Try It Tuesday: 7 Ways to Shake Up Notebooks

October is nearing its end, and you know what that means…’tis the season of needing inspiration! The back-to-school spark of fierce, creative lesson planning has ended, and now we’re all just praying Thanksgiving gets here ASAP.

So, if you’re getting a little worn out from reading the same-old same-old genres in your writer’s notebooks, try these seven ways to shake them up.

Write down the language you hear around you.  From quotes in independent reading books to funny things our friends say, the act of noticing language helps us think like writers and expand our linguistic repertoires.


Annotate a booktalk.  Instead of a focused craft study, or a question-and-response to a booktalk, try just taping it into your notebook and noting what stands out.  This, too, helps build the skill of reading like writers.


Write in someone else’s notebook.  Shake up page after page of your own handwriting by switching notebooks with someone else when responding to a prompt.  Here, my friend Bethany wrote in my notebook as we wrote about invoking wonder.


Try beautiful note-taking.  Sometime, somewhere, everyone needs to just jot down some notes…whether it’s in for readings from a class or in a staff meeting, try to beautify those notes with some doodles or colors.


Attempt some literary analysis.  I love the classics, and I bet many of you do too–but sometimes we beat their beauty to death when we spend hour after hour analyzing them with our students.  Try pasting in a page of whatever you’re reading and just responding to how amazing the writing is.


Jot down fun vocabulary words.  I love to note down both words that I don’t know and words that I just love, with no pressure to define them or use them in a sentence.  It helps me notice wordplay and attempt it myself.


Paste in things you’d like to remember.  It’s too easy to throw keepsakes in boxes or delete emails that flatter us…so glue them into your notebook and flip back through when you need a lift.


Shaking up notebooks in these seven ways will help your students curate a scrapbook of sorts–a place to return to and look back at long after it’s been filled up and the year has ended.  A notebook is a wonderful place to practice reading and writing skills, but it becomes most effective when it’s an authentic placeholder for growth, play, and memory.

How do you shake up notebook time with unconventional genres and prompts? Please share in the comments!


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5 thoughts on “Try It Tuesday: 7 Ways to Shake Up Notebooks

  1. Designing a Unit in Workshop: Just Try It | November 15, 2016 at 7:45 am Reply

    […] one day’s work, students are only advancing incrementally.  If we just have fun every day playing with words in our notebooks, listening to podcasts to study their craft, or doing book passes ’til the […]


  2. estersohn October 26, 2016 at 4:38 am Reply

    I think Fitzgerald would be pleased to know he has swag.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy Rasmussen October 25, 2016 at 6:34 pm Reply

    I am not very good at recording my thoughts when I should. I always thing, “I should write that down, and then I forget.” What I am good at is collecting artifacts, so I’ve started making pockets in my notebooks. I tape three sides down, leaving the top open, or I fold over a page and tape the sides down. I’ve found these collections work almost as good as jotting down my original notes. Of course, without my own thinking, they are only partially useful. But still.

    Liked by 1 person

    • shanakarnes October 26, 2016 at 6:00 am Reply

      I’ve seen this gem-collecting at work–it’s brilliant! I have abundant glue sticks and time, so I always go for the glue-in…but I like the collector’s tool of the in-notebook envelope.


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