Writer's Notebook

Return to Teaching Writing


  Definition of a Writer's Notebook:

A writer’s notebook is a way for students to be exposed to various types of writing. Students can make their own notebooks since they will be using them. Writer’s notebooks don’t have to be graded or assessed necessarily, but instead, these notebooks can be used as tools for students to write expressively. The students can be put in charge of what is written in their notebooks, they can use their entries for future pieces, or they can just write freely. The purpose of the writer’s notebook is to give students the opportunity to write what they are thinking, and perhaps what they feel as well. 

"Building a Strong Foundation for Writer's Workshop with Writer's Notebooks." Missouri State Council of the International Reading Association. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.

“I think writers are like cows… You [writers] have this thinking building up inside you all the time and you just need to get it out. You need to be milked every day” (Kittle 22). This quote explains a lot about the every day writer. One of the best ways to get thoughts out of one’s head is to write it down. There are a lot of times that someone isn’t there to be a soundboard for your problems or maybe you’re not comfortable discussing your problems out loud with anyone, but you want to get the feelings out and take the weight off of your shoulders. The solution? A writer’s notebook.
Students today are being taught on a constant basis to answer a prompt they are given to them for an assignment, but the prompt must be answered in a formal essay format with at least five paragraphs, introduction, three main points, and a conclusion that wraps it all up. This isn’t really the problem though. The problem isn’t that students are being asked to write with craft, skill, intelligence, prior knowledge, and voice. The problem is that students are lacking in the writing process because it is all about churning out the next essay as quickly as possible and there is no time for brainstorming or floating around ideas. The writer’s notebook is that place.        
What Goes in the Writer's Notebook? 
You’re probably wondering what exactly is considered appropriate for your writer’s notebook. Well here is a list of different items that can be included in your writer’s notebook. Don’t think that your writer’s notebook is limited to only these items. It can include whatever inspires your own writing. There are no limits, these are just examples.
  • Moments in life that are odd or endearing
  • Drawings
  • Photographs, postcards, receipts, messages, notes from friends
  • Questions
  • Quotations that make you think and respond
  • Song Lyrics
  • Secrets
  • Doodling and responses to quick writes or other writing exercises
  • Messy writing, notes in the margins, sideways writing
  • Poetry and or figurative language
  • Writing prompts
  • Stories, essays, novel titles
  • Different genres of writing or reading
  • Detailed sketches of people and places for descriptive writing
  • Ideas
  • Things you don’t want to forget
  • Things other people say that strike you
  • Books you’ve read and responded to
  • Journal entries
A Writer’s notebook should also feel very personal and close with the person it belongs to so that it becomes a safe place. A great way to add that feeling of home and comfort is to make a collage on the inside of the writer’s notebook of pictures and places that you consider a big part of your life. It helps illustrate the great influences you have in your life and can also inspire some of your personal writing in the future (Kittle 23).
Tips for Using the Writer’s Notebook (Kittle 26).
  • Quick write for about 5-7 minutes
  • Reread and quick write and look for phrases or words where there is more to say
  • Take one idea from step two and put it on a blank page
  • Write freely
Kittle, Penny. Write Beside Them: Risk, voice, and clarity in high school writing. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2008. Print.
Writer’s Notebook Entry Example:
The prompt was to write about memorable literature relationships.
“I remember in about 4th or 5th grade I discovered that our library had a summer reading program. If you read a certain amount of books, you got to put your name on a star that would be placed on the wall at the library. I saw the names of girls from my elementary school and I instantly wanted to put my name on the wall too. I picked out my books and I remember reading an entire series in nearly a week. From that summer on, it was a goal of mine to receive my gold star on the wall of names. I only did this to be vain, until I learned that I actually enjoyed reading for fun.” 


Return to Teaching Writing