Organize Writing with a Writer’s Notebook

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Organize Writing with a Writer's Notebook

This post is by my blogging buddy Becky Spence. See her bio below and be sure to subscribe to her blog, This Reading Mama. She has fantastic teaching ideas!

Writing is one of my favorite subjects to teach. While I sometimes use writing prompts and occasionally use copywork, my all-time favorite way to teach writing is as a craft.

Writing as a craft is taught by modeling the tools and strategies that proficient writers use through read alouds and explicit, simple lessons. After the young writer interacts with the lesson, he is then set free to explore his own writing through the process of brainstorming, writing a rough draft, revising, editing, and publishing his work. (You can read more about the teaching of writing as a craft here.)

Using a Writer’s Notebook to Teach Writing

I simply adore everything about teaching writing as a craft except that it can feel totally out of control and messy at times. The reason it feels messy is that writing as a craft gives the control over to the young writer. He picks his own topic, words, and message, while the teacher simply facilitates his craft.

Keeping a Writer’s Notebook for my son has really helped alleviate some of the mess and kept things organized for him and for me. My son’s Writer’s Notebook is an organized three-ring binder that contains aids, graphic organizers, and writing tools to help him in his process of writing. His Writer’s Notebook started as a spiral bound notebook. But this year (2nd grade), he moved to a 3-ring binder. I really like the binder notebook better because it has pocket space for loose papers and I can use those handy plastic sleeve protectors to slide pages in for re-use.

The four sections inside a writer's notebook

Organizing a Writer’s Notebook

My son’s Writer’s Notebook is divided into four sections:

  1. Graphic Organizers– Here is where I keep the graphic organizers he uses to brainstorm or format his writing. For example, I have the fairy tales graphic organizer and the monthly writing prompts I created. I keep a little bit of blank notebook paper in this section just in case he’d rather jot down a list instead of using a pre-made graphic organizer to brainstorm his ideas.
  2. Rough Drafts– The next section is for his rough drafts. In this section, I keep plenty of notebook paper. When he drafts, I usually leave the room and just let him write. I want him to get his ideas down without criticism or judgment. I am, however, very particular that he writes on every other line when he drafts. This helps in the revising and editing process which comes next.
  3. Revising and Editing– In his section, I have several tools, like his WOW! Words vocabulary list and All that Jazz adjective organizer. These tools help him as we revise his writing together. After revisions have been done, I ask him to begin the editing process himself by going over the CUPS editing checklist which is also kept in this section.I have found that when he has to do the first run-through of editing, he takes a little more pride in his spelling, capitalization, and punctuation in his rough drafts. After he has edited, I go behind him and edit a little more. Sometimes I use his writing mistakes as ideas for teaching lessons at a later time. Sometimes I don’t. It all depends on whether or not I feel he is developmentally ready for it.
  4. Extra Helps– My last section is a kind of hodgepodge of extra helps for him. For example, to help with spelling, he has a quick reference sheet of the most common single syllable vowel patterns he has studied. I also keep his file folder of studied sight words there.

We keep his Writer’s Notebook in a predictable place, along with other notebooks in our schoolroom. When it is writing time, he knows exactly where to find it. Many days, I start writing time with a simple lesson where I model a strategy or read aloud to him. On other days, he just pulls it out and picks up where he left off the day before in his writing, revising, or editing.

But no matter how writing looks from day-to-day (or year-to-year), one of the beauties of a Writer’s Notebook is its flexibility. I can remove or add papers as I see fit. I can even change the topics in each the sections to meet our needs. Your child’s Writer’s Notebook may look very different from my son’s, but one thing remains- they are a very effective way of organizing and meeting the needs of your young writer as you teach into his writing.

More Writing Resources:

beckyspenceBecky Spence is a homeschooling mama to four little blessings who keep her on her feet {and knees}. She is passionate about teaching, specifically literacy. She is the author of This Reading Mama, where she shares reading and writing activities as well as free literacy curricula and printables. You can connect with her on , Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Jimmie Quick

Jimmie is now a veteran homeschool mom. Her daughter Emma is a student of the sciences at a large university in Illinois. Her guide to notebooking—Notebooking Success—guides you through notebooking: what it is; how to use it; how it fits a Charlotte Mason, classical, and textbook curriculum; tips for getting the most educational value from it; and much more. It comes bundled with several bonuses, including a small set of generic notebooking pages that can be used with any topic.

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Sarah Mueller Reply

I love your notebook! I completely subscribe to this philosophy of education, but I struggle with implementing it at times. This post is very helpful, especially with my 7 and 10 year old boys.

Sokat Reply

Nice post… I’m glad to read dan get something new.
I’ll try to my daughter. 🙂

Kerstin Jeffus Reply

I am about to pull my very bright (soon to be)11 year old out of 5th grade in Catholic school (for a host of reasons). I love to write, but teaching it makes me a little nervous, as I’m afraid I will leave something out – and with all of the types of writing (book reports, essays, poetry, etc.) it is overwhelming. I had decided on a writing curriculum called “writing with skill, as it looks like a great foundational program on teaching the structure, concepts, etc.. of writing. Have you had any experience with this program? I would love to join your google group, but did not see an option to “request to join” on the page. How do I go about doing that?

    Jimmie Quick Reply

    My guess is that you are viewing the community when you are not logged into Google. If you have a G+ account and are logged in, you should see a request to join button. I searched for you on G+ to invite you, but I cannot find you.

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