How to set up a Writer's Notebook

Last year, I was introduced to Writer's Notebook and was lucky enough to observe my colleagues teaching several Writer's Notebook sessions. For my next post about WN, I thought I would give you the low down on how I set up my Writer's Notebooks.

Where to Start: Type of book

The students in our school get a premium scrapbook as part of their book pack.  I discovered last year that it is actually important to get a premium scrapbook, as I ended up having to glue pages together to prevent my work going through to the other side.
Your starting point is the scrapbook. Get a decent one! Once you have that sorted, then proceed to cover your scrapbook. Remember, a Writer's Notebook is a book 'where you have the freedom to decorate the cover'. 

This is how my WN from 2013 looked:

2013 Writer's Notebook

As you can see, it's quite simple. I used some marbled paper I had bought for bookbinding and then cut some stars from some wrapping paper to decorate it. I used my usual name labels for identifying who the book belonged to, then covered the lot with clear Contact.

This year's Writer's Notebook I have covered using Scotch brand duct and printed tapes. I haven't put a label on this book as I am hoping to keep adding to this one throughout the years.

2014 Writer's Notebook

I sent the students home with their Writer's Notebooks and their homework was to cover the notebook in a way that reflected them. It was great to see how creative all of my students were.

Next Step: Information pages

Inside the front of a WN, there are certain pages that tell you what to expect from a Writer's Notebook, and sample graphic organisers to assist you in unpacking seeds. Everyone's WN has these pages. I had all of the pages photocopied and as a class we all glued them into our own WNs in the correct order. 

Information pages at the front of WN

I have reinforced the inside spine of my WN with extra duct tape so it lasts longer. On the left (inside cover) there is an Overview of Texts grid, the right hand side (first page) is the "What is a Writer's Notebook" information sheet.

Graphic organisers for unpacking seeds

On the next double page spread, we glued in our graphic organisers. This is a reference for students to look at when needed, plus it ensures some variety in the way we unpack the seeds.

Gathering Seeds and Heart Map

On the following double page spread, I have included the "Gathering Seeds" information sheet. The heart map on the right is something I have added myself. You can find a variety of heart maps on the internet; the one I used is found here on TpT. I am using this to get the students to think of things they love as more starting points/seeds for writing (plus it means that the next double page spread can be the start of our unpacking of seeds).

Final Step: Pocket

Inside the back cover of my WN, I taped 2 clear plastic pockets to put my extra seeds and WN resources in. Most of the time we find images from the internet and save them to a shared Evernote notebook, but sometimes I will find seeds in newspapers, magazines or from my colleagues. These hard-copies are tucked into this pocket at the back of my WN. 

Plastic pockets for seeds and WN resources

The left pocket contains extra seeds I have collected or spares from previous lessons. The pocket on the right has my original copies of the information pages and some hats for the Thinking Hat graphic organiser. As you can see, I just photocopy the sheet on the colour I need (last time we looked at the yellow hat: good points).

My students don't have these pockets at the back of their notebook, but older students may have one as they may wish to collect their own seeds.

Where to Now?

Now that your (and your class') Writer's Notebooks are set up, you can start unpacking seeds. As well as collecting seeds in Evernote, I have also set up a Writer's Notebook Pinterest board. 

I hope that helps with setting up a new Writer's Notebook at the start of the year. We do a WN session each fortnight and I will add more photos of the seeds and graphic organisers we use to unpack.

Thanks for visiting.