Last year I used Writer’s Notebook to reinforce and teach new writing techniques. Students looked forward to using and sharing their writings. I didn’t realize the full impact of the Writer’s Notebook activities until the following September when former students shared recent writings from their 8th grade language arts class. Within these writings were all of the compositional risks and advanced writing techniques that I had taught through Writer’s Notebook. The pieces were high school level writings. Each of the students contributed use of the Writer’s Notebook as the vehicle that enabled them make these advanced writing techniques part of their writing style. It just doesn’t get any better than this!
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Last week (or was it the week before), I visited Paul Albert’s/Karen Wagner’s 6th grade class and introduced “three-in-three.” First, I shared with students a three-in-three I had written on demand in another class. I allowed this class to give me a topic and “summer” was chosen. I wrote for three minutes, trying my best to produce interesting, thoughtful three-word phrases. The students watched attentively and, I must admit, I felt the pressure to produce. When I was finished, I reviewed my list with students and then asked the students to select their own topic and create their own three-in-three. Some students thought of a topic immediately while others needed some help (photos on their writer’s notebook covers were a great source for topics). The students wrote furiously for three minutes and then eagerly shared their lists. I was so impressed with their ideas which included alliteration, onomatopoeia, vivid descriptors, repetition, and actions. The students seemed pleased with their entries. Another rewarding writer’s notebook experience! Thanks to Paul and Karen for sharing their class time and students with me.
After the Writer’s Notebook training in the Spring I began the writing activities. I was shocked at how excited the children were to write in their binders. Even my most reluctant writers were anxious to start the new writing activities and everyone wanted to share what they wrote. They also were interested in watching me model the activities, as they seem to always want to know information about their teachers. After working all year on picture and poem prompts it was so nice to watch what the writing process is really suppose to be. The children love the activities and I’ve learned so much about each of them when they shared what they wrote in the Author’s Chair. Some of their favorite activities are questioning, list your gripes, three words, and sharing sentences. The question that I had was what am I suppose to do with the information gathered, especially as third grade is the first year for Writer’s Notebook. How do I incorporate it into Writer’s Workshop? After reading other posts, I see that is what we are all working on! I have seen two incidents of transferring the information. Priscilla Muller asked to be Pen pals with my class. When the children started writing their letters I watched as some of them took their Writer’s Notebook to use information they had written about themselves to include in their letters. Not one student came to me and said “I don’t know what to write.” It was a small step but it convinced me that Writer’s Notebook works. I’ve also had students ask if they could go back and answer some of the questions they listed in their binders the day before for one of the activities. They were excited because they had some answers. I never expected them to actually want to go back and answer the questions. Next year I will start Writer’s Notebook much sooner. The bottom line for me is the children not only enjoy the writing activities but are genuinely interested in the process. I can’t ask for more than that.
When I read the Launching Strategy: History of a Name from Aimee Buckner, it reminded me of a strategy one of my professors demonstrated last semester at Stockton to get students thinking and writing about themselves. She had us make a list of words and phrases that described who we are and where we come from. We then turned those lists into poems. The poems were really special and it was a pleasure to write and share them in our class.
I decided to try this exercise with my third graders. Our first step was to spend some time reviewing the “All About Me!” graphic organizer that we created in December. From this, we made a list of people, places, things, and events that are really important parts of who we are. Next, I modeled how to turn my list into a poem and then students worked on creating their own. I was ecstatic with the results! They were so good, that I decided to turn them into Mother’s Day gifts using Voicethread. I hope our Mom’s love their virtual gifts!
~ Jenna Wyks, 3rd Grade, Smithville
This week, we combined two of my favorite things going right now: The Writer’s Notebook and Voicethread. It all began about a week ago… I took my third graders to the computer lab to show them how to create pictures using Max Write. Their pictures were then saved, printed, and placed in the “Marvelous Mini-Lessons” section of their Notebooks. The next day, we read two stories that featured several similes (Quick as a Cricket and Owl Moon). After reading, students had to create a list of 20 sentences that each contained a simile to describe their picture. Then, they worked with a partner to rework and refine their sentences. Next, they uploaded their pictures into Voicethread and they had to “gimme” their ten best simile sentences which were recorded onto their Voicethread picture. What was so awesome about this lesson was how diligent the kids were about writing their similes. Since it was going to be on the Internet “for all the world to see,” they worked so hard to create really great similes so that they would look like “a really smart bunch of third graders!” You should have seen how many thesauruses and dictionaries were being passed around!
~ Jenna Wyks, 3rd Grade, Smithville
This morning I went into a fourth grade class and taught a lesson on point of view. We started off by discussing the term and what they thought that it meant. They were familiar with the term. I then read them the book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and the excerpt from Amy buckner’s book about Mikey’s Muffins. We shared some ideas of what they could write about and away they went. For a first attempt at this grade level I thought the kids did well. The biggest problem I saw was that they had trouble staying in the other person’s character. They kept switching back and forth from the other person’s point of view to their own. The teacher is going to continue to work on this and see if they can get better at staying in the other person’s point of view.
Can I change my password…way too old to remember …where is the math blog…everyone enjoy the day…
In December, the TLF’s presented training for Writer’s Notebook. I attended a portion at each school and, of course, the workshops were extremely well done. Although I believe in the concept and most of the feedback was positive, I still wasn’t sure how our teachers (and students) would embrace the notebook. Well, yesterday was a great moment (for me at least) in our Writer’s Notebook implementation. Out on the observation trail, I arrived to a 3rd grade classroom during morning time. Students were completing various activties and an exciting thing happened – several students totally without prompting took out their writer’s notebooks and began adding an entry. How hard it was not to hug the teacher and students and cheer loudly right in the classroom! Of course, I plan to tell the teacher during our post observation conference and will certainly share the story with anyone who will listen. Kudos to Katie Chisholm and her students! This raised further my level of belief in writer’s notebook. Let’s see what happens! (And with your input perhaps, I need to decide whether or not to capitalize Writer’s Notebook…or is it writer’s notebook?) ~Annette Giaquinto