Category Archives: Writer’s Notebooks

#100DaysofNotebooking

Happy New Year!

As we ring in 2020, many of us begin to reflect on the previous year and to think about new starts and new beginnings. Some create resolutions or goals while others choose a one little word to guide them along the way.

My one little word for 2020 is commit, and I have created my own set of “10 Commitments.” One of my commitments involves writing, specifically notebook writing.

Notebooks are essential in a workshop classroom, but I have to admit that I lack commitment when it comes to using them regularly with my students. Using notebooks more in my classroom is always a goal of mine, but it is also a personal goal in 2020. It is important for teachers to model the writing process and to write with their students, including using writer’s notebooks.

So, when I saw the #100daysofnotebooking challenge by Michelle Haseltine, I had to check it out.

Michelle’s goal for starting this challenge was to help others develop a meaningful habit of writing and to discover the power of writing and the joy it can bring. I decided that if I want my students to become more committed to using their notebooks and if I wanted to be more committed as a teacher, then I needed to be more committed as a notebooker myself.

Looking at the pages in my current notebook, I found I typically write about my reading through the collection of quotes and snippets of writing that I can use as mentor texts for my students.

At the beginning of each year, I start a “books read” list. Although I have a Goodreads account, I like having easy access to a list of books I have read.

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I also play with words and do some initial drafting and explore for potential blog posts.

But here’s the thing…I am not consistent. These pages are actually weeks and sometimes months apart. This is why I have accepted Michelle’s #100daysofnotebooking challenge. I believe that teachers who write make better writing teachers and keeping a writer’s notebook is an important part of that development.

For more notebook inspiration, follow the #100DaysofNotebooking on Twitter or check out the Facebook group. You may also want to take a peek inside Shana’s notebook here and here or see how Amy reflected on an entry in her notebooks here. Seeing notebook pages from other writers always gives me new ideas and loads of inspiration.

If you want to create a better notebook writing habit, why don’t you consider joining me in the challenge? It is not too late to start, and you can find all of the information on Michelle’s website.

Happy New Year and Happy Notebooking!

Leigh Anne teaches 6th grade ELA in southern Indiana, is a notebooker-wannabe, and is ready to commit to a daily notebook habit.

One Word: Goals and Other Possibilities

Happy New Year! 

I always appreciate the expanse of winter break. After the joyful rush of the holidays (and sometimes the excess–so many cookies), I find myself with the time and space and never ending mugs of coffee needed. To think. To properly think and reflect. During this deliberate withdrawal from the world, I recenter and refocus. Usually, I develop new visions for my classroom, my students, and myself (professionally and personally). Last year, discovering #OneWord via my PLN energized my thinking. Jon Gordon describes it here as choosing the one word that will give “meaning, mission, passion, and purpose.” Beyond the fun of ruminating over possible words (always the nerd for words, here), I loved the intentionality of choosing the words that would anchor me for the year. I chose two: outside and feed. 

Outside moored me personally and professionally. I knew I wanted to spend more time literally outdoors, and so, I sought ways to do so: walking, running, hiking, scootering, skating, floating, fishing…even working outside. In fact, this one word led me to my best outside adventures of the year–hiking and running in Norway and enjoying a fjord cruise. This particular journey also fit my other interpretation of outside–seeking ways to go beyond or outside my comfort zone. The trip was the first long trip with my husband away from my children. Anchoring to outside helped me take risks professionally, too, which is why I write this now as an instructional coach. 

Feed became a mainstay in my classroom. I thought of feed as the ways in which I provided, maintained, or sparked the energy of the classroom and my students. So, I worked on delivering feedback that fed forward. I managed pace, working to stay brisk and lively. I altered mini lessons so that they stayed consumable. Feed nurtured my students and me. 

Reflecting now, I wish I had engaged my students in this kind of reflective anchoring. It’s a different way of goal setting, certainly. Here and here are some resources for getting started with students. But the possibilities for use during workshop make it worth further consideration. These extend beyond the variation of the New Year’s Resolution. 

Use OneWord to…

  1.  Set purpose each week for your class or for workshop time. Tethering to a carefully selected word might help students move more intentionally through the week and allows a reflection point at the end of the week. Class this week is brought to you by the word ___________. 
  2. Craft one word summaries of how their writing is going prior to conferring with you or their peers. Perhaps these one words are more about their affective states (build emotional intelligence further by providing them with a list); perhaps they indicate progress; perhaps they demonstrate the most valuable word of the piece. 
  3. Employ in quick writes. Encourage students to apply one word from independent reading into multiple quick writes from the week. That word might take on different meaning for that student. 
  4. Shape perspective. Instead of or in addition to essential questions, these one words become the essential ways for filtering reading and writing in the classroom. Maybe students use a blend of whole class (community perspective and individual one words (identity driven) through which to view reading and writing.
  5. Create a Words to Watch list of your own as a class. Consider using this list as a mentor text of sorts. Maybe students tie in Article of the Week and develop a word list based on their explorations of contemporary issues.
  6. Identify the developmental arc of a character. Students could choose one word to describe a character at each stage of transformation. 
  7. Craft one word summaries of their reading. This isn’t a new idea but maybe a reminder of how students might use words as mainstays–perhaps starting with what’s accessible before  
  8. Ground in reflection. Invite students to choose one word (provide them with a list if necessary) to depict their progress as readers, writers, or thinkers over the course of the week. They could use Flipgrid or SeeSaw or a Jamboard or just their notebooks or post it or notecard to present the word and reflect on it as their choice. 

And what else? I’m certain there are other ways to adapt the one word perspective. And I’m also certain that as we encourage students to ruminate over words–whether for the purpose of goal setting, reflecting, or creating–that we give them ways to anchor their thinking. 

I’m still ruminating over my word for this year. Pause is a strong possibility. So is perspective. And leap, dive, explore, and elevate.  I think I’ll pour another cup of coffee. 

Kristin Jeschke taught high school English for nineteen years, twelve in Waukee, Iowa at Waukee High School. She now serves as Instructional Coach (20 years in education in 2020!) and is as big a word nerd as ever. Follow her on Twitter @kajeschke. 

A Life Full of Revision

I saw one in early August this year, winging its way over our Fine Line Buckthorns, past our Red Maple tree, through our verdant yard. Transfixed, I hoped it would land on one of our scarlet day lilies just like the first time I beheld one (back when I held Ingrid and held Jonas’ hand). But this Tiger Swallowtail–golden-winged and delicate–floated away, on its own journey of transformation. And while I once marveled at its beauty with my children, this year I marveled at the metamorphosis the butterfly endured in order to take flight. 

Even as that caterpillar egg (where, if you look closely, the caterpillar inside is visible) becomes a caterpillar; even as that caterpillar decimates leaves and sheds its skin several times to grow; even as that caterpillar forms a chrysalis and, as it begins its transformation, actually digests itself, using highly organized groups of cells to redirect its creation; even as there is seemingly destruction–something new emerges. And, after all this, the butterfly must hang upside down to allow its wings to harden before it takes flight. A butterfly in its colorful splendor is the culmination of a life full of revision.

Maya Angelou once noted that “We delight in the beauty of the of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” She’s right, of course. We reduce the complexity of the transformation in the same ways many of our students reduce the complexity of revision in writing. The beautiful butterfly doesn’t exist without significant change just as beautiful writing doesn’t suddenly and artfully emerge. So many of our students need to learn that once an idea is born into the world, this idea can and will transform–many times!–given the right conditions. This learning can transform the possibilities they see for themselves as writers, possibilities often limited by the misconception that some people are good writers while others are not. 

So, what do we do as teachers? How do we provide the right conditions, the ones that nurture (to help grow, develop, or succeed) destruction that leads to transformation? And, how can we help them look inside their work to see the special parts that hold the potential for splendor?

  1. The pitch: Have students pitch their ideas for writing projects to one another (Liz Prather’s Project Based Writing is an excellent resource for this). This lets ideas live, born into the world by sharing with peers, providing time and space for growth and development. And, sometimes, necessary destruction. 
  2. Feedback: Share this video with students about the nature of offering and receiving feedback. This may transform their understanding of the power of their responses to one another. 
  3. Modeling and practicing revision: Consistent practice in small ways in notebooks allows students to internalize the ways to direct their revision. Ask them to add, delete, rearrange, or substitute in their writing. Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle speak to the importance of this, especially with writing that is generative. More importantly, as teachers, we can and should model this, making it visible how and why we transform our writing. 
  4. Showing: Use the work of other students, snagging Google History screenshots to make visible the kinds of revision that occurs. Discuss these together. Show them our own, too. This is like looking inside the chrysalis! Whoa!
  5. Conferring: The questions we ask and the micro lessons we offer during this time can both trigger transformation and call attention to the parts already bright with meaning. Celebrating with students where a move works may prove a catalyst for more revision. 
  6. Destruction: Encourage students to print drafts and cut them apart. All the parts may be there, but they may need to be rearranged or to be developed further. 
  7. Letting students create their own analogy: Engage students in creating their own analogies about revision. They create meaning while we glimpse their thinking.
  8. Managing their creative process: This video from Tiffany Shlain helps writers think about their own processes. One of the most important aspects it focuses on is time. Writers need time to hang upside down with their ideas before they take flight. 

Of course, the limitation of comparing the nature of revision to metamorphosis is that it likens writing to a cycle. But writing is and must be recursive for our writers to successfully transform their writing. When our writers embrace this, then we can stand back with wonder and appreciation and watch them take flight.

Kristin Jeschke is an Instructional Coach for Waukee High School in Waukee, Iowa (where she spent time prior as an English teacher). She’s standing back, watching her colleagues write in their writer’s notebooks, wondering about the potential in each. What ideas will take flight? Follow her on Twitter @kajeschke. 

Mentor Texts: Lifting Lines and Elevating Self

When working with mentor texts in notebooks, lifting a line–pulling a line or phrase or sentence for its aesthetics and using it as a launching point to generate writing–remains such an important strategy, as Ralph Fletcher notes here. Of course, we want our writers to work with parts of a text that will help them learn to not just write their ideas but to craft.  But I think these lines, these (where appropriate writer-selected) lines, can also elevate the writer somehow. These lines just might move writers in ways where they’re compelled to study themselves just as closely as the craft.  These lines can tug writers into the stratosphere. 

I felt myself lifted as I read Sara K. Ahmed’s Being the Change this summer (This book about how to teach social comprehension offers numerous mentor texts.). One line in particular heightened my summer reflection: “Understand that everyone’s identity is at stake.” Whoa. 

The urgency of this challenged me to think and write and think and write and ultimately create; the best lines to lift should compel writers to create! In this case, my co-coach and I worked to plan professional development for our returning teachers. In Ahmed’s words, we wanted to “make way for the voices, emotions, and experiences of others,” so we centered our time on identity–individual and the staff’s, the students’, the building’s. And then, in our efforts to use story to promote digital literacy, we used America Ferrera’s Ted Talk My Identity Is a Superpower Not an Obstacle. As staff watched, we encouraged them to respond in their notebooks, ultimately suggesting that they choose a line and reflect on how they can carry it into the year with them. 

My hope is that as staff scans their notebooks during our next professional development, they will see this line. They will consider themselves and others, identities at stake. And this line will lift them toward possibility. 

Kristin Jeschke is an English teacher turned Instructional Coach in Waukee, Iowa. After nineteen years as an English teacher, she’s currently re-imagining her identity. But she’s excited for all that’s possible.  Follow her on twitter @kajeschke.

Hope Thrives in Courage

Today is the third Friday with my senior English students. Yep, I did it. I’m back in the classroom, learning alongside some amazing young people.

I have a billion goals for myself — enough to weigh me down, certainly — but one that keeps floating to the top is this:  Thrive in hope. (Yeah, I don’t really know if that’s a goal, but stay with me here.)

When I left the classroom two years ago, I’d lost a lot of it. Personal struggles. Professional struggles. The state of the world struggles. All of it. But lots of self-reflection, rest, writing, paint, dirt, good friends, family, and growing things –probably most of all growing things — changed me. My hope is back. It’s thriving, just like the plants that add energy and life to my home and my new classroom.

And while I teach literacy skills to seniors in high school, what I really want to teach is hope. Hope in humanity and our ability to thrive — together and as individuals.

So, like you, I’ve started with relationships. Every text we’ve read together, every task WritingBesideDwyaneWadeI’ve asked students to complete, every book I’ve matched to a reader’s interest has given me insight into who these young people are as individuals with backgrounds, cultures, fears, failures, dreams and desires. Just like me, they cling and pounce and clamor after hope.

A few years ago, after a sniper killed five police officers in downtown Dallas, I read this commentary by Chequan Lewis. The last line still resonates: “My sights are simply set on what is possible when we are courageously human.”

Courageously human. That’s what I want for myself and for my students — to practice courage as a means of becoming better than we were when we walked in the door. So moving forward into senior English plans, I’ll invite students to step into the vulnerable spaces that require courage: reading texts that challenge the status quo, writing honestly about ourselves, our learning, controversies, and convictions; and communicating in ways that validate, clarify, empathize, and challenge.

I’ll step there, too, because the more I think about it:  Hope thrives in courage.

Here’s a few of the texts we’ve used thus far to write beside and spark our thinking on this journey. Perhaps you’ll find them useful as you begin your own.

My Honest Poem by Rudy Francisco

Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye; the poem here

“This Bud’s for 3” — Dwyane Wade

If you have ideas for more resources that fit our theme, please share in the comments.

 

Amy Rasmussen teaches seniors at a large high school in North Texas. She’s a #houseplantcollector, writer, reader, gardener, watercolor-artist wannabe, bicyclist, and grandmother to eight courageous little people, the newest little man born today! Follow her @amyrass and @3TeachersTalk

A Poem to Start Your Notebook

Each morning, I receive two poems in my email inbox: one from The Poetry Foundation, and one from The Writer’s Almanac. One morning in July, I received “More of Everything” by Joyce Sutphen, read it, and thought, wow. That would be so powerful to write beside with students.

As it turns out, some pretty brilliant thinkers receive these same poems in their inboxes, and they took the same poem and ran with it in a beautiful direction:

I often have my students write beside poetry inside our notebooks, but Linda Rief and Penny Kittle have inspired me to bring poetry to the personalization process. I love the idea of having students glue this poem into their personal photos and collage pages we create: it prioritizes an individual, emotional response to literature that is valued in the workshop classroom…and the results of the thinking around this text are beautiful, too.


As you and your students begin the school year and personalize your writer’s notebooks, perhaps you’ll consider adding a text to the start of your journals. Will you share any poems or short texts you frame your year with in the comments?

Shana Karnes lives in Wisconsin with her husband, daughters, and cats. She is teaching and learning alongside amazing teachers through the Greater Madison Writing Project this year. Connect with Shana on Twitter at @litreader.

Q & A: How do you grade the writer’s notebook?

Questions Answered

For all the years of my teaching career, my students have always kept writer’s notebooks. We personalize our covers and create our own book lists and dictionaries, practice writing, sketching, and glue-ins to make every writer feel at home, and then go about the work of filling those empty pages with ideas, practice, drafts, and beauty throughout our time together. I do this work beside my students, and we inspire each other–the same way I see my teacher mentors do this.

Because of this framing, students are invested in their individual writer’s notebooks, and they are carefully and creatively cultivated. As a result, when I collect the notebooks, it’s not for the purpose of accountability: it’s for the purpose of students sharing something they’ve chosen with me, and for me to gather some information about where my students might need more instruction.

Just as students have their choice reading books lying open on their desks when we talk about their reading lives, they have their own writer’s notebooks lying open when we confer about their writing lives. I can see, and guide, students’ work in the notebook on a daily basis, so when I collect notebooks, most of what I’m seeing isn’t new to me.

Students select two pieces of writing they would like feedback on and flag them with post-it notes, then turn in their notebook every two weeks. I browse through their writing, have a look at their TBR lists and personal dictionaries, and write back on the pieces they’ve noted.

Once per quarter, I ask students to do a “journal harvest,” in which they revisit their writing from that quarter, assess their growth as a writer, set new goals going forward, and choose one piece they may have abandoned to harvest, revise, and polish.

If my classroom were gradeless, that would be that: daily conferences, biweekly turn-ins, quarterly harvests. That gives students a variety of feedback types and times, and gives me, the teacher, enough information to help move individual writers and the class as a whole in their writing growth. Because I have always been required to enter grades weekly into an online gradebook, I make turn-ins worth 20 points and quarterly harvests worth 60 points.

Students who do the work with fidelity and demonstrate growth earn the full points possible. Daily conferences are filled with self-assessment, which informs my “grading”–it’s easier to help award points to students when they’ve already set their own goals and assessed their progress during our conversations during the week.

As always, I treat the notebook as “workshop, playground, repository,” via the guidance of Tom Romano in Write What Matters. It is a place for students to “think, ruminate, speculate with the pressure off and the stakes low” (16), and as such, our grading should reflect that.


Note:  This post is a part of a series. It’s based primarily on the most frequent questions about readers-writers workshop asked at our workshop trainings. For more see here.

Shana Karnes lives in Wisconsin and teaches writers, educators, and her own small children how to improve their lives with literacy. As a new resident to the Dairy State, she’d love your recommendations about things to do. Connect with Shana on Twitter at @litreader.

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