Since we begin the year with the Writer's Notebook, I want to revisit the amount of time spent setting up the notebook, planting writing seeds, and beginning to think of ways to use it to jot down ideas, and write and re-write. The front of the Writer's Notebook is used for writing, and the back (starting with the end page) is used for keeping track of our mini-lessons.
I've used Ralph Fletcher's marvelous notebook "Breathing In, Breathing Out: Keeping a Writer's Notebook" to formulate the following questions. Each question is tied to a picture book or a snippet from a full length novel or short story to anchor thinking. Each of these questions is framed as a mini-lesson, and the first writing of the year is done on the basis of these questions.
1. What moves me?What in my life/world do I never want to forget?
2. What are my "fierce wonderings"? What questions/problems have I always wondered about ?
3. What particulars do I notice in the physical world around me that I want to make note of?
4. What snippets of conversation or lines from poetry/literature spark ideas I can write about?
5. What old memories can I "unwall" and bring into my writer's notebook?
6. Can I play the "what if?" game with memories and ideas and write about a "what if? scenario?
In addition to the writing lists we begin (also kept in the back of the notebook), these mini-lessons serve as a springboard for ideas all year long, both in writing workshop as well as for homework assignments. This year, I am going nto ask my students to write on the right hand side of their notebooks and leave the left free for rewriting. This is an idea Judy Davis and Sharon Hill shared in "The No-Nonsense Guide to Teaching Writing" but I have never applied it. However, it became clear last year that we needed that open space to go back and practice re-writing/re-thinking - it would have been so much easier to have had a blank page oppostite