Slice Of Life Stories Day 8 From The Suitcase of Surprises -Writer's Notebooks!

Exactly one week ago as I opened my suitcase of surprises, the assembled grade 3 students peered forward hoping to gain an advanced sighting of the contents. I had brought a collection of Writer’s Notebooks to share with them. During my previous visit I had informed them that I would bring some notebooks to share. In the interim students had gathered some artifacts and made preliminary lists of things that they considered potential topics for their writing, but neither the teacher or her students had much previous experience with Writer’s Notebooks. They quickly formed into groups of three and I distributed the notebooks.
 ‘I want you to be readers and researchers. I want you to be text detectives and make a note of the different types of entries you see captured in my notebooks.’

I wanted these less experienced writers to see the broad influences on my writing. I wanted them to understand that these books represented a gathering of ideas and my noteooks represented a starting point, not an end...

They scanned the pages of my notebooks asking questions, seeking clarification regarding entries –
‘Is that you?
‘Have you been to Turkey?’
‘Why have you drawn a map of your Nana’s house?
‘How come you have business cards in your notebook?’
Did you really have a mouse in your dishwasher?
‘Where did you get the idea for that poem?’
-All valid questions. They made lists of the entry types they found. The information they noted was then shared with other groups and the knowledge pooled. Through talk and notetaking they were progreesively building a knowledge base. I impressed upon them, that was but one way to keep a Writer's Notebook -not the only way.
I then invited them to create a list in their notebooks as a reminder of the kinds of entries they might like to gather for their own notebooks.
‘More than anything what did you notice about my notebook entries?’ I then enquired.
‘Lots of writing!’
That’s right. it’s a Writer’s Notebook. Writer’s have to write.’

Today I returned to the same classroom to see what progress they had made in a week.
What a pleasant surprise! Upon entering the room notebooks were waved at me.
 ‘Look Alan, look at what I have done.’
 Lists, poems, longer entries, opinion pieces, photographs with captions, drawings, plans , assorted artifacts all captured and presented.  They say feeling smart about something generates energy. It was clearly on display here. They were beginning to own the space.
Obvious pride poured out of these young writers as they shared an array of entries. ‘I’ve got two notebooks now. One for school and one for home.’ Beamed one girl.
Allowing students see how a fellow writer – a more experienced writer, goes about harvesting writing ideas and feeding their writing life had created a palpable energy. What a buzz!


  1. What a great way to introduce a Writer's Notebook. It sounds like you have lit the match that will develop many fine writers. I love the idea.

  2. I could picture the kids, leaning ever so slightly forward, to get a view of what was in the suitcase. What a great experience, to share your unfettered thoughts with students. I couldn't do that because of the content of some of my journals, but I do share my writing and writing process pretty regularly.
    Thanks for sharing your story about your stories here with us, Alan.

  3. Wish you could come share with my first graders. We are working on author notebooks but not everyone understands yet. I know it will come with time.

  4. I often write in front of kids and they know I use a writers' notebooks, but I have never had them "research" in my notebooks like this. I love this idea!

  5. That's a great idea to have them do the research in the writer's notebooks! I think that's something I could do with my fifth graders next year when I introduce writer's notebooks. Thanks for sharing!

  6. That is one lucky class! What I wouldn't have given to study a writer's notebook when I began this writing journey. Models are key to understanding. Love the phrase "harvesting writing ideas"!

  7. What a wonderful idea! I guess that I better start putting more time into my notebooks so I can share as well. I tend to be a "shoot from the hip" writer...not so good about putting my ideas down on paper anymore. This is the perfect way to inspire young writers though. Thank you for sharing.

  8. I love writers notebooks. What an awesome way to introduce your young writers. I love what you said to them to get them eager to read your notebooks -‘I want you to be readers and researchers. I want you to be text detectives and make a note of the different types of entries you see captured in my notebooks.’

    Good Luck!

  9. What a beautiful, thoughtful, & obviously successful lesson. I won't repeat, but the line mentioned in the comment above touched me, too. Your students must have loved your surprise. And you described it so well. I will share this & use the idea myself often. Thank you.

  10. If this is a picture of your writers notebooks--Wow! This is fuel for writers. How could they resist writing!!

  11. Amazing job igniting their excitement for writing. My question is related to your entries: Do you keep 2 notebooks? One that you'd allow students to see, and one that you'd put more personal thoughts?

  12. What a buzz indeed! Hmm...I think I need another notebook, or two.


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