Saturday, 28 February 2015

Writer's Notebook

Do you use a writer's notebook?  I'll be honest, I don't.  Yet.   Today, a colleague (Melissa Thiele) and I were lucky enough to attend a workshop entitled The Writer as Collector - Using a Writer's Notebook presented by Alan J Wright in collaboration with the Australian Literacy Educator's Association, and this is about to change.

I've been reading about, and wanting to use, writer's notebooks for quite some time now. Intrigued and inspired by the concept since first hearing of them, I've never taken the plunge because I've also been a bit confused.  How do they fit? I mean, REALLY fit without 'taking away' from all the other cogs in the wheel of our literacy block? 

This morning I found the answer: they don't take away from the other cogs. They have the power to replace many of them. Yes please, sign me up.

Alan's presentation was a well structured collection of stories, which was fitting considering the title of the workshop, and the intended learning.  Through his own memoir like tales and anecdotes from students and teachers with whom he's worked, Alan was able to share his passion for living the writer's life and carefully placed his writer's notebooks at the very heart of it. As participants we lapped it up, following him from spiders under corrugated iron to the aisles of K-Mart all while he demonstrated the value of writer's notebooks. All while he demonstrated how he lives the writer's life. And for me that was the central message: as a teacher of writing I need to be a writer.  

And so, I stopped at Officeworks on the way home. I have two potential books. My mind is already 'rehearsing' the first marks I'll make in my notebook. I'm excited!
Is it silly that I so love the look of the top
book that I don't want to cover it?
 It reminds me of my childhood pen pal.
Not just for myself though. As much as I love writing and look forward to growing as a writer personally, I am excited to share this tool with my class.  Not yet though.  As new (or potential) notebook users we discussed the 'how' of bringing notebooks into our learning spaces. There seem to be two main streams of thought: teacher as 'expert': developing a degree of comfort and familiarity with the process first and then using the teacher's notebook as a tool before students begin OR teacher as 'co-learner' alongside the students. Knowing myself and my students, I want to spend some time living with my own notebook before taking it into our learning space. 

Even before I introduce the notebooks to the kiddos there are so many simple and practical ideas I took from today that I can start using straight away.  Here are a couple:
  • Presenting a beautiful/powerful sentence and asking how the author has used punctuation (or sentence structure etc.) to create that beauty/power. Can we use punctuation (or sentence structure etc.) the same way? What can we learn from the way the author has used punctuation (or sentence structure etc.)?
  • Taking a piece of writing and replacing the 50c verbs with $5 verbs. E.g. Replace fall with plummet.
  • Presenting a short passage of quality writing as a model and having a go at writing a piece in that shape/style/voice.
I have LOTS more to say about this workshop but not today; need to let it percolate a little first. I will share my progress with my notebook and, when it happens, my kiddos' notebooks. Who knows, they may even let me share some of their writing?

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 2 Know the content and how to teacher it
Standard 6 Engage in professional learning 

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