,
  • where you have the freedom to decorate the cover.

After reading all that, I felt that I understood the concept a little better. I tried my first Writer's Notebook lesson.

The seed I chose was a picture of Mothball, the wombat from Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French. 



The graphic organiser I chose was a describing circle. We unpacked the seed and thought of words to describe Mothball.

My 'Mothball' Describing Wheel

My intention was to start a class diary with our class wombat, Walter. Unfortunately, Term 1 rushed by so quickly that we weren't able to start it. I've got my fingers crossed that we can start this term. 
The students in my class will have the opportunity to take home Walter with a diary to describe his adventures in. In previous years, students have also drawn pictures of Walter and taken photos of his crazy antics. One student even took Walter to Cirque du Soleil with his family!

After that first attempt at Writer's Notebook I felt a little flat. Did I get the lesson right? Did the students achieve the learning outcomes? Hell, what were the learning outcomes?!? I set Writer's Notebook aside and focused on what I knew I could teach effectively.

Observing Writer's Notebook

My new teaching partner reignited my interest in Writer's Notebook yesterday. I had the opportunity to watch him as he presented the 'unpacking' of a seed. As we are focusing on Narrative writing and Fairy Tales, I chose a picture of a giant. It was fascinating watching him work the crowd (two Year 2 classes sat transfixed in front of him!) and really hone in on ideas from a simple picture.
I took notes while I watched him. I loved some of the things he said to them about Writer's Notebook:

"From the seed, an imagination tree will grow."
"It's a Writer's Notebook - which means anything you write will be RIGHT!" (I giggled at that one..)

We used a Y-chart to unpack the seed of the giant. My teaching partner showed everyone how to rule a Y-chart in their notebooks. He then proceeded to share some of his ideas on a large demonstration notebook.

Here is my Writer's Notebook:

My 'giant' Y-chart

After unpacking the seed, it is customary to do some form of writing on the right hand page. As our classes are still learning about Writer's Notebook, my teaching partner directed the form of the writing (narrative). As I understand it, the senior classes tend to unpack the same seed then select their own text type.

Don't laugh at my attempt at writing, usually Writer's Notebooks are very personal, and you have to ask permission to view someone's notebook. (Which is why I am using my own work and not one of the student's notebooks.)

My narrative response to the seed

Next week, I have the opportunity to observe another colleague teaching Writer's Notebook to the Year 2 Enrichment class. I am anticipating another fabulous lesson that I can base my teaching on.

Where to next?

My new teaching partner and I have scheduled time together to teach Writer's Notebook to both classes. After two lesson observations, I'm going to attempt to lead the next Writer's Notebook session to implement what I have learnt.

Have you ever used a Writer's Notebook with your students? Or are you like me, and have never heard of it? 

Thanks for visiting!

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