Ba Da Bing is a Writer’s Notebook activity created by Gretchen Bernabei. The directions are simple. First, ask students to draw feet, an eye, and a thought bubble on their papers. Then, ask them to recall an event to write about or give them pictures of settings to help stir memories. Finally, tell students to write a sentence, a narrative opening, or a snapshot that describes where their feet went, what they saw, and what they thought. I have found that kids love to draw the icons and use them as a check list while they create mini-masterpieces.
Here is an example of a seventh grader’s three-minute quick write using this formula:
Slowly, I trudged up Maple Street. I stuffed my hands deep into my pockets and starred at my new, black Nike Airs. “Mom’s gonna’ kill me,” I thought. A bright flash, stabbing the darkness, lifted my head. Little did I know that before this night was over, my mom’s anger would be the least of my worries.
Try this activity several times a week. The results are magical! -Janice Malone
Aimee Buckner’s Notebook Know-How is filled with great lessons that capture the real spirit of Writer’s Notebook. One is “Genre Switch.” Essentially, students begin writing a story in their notebooks. At the start of the piece, the teacher asks students to begin writing in the style of a certain genre. Then, after students have been writing for a time the teacher determines appropriate, a new genre is called out to the class. They make the switch to those characteristics, and so on. It’s up to the teacher to decide how many genres to use. I did this lesson for a second time in a 6th grade classroom. I reviewed the characteristics of three genres (science fiction, mystery, fantasy) I would be asking them to use. These characteristics were written on the board so they could reference them if needed. I told them each section would be timed for seven minutes. I checked for questions and we began with fantasy. After seven minutes, we switched to mystery. About one minute before that switch, I told them the next genre was approaching, so they could begin thinking about the move. Our final style was fantasy. I followed the same format for each genre. During the entire 21 period of writing, there was not a sound in the room. At the conclusion, students who wished to share did so. There stories were amazing. The point at which they switched genres was evident and the characteristics of each style were clearly embedded into the writing style. It was such a treat for me to listen to the quality of their writing and to sense the enjoyment they had as they created their stories. Later in the day, one of the students told me what they had done that morning was so much fun. She wanted to know why state testing wasn’t more like that kind of writing. Perhaps the DOE is reading this blog! ~ Christa Atkins
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