For me, a Writer’s Notebook is a must for encouraging my students to be brave and truly creative writers. I started using them for the first time just a few years ago and my students and I haven’t looked back since. But first of all, you may be asking: ‘What is a Writer’s Notebook?’ To me, a Writer’s Notebook is simply a journal which allows students to note down thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around them.
After speaking to other teachers about how they use Writer’s Notebooks, I have found that they all seem to use them in slightly different ways. To be honest, I don’t think it really matters – as long as your students are being encouraged to write and they are finding it to be a positive experience. I make a point never to mark the students’ writing – this is their journal and they must feel confident that they are not being judged.
In my classroom, we use the Writer’s Notebooks twice a week (I teach three days a week) and I have a prompt ready to go for each session. I simply display the prompt on the interactive whiteboard and the students have one minute of thinking time. They sit without writing a word and just reflect on the prompt they have been given. I then give them four to five minutes of writing time but no other directions. They can respond to the prompt in any way they like – poetry, first-person, third-person, brainstorm, narrative, persuasive writing… the list goes on.
I always complete my own entry in my own Writer’s Journal at the same time as the students. I believe it is important for them to see me joining in the act of writing for enjoyment and I always share my writing aloud with them afterwards. They love to hear what I have written.
When the students have completed their Notebook entries, I get them to join a small group (2-3 students) and share their writing with each other. I then pick about three students to share their writing aloud to the class. They can choose to read the whole entry or just their favourite sentence. I am always shocked by how many students want to share their writing with the class. I give the student who is reading aloud feedback and so do other class members.
This activity only takes 10 minutes each session but the students often produce more writing in these sessions than in any other writing lessons and, most importantly, they become confident and enthusiastic writers. Go ahead and try it if you haven’t already – I guarantee you and your students will love it!
If you want to save time and get some ideas, click the picture below to see the writing prompts I use in my classroom: