Notebook Time: Bringing Discovery and Play Back into the Writing Classroom
Earlier this week, my son completed a quarterly writing assessment in his first grade classroom. 40 minutes of on-demand writing based on a prompt provided to the class may sound formal to us, but to him it sounded fun! He was able to choose his topic, mentally prepare a day in advance, and bring a resource to help generate ideas. He wrote about a favorite collection that included pirates and Pokemon. Sure he was providing an opinion, reasons, introduction, and conclusion, as well as attending to spelling, sentence structure and punctuation- all things his teacher will be analyzing. But to him, it was just “fun” writing. What could have been a formal, anxiety-inducing experience for a child was presented as a low-risk, enjoyable task, due to the way writing instruction is approached in his classroom- through choice, interest, play, and discovery.
When I saw the topic, Notebook Time: Bringing Discovery and Play Back into the Writing Classroom as part of the #EdCollabGathering line up, I first thought it would pertain to elementary grades. The notion of approaching writing through play in grades 6-12 isn’t one that we run into every day. So I was excited to tune in and hear that Rebekah O’Dell and Allison Marchetti start their writing classes every day with 5-7 minutes of Notebook Time that is ungraded and risk-free. The benefits of Notebook Time include creating routines and habits for writing, working on fluency and building stamina, and a creating a place for nurturing and celebrating writing victories, be they large or small. I love the ways in which Rebekah and Allison describe the act of “play” as it refers to Notebook Time: experimenting, trying on, writing through, emulating.
Students are free from the rules that have defined their writing experience in the past.
During Notebook Time, students are invited to explore writing using different entry points. Rebekah and Allison provided 4 examples of entry points, including Poems, Sentence Study, Data, & Images.
- Poems- Rebekah & Allison provide a poem and invite students to notice and try special craft moves, use the first line to generate their own poems, write about the poem’s topic in another genre, or write about anything that the poem inspires.
- Sentence Study- Students play with sentence structures, based on mentor sentences. This provides an opportunity for instruction in language, grammar, and mechanics.
- Raw data- Information is provided in the form of statistics, data, charts, or graphs. Students interpret and write about the data in ways that connect math and writing. Rebekah and Allison share that this type of notebook play is the kids’ favorite of the 4 and has sparked the most topics for future writing.
- Images- Rebekah and Allison present images or photo essays that inspire responsive writing in a variety of genres.
To hear about Rebekah and Allison’s ideas in depth and view student samples related to each of the four types of notebook play, view their archived session at The Educator Collaborative. In addition, they discuss how Notebook Time provides a space for revision, which is an area of challenge for many of our students. Rebekah and Allison provide a link to their session materials, including an entire Dropbox of Mentor Texts! Thank you Rebekah and Allison for being so generous with your ideas and materials!
As a bonus, while watching the archived session, you’ll catch a glimpse of Allison’s classroom, in which it is evident that readers and writers are celebrated! If you like what you see, check out their blog at www.movingwriters.org and their NEW book Writing with Mentors: How to Reach Every Writer in the Room Using Current, Engaging Mentor Texts.
I hope you join the network of connected educators that are helping students find joy in writing, check out Rebekah & Allison’s book, and add your voice to the conversation! The book is in your court…