Sunday, July 1, 2012

TMT Summer Writing Group - Week Five

I know I say this all the time, but I love Teachers Write! I love hearing about the writing side of books. I have learned so much from both Kate Messner and Gae Ploisner's blogs. I have also learned a lot from interacting with everyone who stops by here on Sundays to share their progress.

When I reflect on what I have learned about teaching and encouraging students to read, it is similar to what I'm noticing from your comments here about your writing progress and how to apply it to working with students. I think about what I do as a reader and what most of my reader friends do as readers. I love to read books but I also love to talk about them. Doesn't it make sense that we would want to encourage our students to read and discuss books with each other? I really loathe writing a summary of a book after I read it for a review. Doesn't it make sense that we would not want to ask our students to have to write a summary of a chapter every time they sit down to read?

The same is true as I analyze my experiences as a writer and what I am hearing from everyone who comments here on the blog on Sundays. At first people were scared to share their writing and their experiences with writing. I think we got over that after asking that people be supportive of each other and establishing this as a safe community in which to share and grow. BUT, don't we need to pay attention to this when working with students? First and foremost, when working with students, we need to make sure to develop a sense of community and trust when teaching writing. Set the expectation that, while we will be giving each other feedback and advice about being better writers, the goal is to help each other, not to hurt each other.

A topic that seems to be popping up again and again is writer's notebooks. I love my writer's notebook! A few years ago I had the extreme pleasure of meeting and hearing Ralph Fletcher speak.
If you haven't read any of his books on writing, I definitely recommend them. You can visit Ralph Fletcher's author GoodReads page for a list of his titles. These are a great place to start though:
I also love this blog post by Ruth Ayres from Two Writing Teachers that talks about what a writer's notebook is and isn't. Go check that out and then come back to read about why we need them.

As I read Ralph's books, there were a few quotes I printed out to share with students.

“…I have found that often,
my best brainstorming takes place
when I’m not writing at all
but when I’m just living –
taking a walk, taking a shower,
dreaming while I sleep.
I might be making a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich 
when all of a sudden an idea jumps into my head.
A writer is always alert for ideas
that can feed the writing.”
-Ralph Fletcher, How Writers Work

"I get my ideas
from living my life
wide-eyed and awake. 
I sit on the edge of chairs. 
I pay attention to wherever I am."
-Drew Lamm

“I use my writer’s notebook
to catch ideas for my writing…
I think of my notebook as a net
with holes so tiny
that no idea can slip through.”
-Ralph Fletcher, How Writers Work

“When you come right down to it,

you are the place where your words will grow.
But most writers find it invaluable to have
a regular writing place, a physical space,
where they can water and weed a garden of words.”
-Ralph Fletcher

I found that by having a writer's notebook, I felt compelled to write in it. Maybe it was my competitive side showing through - I wanted my notebook to be filled with ideas! I also wanted to show my students that I write with them and to model how I notice things and writing them down. I use pictures and words to create my writers notebooks and help students do the same. It's fun to have a place to write down ideas that are all yours. We make tabs for different sections to write in. My current writers notebook has these tabs: Quotations, Seed Ideas, Vocabulary, Memories, Favorites

 My favorite place to write is in seed ideas. I find seed ideas all over the place - people all around strike me as future characters, I recognize situations that would be great scenes or plot points. With my writer's notebook, these everyday things become seedlings. Tiny seed ideas I can't write down fast enough in my writer's notebook. They may not be much now, but I find that after I write down one little idea, I find other ideas to go with it and before I know it I have something big to write.

I strongly suggest that if you do not already have a writer's notebook - a notebook devoted solely to ideas - that you go and get one right now. I mean now. Make it your own - decorate it, write your name on the cover, pick one that represents you. And now carry it with you wherever you go and jot down ideas in it. Pay attention to everything around you. You are cool if you are using your writer's notebook. Don't you want to fill it's pages? I know you do. Just remember it's meant to be a place to write ideas - not to draft. Find another place for your drafts and to really expand your ideas.

The brilliant thing is that this easily fits in with Teachers Write! It shouldn't take anything away from what you are doing with Teachers Write! By having a writers notebook, you'll have ideas already in its pages so when it's time for a writing prompt, you have ideas you can choose from. Brilliant, I tell you!

Then think about how your students would benefit from having their own writer's notebooks. If it works for you, couldn't it also work for them? If we already set up a community of readers, wouldn't this foster a community of writers? Everyone has a book to read and everyone has a notebook to write in. I love it!

My rules for the TMT Summer Writing Group:
1. We respect each other and the types of writing we do.
2. We only criticize each other constructively.
3. We are positive and encourage each other at all times.
4. We recognize and maintain this as a safe environment.
**I reserve every right to put the smackdown
on anyone who messes with our positive energy.**

Today, in the comments section:
Do you use a writers notebook? What are your thoughts on writers notebooks?
How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the not-fun part?)
What was the peak of your week? (The bet part, the most-fun part?)
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?

Thanks for stopping by and have a great week of writing!


  1. Hello! This was a huge week for me as a writer! This is the first full week I've had off from school so far, and I've had a chance to balance #buckybook research, learning-how-to-write research (currently reading Uri Shulevitz's WRITING WITH PICTURES), and actual writing writing! Wow!

    I've found a possible anecdote to use to anchor the story -- Buckminster Fuller bebop dancing on top of a table in the basement of the Art Institute of CHicago! But I've still had a hard time figuring out how to get started on a draft... I can't get over BEING a writer... So I've been titling my drafts ridiculous things... "The Bucky Fuller Dance Company" and "Futuristic Fairy Tale"... that seems to help me not take things too seriously.

    WHAT AM I DOING, I DON'T KNOW STILL?! I'm a really visual person, so I'm pondering putting together a storyboard this coming week.

    This is disconnected. WHAT AM I DOING.

  2. Thanks for the nod to my post, Jen. I love writer's notebooks and thinking about them and using them and all the potential of them. I just heard Ralph speak a few weeks ago. He is definitely a go-to resource for notebooks. Are you familiar with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's blog, SHARING OUR NOTEBOOKS? It is a treasure. Here's the link:
    Happy writing,


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