Reimagining the Writer’s Notebook

writersnotebook

In a Writing Workshop classroom, the Writer’s Notebook  serves as the heart of the community. The notebook is a gathering spot for inspiration/brainstorming, recording learning gained from minilessons, along with many other purposes.

Traditionally, this notebook has been concrete, filled with blank paper eagerly waiting to be filled. The writer’s inkblood poured onto to it’s pages, scotch-taped quotes and pictures hung out from the edges, practice examples, quickwrites, rough drafts; all filled the emptiness. Depending on the teacher’s philosophy and preference, these sacred notebooks, NEVER, EVER… EVER left the classroom; in fear they would be lost, damaged, or forgotten at home.

Working in a district where all students were provided laptops demanded me to reimagine the traditional Writer’s Notebook to one in a digital form. My goal was not to be a paperless classroom, in fact, many of the images contained within our Digital Writer’s Notebook were first done on paper.  Instead, I wanted to:

  1. Increase student enjoyment in writing.
  2. Move all writers forward.
  3. Consume and create traditional and digital literacies.
  4. Share their writing with the world.

A Digital Writer’s Notebook allows the freedom to incorporate a multitude of mediums. The accessibility allows the writer to add inspiration to this collective spot via multiple modes (phone, computer, tablet) at any time and from anywhere. Freedom in text, embedding videos, or inserting images provides the writer choice in communication.

All of these advantages proved to encourage students to write more and think more about writing. They began filling their Digital Writer’s Notebook, not because it was the designated class time, but because they were inspired! And those students who chose to sketch, draw, or keep a paper Writer’s Notebook (I am a firm believer in student choice) uploaded pics of their notebook (if they chose).

Using a Google Folder students were able to organize their Writer’s Notebook into different “Sections” or documents. Using Google Drive allowed students access from any device and the ability to set the document to work offline for times when there was no internet access.

Example of a Writer’s Notebook “Inspiration/Brainstorm” found here.

Digital News Sources for Students: A Companion to Investigative Journalism

Have I mentioned how much I love my job? This summer I had the opportunity to attend the Teacher’s College Summer Writing Institute in New York. Along with honing my craft, I had an opportunity to connect and converse with Cornelius Minor. (and although he compared our love of literacy and technology equaling a comparative job/education role, he is much, much smarter than I am and works at a Global level,,, but more about that in a later post)

Part of my duties this year include “coaching” (I use the term coaching loosely because I learn far more collaborating and reflecting with these 2 educators; Jen Paulsen and Megann Tresemer,  than I would solo) two 8th grade teachers that are implementing Lucy Calkins, Writing Workshop Units of Study. Currently, the students are writing as investigative journalists.

As the first sentence in this Unit of Study states, “Journalism is the literature of Democracy” (Mary Ehrenworth and Cornelius Minor). Investigative Journalism blends informative writing with narrative writing providing precise details and intentional narrative techniques. Students learn about the 5Ws found in Investigative Journalism (Who, What, When, Where, Why) refine skills in observations, details and craft, write their own pieces and push themselves to be better writers through the aide of mentor texts, instruction, and individual conferences with an expert teacher.

Today, after the weekly observation and reflective conversation, Megann and I were discussing the types of news sources current day students and adults read regularly. While we both acknowledge the role and preference of traditional print sources in many people’s lives. Megann and Jen work in a middle school which implemented a 1 to 1 educational environment this year, meaning that they gave every student a Chromebook to use in school and bring home with them every night. (So, with my 6 years experience of teaching in a 1 to 1 setting I was a perfect fit for this district).

Our conversation spurred a retrieval of digital  “News Sources” I have collected throughout the years providing a starting place for Megann and hopefully an addition to your own collection.

1. Newsela – A nonfiction site that is updated daily for with real-world news and differentiated by reading level. Students can become part of the global conversation!

2. Flocabulary Week In Rap – Fostering a love of learning in a mode that students love! Videos and Hip Hop keep students informed.

3. Kicker – Getting up to speed quickly and easily with the current happenings of the world. Accessibility for all readers on top stories!

4. 10 X 10 – Shared to me by my friend Erin Olson, 10X10 appeals to the visual learner. It is described as “an interactive exploration of the words and pictures that define the time.”

5. New York Times Learning Network Blog – A place for students and teachers to read, write, collaborate and share based off of the content in the New York Times!

Finally, don’t forget to collect and share student writing examples as well. Megann directed me to the high school’s online News Source called Tiger Hi-Line, a perfect, local example to inspire her middle schools students!