The first of the year I began participating in the #100DaysofNotebooking. The goal is to write in our notebooks for 100 days. Although I have missed a few days, notebooking has certainly become a habit.
Writing for over 50 days, come many lessons. Some of these lessons I learned as a writer and others as a teacher of writers.
What I have learned as a notebooker and how that will help me as a teacher of writers:
- Notebooks are personal – Our notebooks are an extension of ourselves and consequently become personal. They become a container to hold our thoughts, our rants, our emotions, our struggles, and our hearts. If I want my students to see value in notebooks, I must allow them time to make them personal. I can do this by giving them choices and the freedom to write what they want.
- Sharing is not always easy – The #100DaysofNotebooking group uses social media to share pages. Sometimes, this was not easy to do, and some days, we decided to keep them personal and not share. We acknowledged that we had written but kept the words private. I must allow my students to maintain that level of privacy as well, even from us, their teacher. Not everything they write is shareable, and I must respect that.
- Writing creates more writing – I think I first heard that writing is generative from Kelly Gallagher. Writing daily in a notebook and developing a habit created other ideas and led me in new directions. I have written more in these 50 days than I have in a long time. I currently give my students time for independent reading but often neglect independent writing. Adding more notebook time in our day will help to develop this habit as writers, which will lead to more writing.
- Notebooking is not a competition – When I saw the pages from other notebookers, it was difficult not to become envious. Their pages were gorgeous with sketchnoting, doodles, and lettering. I needed to remind myself that this was my notebook, and it was perfect for ME. Middle school is a breeding ground for competition. I must remember how it felt when I saw the pages from my fellow notebookers, and remember that notebooks are personally perfect for one person only – ourselves.
Looking toward the second half of the challenge, I want to begin mining my notebook to gather ideas for longer pieces. Yes, the notebook is a container to hold ideas, a playground to play with words, and a garden to grow as writers, but taking these seed ideas in my notebook and developing them into poems and blog posts and stories is the next step. This experience has taught me lessons as a writer, but more importantly, it has taught me lessons about being a better teacher of middle school writers. I can’t wait to continue notebooking and taking what I have learned about myself as a writer into my classroom.
Leigh Anne is a 6th grade ELA teacher at a middle school in Southern Indiana. She has been a notebooker wannabe for many years and is close to shedding that label. You can find her slicing the month of March on her blog, A Day in the Life, or you can connect with her on Twitter at @teachr4.