Advertisements

Window Shopping and Writer’s Notebooks

IMG_2848While thumbing through a Pottery Barn catalog, I paused to appreciate a navy gallery wall. Inky prints, gold frames, and brass hardware framed an assortment of images, below them designer Ken Fulk wrote, “When creating a gallery wall, I like layering different objects…paintings and photographs together; it tells a wonderful story.” I looked at the images, trying to decipher the story these antlers, ivory boats, dogs, and pencil sketches communicated. To be honest, I have no idea what he was going for, but I ripped out the page anyway, taped it into my writer’s notebook and started writing around it: “What story would our own gallery walls tell?” “What is your story?”

These are the questions I want my students to answer, and bit-by-bit their stories unravel. But all too often the process of answering these questions through writing intimidates them. In turn, one of the first activities we did this year to establish classroom culture involved designing and decorating our writer’s notebook covers. In the past I had students create inspiration page collages on the inside of their notebooks, but these were hidden and personal. They didn’t distinguish one’s self or serve as a conversational piece between peers. These images, which could serve as gallery walls for my students, were tucked away.

Student notebooks ready for writing.

Student notebooks ready for writing.

In turn, this year I stocked my classroom with scrapbook paper, patterned tape, and stickers. I lined tables with butcher paper and allowed for the messy process of gluing and cutting and painting. Together, my class sat listening to music and chatting about TV shows, cars, sports, summer vacations, and the scary transition between middle and high school. While this artistry and expression is typically celebrated at the elementary level, I encounter few secondary teachers who value setting aside class time for these collages. Some of my colleagues use it as a homework assignment, but I love how blocking out one class period and allowing for exploration becomes an icebreaker in and of itself. After all, these interactions mirror the same writing process students will engage in as they begin filling their notebooks and sharing the stories of their images.

Today we’ll circle around the classroom, sharing our notebooks with each other and highlighting one meaningful aspect of our covers. This activity is low stakes and comfortable; they have a choice in how much or how little information they provide. Hopefully they’ll find that these collages are snapshots in time of who

we are, reminders of what we value, and visual hopes for who we’ll become. I know this because as we sit in a circle, I will share, for the first time, the cover I created in 8th grade when I was caught between childhood and adulthood, the cover from 11th grade when I thought I wanted to be a journalist, and the cover from my junior year of college when I left on a great adventure to study abroad in Ireland. In the end, we’ll take a great leap forward in beginning our process of sharing who we are through words and images.

My notebook covers through the ages: 8th grade (far left), 11th grade (middle), junior year of college (far right).

My notebook covers through the ages. 8th grade (far left), 11th grade (middle), junior year of college (far right).

Advertisements

Tagged: , , , , , ,

6 thoughts on “Window Shopping and Writer’s Notebooks

  1. […] of all, and you probably already know this:  it’s hugely important to have students personalize their notebooks.  So during that first week of school, my kids will be using scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, […]

    Like

  2. […] writing community centered on a writer’s notebook for play and practice, frequent revision, and constant talk about […]

    Like

  3. […] setting up our sections and collage-ing our notebooks to personalize them, as Jackie describes here.  I’ll do this alongside my students, adding ultrasound pictures and magazine cutouts to […]

    Like

  4. […] more time to have students decorate their notebooks, really take ownership of them. I love how Jackie setup collage stations and took the time for this with her students. Students care more about their notebooks when they […]

    Like

  5. jackiecatcher September 9, 2015 at 6:33 pm Reply

    Thanks Shana! We had a fantastic day today and it was so much fun seeing what students came up with. We had quite a few phenomenal notebook covers. My writer’s club got a kick at looking at my old notebook covers.

    Like

  6. shanakarnes September 9, 2015 at 4:52 am Reply

    I love the idea of creating gallery walls on notebook covers. It’s such an interesting idea to layer photos and objects to create a story…your students will have inspiration from each individual photo for their writing, and from the collective meaning created by all those images together.

    So powerful for you to share your own notebook covers, illustrating not just that you walk the talk, but that you’ve been keeping notebooks for years and will continue to do so.

    Like

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: