Notebook Sharing Generates Energy.
As I opened my suitcase of surprises, the assembled 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. They had gathered some artefacts and made some preliminary lists of things that they considered potential topics for their writing, but neither the teacher, nor the students had much previous experience with Writer’s Notebooks. They quickly formed into groups of three as 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 in my notebooks. Feel free to take as many ideas as you can carry away. Writers share.'
I wanted them to see the broad influences on my writing. I told them that there are many ways to use a writer’s notebook. I further explained that what they would be seeing is one way of working with a notebook, certainly not ‘the one and only’ way.
They scanned the pages of my notebooks asking questions, seeking clarification making remarks 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?’
‘Where did you get the idea for that poem?’
‘I like your lists. They’re different.
‘I like the story of the mouse in the dishwasher.’
All valid responses. They made lists of the entry types they found. The information they noted was then shared with other groups and the knowledge pooled.
I then invited these young writers to create a list in their fledgling notebooks as a reminder of the kinds of entries they might like to gather.
‘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. Writers are collectors. We collect words and ideas.'
I returned to the same classroom a week later to see what progress had taken place.
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, and assorted artefacts all captured and presented. They say feeling smart about something generates energy. It was clearly on display here.
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.
A group of students were keen to have me look at their notebooks and where they were at in their development. They were proud of their efforts and the collected pieces I read were varied and interesting. The energy around writing was highly visible. They read from their notebooks and explained to the audience seated before them the inspiration behind the writing. They talked of connections and speculated on future entries. They displayed the pages of their notebooks and pointed out various pictures, and artefacts. The teacher also had a story to share with a notebook that had also left the launching pad and was taking shape. The pleasure derived from the writing experiences of the teacher was most apparent. This was powerful sharing. The teacher was an active partner in writing, setting an expectation for students to follow. All participants have accepted the challenge to write. I saw the genesis of a writing community in these scenes. The challenge has changed. It now centres around sustaining the energy that has been unleashed.
Letting students see how a fellow writer – a more experienced writer, goes about harvesting writing ideas and feeding their writing life creates a palpable energy.