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Sunday, June 19

The 5 Best Tips for Setting up Your Writer's Notebooks This Year


“I can’t find my story!” a student hollers while ripping crumpled papers from their desk and backpack. Raise your hand if this has ever happened during your writers’ workshop. If you are Like I used to be then you may have just finished a rockin’ mini-lesson and were ready to settle into your writing conferences when that one student, or several, have misplaced their work. Groan! Nothing derails a great writers’ workshop block like when a student has missing work. Well, I’m happy to share that I kissed those writers’ workshop nightmares goodbye the day I said hello to writer’s notebooks. Now I use those little blessings for every single writing unit that I teach, and guess what, no missing work! On top of that, my students reach incredible heights as writers. Honestly, from easy organization to more lightbulb moments, I could sing the praises of writer’s notebooks all day! Want to know the very best way to set up your writer’s notebooks for maximum success and impact with your students this year? Keep reading to explore my top 5 tips for setting up your writer’s notebooks this year.

Tip #1 of the 5 Best Tips for Setting up Your Writer's Notebooks This Year: Get Setup on the Right Foot


Before we begin, let's chat about what on Earth a writer’s notebook even is. A writer’s notebook is an amazing writing tool that will house all of the writing materials your students will need for each writing unit (personal narrative, opinion, informational, and so on). These notebooks will hold onto everything that each one of your students needs to increase their vocabulary and craft as writers. But before we get too far into the components of a writer’s notebook, let’s discuss setup and storage. The first thing you need to decide when creating your writer’s notebooks is which format you are going to use to create them. You can use a three-ring binder, a composition notebook, or plastic binding combs. My personal favorites are three-ring binders and composition notebooks. Before you decide which system you are going to use, think about what is the most practical and easy for you and your students. Once you have weighed the pros and cons and chosen your format, you are ready to move on to storage. 

Do you remember at the beginning of this post when we chatted about students losing their work? That is something to consider when creating your writer’s notebooks. How will you store them? This will be entirely dependent on your organizational style in the classroom as well as the age of your learners. I have had years where I have my students store their journals in their desks, and then other years where I keep all journals in a big tub/ bin on the shelf at our writing center (CLICK HERE to learn all about how to set up your writing center). All options will work for writer’s notebook storage, just pick a plan and get ready to write!

Tip #2 of the 5 Best Tips for Setting up Your Writer's Notebooks This Year: Build a Growing Dictionary


One of the key reasons that growing dictionaries are so impactful on your students is because of the growing dictionary section. This is the very first section in a writer’s notebook and it is the spot where students will improve their spelling and vocabulary every time that they open their notebooks to write. A growing dictionary is a place that lists many commonly used words in alphabetical order but also includes blank spaces for each letter. These spaces allow students to write in new words that they learn throughout the unit and want to use in their work or remember the spelling of. For example, I never wanted my students to simplify their word choice for a lack of spelling skills. I would always keep a sticky notepad on me and any time a student wanted to know the spelling of a word I would jot it down and hand them the sticky note. They were then responsible for writing that word down in their growing dictionary and spelling it correctly in their writing moving forward. I have to tell you, this simple trick improved my students' writing by leaps and bounds every single year! 

Tip #3 of the 5 Best Tips for Setting up Your Writer's Notebooks This Year: Use Graphic Organizers


Graphic organizers are often a topic of debate. I hear some teachers say they only use graphic organizers as a differentiation tool for students who need additional support. Other teachers attempt to teach students to draw their own graphic organizers (if you have ever tried this, you are cringing with me right now). I am on the team of graphic organizers for everyone. You get a graphic organizer, and you get a graphic organizer. I am the number one fan of team graphic organizers because I see the amazing impacts they have with every single student that I teach. Your students that are below benchmark will thrive with the visual-spatial aspect as well as the breakdown of a challenging skill. Your reluctant writers will feel that the task is more appealing due to its engaging visual nature. Your benchmark and above benchmark writers will grow in their skills as writers because the graphic organizers will have them slow down and pause to put their best effort into each phase of the writing process instead of just blasting through and writing a subpar piece. So yes, when setting up my writer’s notebooks (or when my students are setting up their writer’s notebooks) we include graphic organizers for each and every part of the writing princess for each and every student. This is a game-changer in your writers’ workshop and writing notebooks! If you want to explore the graphic organizers that I use, CLICK THIS LINK.

Tip #4 of the 5 Best Tips for Setting up Your Writer's Notebooks This Year: Use Dividers


A growing dictionary and amazing graphic organizers can only get you so far if your students lose track of their work. When setting up your writer’s notebooks, create a section for each important component and separate them with dividers. I create sections for a growing dictionary and each of the three stories/ writing pieces that we will write in each writing unit. Do not skip on the dividers! This is an amazing way to keep students' work organized and also for them to look back and see their growth from story one all the way through to the end of the unit with their final piece. 

Tip #5 of the 5 Best Tips for Setting up Your Writer's Notebooks This Year: Leave Space for Drafts, Editing, and Final Copies


When you and your students are creating your writer’s notebooks be sure to leave room to work through the entire writing process. Use your writer’s notebook as a one-stop shop that will take your students from brainstorming all the way through final copies for each story section. When I set up writer’s notebooks with my students I help them count out extra pages that they will need for drafting and then pages for final copies with their editing checklist in between. The goal with writer’s notebooks is to help students push and grow throughout the entire writing process, so be sure to leave room between your dividers for drafting and all of the wonderful revisions they will work through before crafting their final copy at the end of their story section.

Well, teacher friend, you made it! You have now heard my 5 top tips for setting up your writer's notebooks. Writer’s notebooks were the ultimate game-changer in my writing workshop. If you want to explore the writer’s notebooks that I use and love then CLICK THIS LINK now.

Are you ready to rock your writing workshop this year? I've got your back and the tools you need with my epic new writing workshop FREEBIE! This writing workshop includes everything you need to get your writing block rocking, rolling, and make a massive impact with your students! I would love to share my writing workshop checklist, posters, and 5 printable + Google Classroom ready writing prompt resource with you so you can try out the tips you just read about! Simply click the button below and download your FREE writing workshop resources now! 


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