I start the school year with an immersion in notebook writing. I ask students to complete a five-page autobiography in words, pictures, and/or drawings to gather thinking and ideas for possible writing topics.
A central goal in leading writers is to help them understand the power of point of view. In this case I took a photograph similar to one from my 5-page autobiography and changed the point of view to third person. This unleashed a freedom in my writing that I hadn’t found before.
To commemorate this day I gave students three poems to write from. Many glued them into their notebooks as I did.
I have included the goals for this work from my white board in my classroom one fall. I learned about the importance of sketching and writing from my friend Linda Rief.
The Sarah Kay poem “Hands" (in Spoken Word Poetry videos
) has often led me to experiments with the idea of writing about moments that involve touch.
We studied music lyrics as poetry and moments in our lives connected to music this month.
Writing in response to literature is often about working to understand more deeply what a writer is doing in a text by imitating or standing next to part of the text and working out our own thinking about the ideas there.
I encourage students to find a quotation in a book they are currently reading that is important to them or says something important about living. We add these to the graffiti wall in our classroom—something I learned from my friend, Donalyn Miller. Many also illustrate these quotations for their notebooks.
The Op-Ed chart from the New York Times in 2010, "Picturing the Past 10 Years,” was not only fascinating to read, but was one of the first infographics I wanted to imitate.
We write next to poetry almost every day in my classroom. Poetry distills images and word choice and captures big ideas in small spaces, as I tell my students. It is an ideal text to study because we can reread it several times and see more as we do.
As I detailed in the article on Storyboarding
, this brainstorming work helps students focus on scenes or moments in time that can be developed into a story.