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Notebook Time by Allison Marchetti & Rebekah O’Dell #TheEdCollabGathering

Notebook Time by Allison Marchetti & Rebekah O’Dell #TheEdCollabGathering



This series of posts includes learning and reflections from #TheEdCollabGathering, a day of online professional learning hosted on April 2, 2016 by Chris Lehman and team at The Educator Collaborative. 

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.


Image from Allison Marchetti & Rebekah O’Dell #TheEdCollabGathering, 2016

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 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…





The Curiosity-Driven Curriculum: Identity to Inquiry #TheEdCollabGathering

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The Curiosity-Driven Curriculum: Identity to Inquiry  #TheEdCollabGathering

This series of posts includes learning and reflections from #TheEdCollabGathering, a day of online professional learning hosted by Chris Lehman and team at The Educator Collaborative on April 2, 2016.

“If school was more interesting, kids would learn more.”

Harvey Daniels and Sara Ahmed opened The EdCollab Gathering by challenging our thinking about the way we engage students in school. Daniels and Ahmed shared that children are naturally curious. Based on Susan Engel’s research (Curiosity and School, 2011), we know that at the prekindergarten age, kids experience an average of 26, and even up to 76, curiosity episodes per hour. Curiosity episodes were described as instances in which kids were asking or investigating.  By the time kids reach kindergarten the number of curiosity episodes drops to 1 per hour and by fifth grade, there are almost too few episodes to even count. Most children studied by Engel spent their whole school day without asking a single question.


Harvey Daniels & Sara Ahmed #TheEdCollabGathering 2016

“Kids are the most important part of your curriculum. Start there.”

Daniels and Ahmed challenged us to  consider how to breathe new life into kids’ innate curiosity and create a culture in which it is nurtured. How can this be done? Watch the archived presentation to learn more about:

  • Identity Literacy
  • Identity Webs
  • Wonder Walls
  • Wonders in My World
  • Recommendations for Read-Alouds


Daniels and Ahmed also call on us to think about the notion of grit, which is often referred to as something kids need to draw upon when faced with a challenging task. Why do we approach grit as something the child needs in order to get through the school day? As in, “If this child had more grit, he would learn more.” This mindset feels like one of deficiency. Daniels and Ahmed would like us to consider reframing this notion. As in “If school was more interesting to this child, he would learn more.”

To read more about tapping into student identity and using inquiry as a method for learning, check out the following resources:


The book is in your court…

Crawling Out of the Classroom

In everything that my students and I do together, we strive to find ways to use reading and writing to make the world outside of our classroom a better place for all of us to be

Literacy Lenses

Just another site

Katherine Bomer

The Journey is Everything: Writing & Teaching to Discover, to Essay, to Live Wide Awake

EdTech Bytes with Bormann

Ideas for integrating technology into a 21st-century classroom.

Ms. Victor Reads

Reflections on my life as a teacher.

Teachers for Teachers

Just another site

Ethical ELA

Reflections on Teaching English


Two Literacy Teachers Learning and Sharing in the Blended Learning Classroom

Teachers As Innovators

Two teachers bringing research into classroom practice