Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Writer's Notebooks

I'm linking up with the sweet Lisa from Growing Firsties today. She had the brilliant idea to do a Writing Workshop linky! 

I can't wait to see all of the fabulous new ideas that I get from this linky. I love teaching writing and I love reading my students' writing. At the same time, writing can be the hardest to manage and keep up with. If I had more hours in the day and could multiply myself then I would adore writer's workshop so much more. I have such great intentions but I have to confess that it doesn't always come together as planned. I do try my best for my little writers though! 

The first topic is Writer's Notebooks. I just started using this format  last year. It was a way for me to organize their notebooks. Do you have those students who just love to flip to any place in their notebook and just start writing? What a headache. I've already posted about these tabs I use, but it's been a while... I love having these writer's notebooks! To those of you who have already read a post about  this, just skip right over this and check out Lisa's linky instead! :)

Each month, students get a monthly tab to glue in their notebooks. I love how this student has colored each tab.

Behind the tabs are the writing for that particular month. We spend a lot of time talking about how to write in our notebooks. At the beginning of the year they might start with their picture and then add their sentence.  It takes a lot of reminders to not go crazy with the picture and take up the whole page with drawing. So I tell them to leave at least half of the page for words. For many of them, that requires them to actually draw a line through the middle of the page to make sure they stay in the boundaries. 

As the year progresses, they might start to write first and then draw. 


I have special assessments to use with writing notebooks that are different from my usual writing rubrics. I use my writing rubrics for specific writing assignments and then I use these snapshot assessments to send home with parents so they get an idea of how their student is doing during independent writing time. It shows their strengths and things they need to work on. I usually try to do it once a month (or every other month if there has been more writing assignments to grade). I look over all of their writing for the month and then fill one out. That way it's not just one sample of writing. It truly shows where their  at. It's interesting that sometimes when they are writing in their notebooks, they tend to forget conventions more than on their writing "assignments". The notebooks are a good look at where they are at independently.

I don't know why I didn't take a picture of the assessment here. Maybe I just loved the picture. :)

After looking at notebooks, it helps me to see where I need to focus with each particular student or if there is a trend (like still leaving out capital letters). 


When do students write in their notebooks? 
Students write in their notebooks during Daily Five (you can click here to see how I integrate Daily 5 and centers into my reading workshop). They also write in notebooks when they finish early with assignments  and during writing workshop. My biggest problem is that I have so many writing assignments that I want to do with them too. I really need to figure out how to balance. I noticed in February they hardly wrote in their notebooks at all because I had so many planned writing assignments for them. I know, I know, I know- that is SO not best practice. I should be doing the mini-lesson and then letting them choose their topics and write in their notebooks. I just find that I have so many ideas for writing assignments and I love to create lessons around those and see where it takes us. Any ideas for how to balance this better? I'm all ears! Ideally, I would like to have a couple times a week where I could do the writer's workshop model with minilessons, conferences, kids writing in notebooks, etc. and then a couple times a week where I have official writing assignments. Honestly though, I think sometimes the kids like the official writing assignments because they like the direction and the change of pace. What's your experience been with that? 

What do I use with Writing Notebooks?

Students all have little student dictionaries with the most common sight words. When they want to add a word that they frequently use, I add it to their dictionary. I love using dictionaries to help them spell sight words correctly. They don't use it a ton at the beginning of the year but at this point in the year I really start to push it because I want them to make that transition. 

I also use Lori's Topics to Write About picture cards. When students don't know what to write about (gotta love writer's block), then I send them to the posters with all of those ideas. I pretty much just love anything and everything from Lori! She has some amazing writing products in her TPT store. 

I love to have one  on one time with my students during writing. It's so valuable and enjoyable to talk about their writing with them. They love to read their journals to me and I love that enthusiasm! I just wish I could have MORE time to do that. I struggle with helping my students to be independent enough so I can sit and have uninterrupted conference time. At this point in the year it is WAY easier. Earlier in the year, I do more "floating" type conferences. That way I'm walking around and still available to all of my writers. At this point in the year, I can have more official conferences. :) I actually fill out a snapshot with them. They tell me what they think their strengths are and what they think they need to work on. For some, that's easy and they recognize these things. For others, it's more me pointing out examples of great things they've done in their writing notebooks and then me going through and helping them make "goals" (things they need to work on). I find that after sitting down with them, a lot of them really do try to focus on those goals. 

Wow, that was a short novel I just wrote! I hope you're still with me. Ha! :) I'd love to hear from you about writing notebooks. If you have a blog, join the linky! If not, leave me a comment. I love to get new ideas and feedback. :) 

Thanks Lisa for hosting such a fun linky! 


  1. Your writer's notebooks are amazing! Thanks for sharing such an in-depth look at how you use them in the classroom. We just downloaded the freebie tabs and snapshot assessment pages! This is a must do for us next year!!

    :) Tamra and Sarah
    First Grade Buddies

  2. I LOVE the snapshot assessment tool. Wonderful idea. I also really like how you organize your notebooks. The idea of "monthly" sections & then doing 1 snapshot a month seems pretty reasonable to me. And the parents would love it! I just downloaded and can't wait to use next year. Thanks :)

    Primary Teacherhood