Sunday, March 15, 2020

Keeping a Notebook...Together (Revised September 2020)

Dear Friends,

My name is Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, and I am a current fourth grade teacher, children's book author and writing teacher of over twenty years. As many students have been learning from home and many educators are seeking virtual teaching resources, last spring I wanted to offer something to young people and all wish or need to write a little during this time.

I welcome you to KEEPING A NOTEBOOK, a series of brief daily writing talks that began in the middle of  March and ended at the end of June 2020. These talks are for everyone, and if you are very young, you might wish to write with an older person you love. Writing together is a gift.

You will find each video in the Padlet below my signature (click the box in the upper right to enlarge), and I welcome you to share these at home or at school. There are no ads, and I ask for nothing in return as I simply wish to share my love of writing and expression.

If you wish, you may read more my letter to families. Please feel free to print it from the link and to share it along if you wish.

You may find a chronological list of these camper chats here. Please know that each writing chat may stand alone and need not be viewed in order.

Much love to you and yours.


ps - Know that you can enlarge these videos by clicking the square in the lower right hand corner of each one.


Second Grade Teacher Mandy Robek shared these thoughts with me:

I’m learning remote learning is hard and rewarding. Each day I’m sharing these videos with my students for keeping our writing notebooks active via Seesaw. I’m getting video responses that are insightful about my students as writers and humans. They are reflective about Amy’s advice and try it on their own or take their writing in a new direction. I can just tell they feel empowered as writers in their video sharing.

Made with Padlet
Click to Enlarge


Please know that Sharing Our Notebooks welcomes all kinds of notebook keepers - of any age and interest - to open up their pages and share their process.  At the present time, I am not posting regularly here, but if you wish to share your notebook here, please contact me, Amy, directly.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Monday, January 20, 2020

One Little Thing: Stephanie Affinito

I’ve had a special love of notebooks ever since I was a little girl. I carried them around with me, stuffed them into my backpacks and bags and piled them throughout the house. I loved them in all shapes and sizes: large notebooks with lines for writing stories, smaller notebooks with blank pages for sketching and drawing and miniature notebooks that I carried with me wherever I went to collect ideas and pass the time. 
One of my favorite childhood memories was when my grandmother took me to the elementary school she worked at to help her organize and stock the supply closet. I was in notebook heaven and painstakingly stacked and restacked the notebooks and writing utensils. I get that same feeling standing in the notebook aisle of my local craft store today. 
I treasure my notebooks and everything about them. My childhood notebooks carried all of my secrets: what I did that day, the friends I had, the stories I wanted to write, the things that made me sad and what I wanted life to be like when I grew up. Fast-forward thirty or so years later and not much has changed. I adore my notebooks and have several that I write in across a single day. 
I write how I want to feel and what I want to accomplish in my morning notebook. My reading and writing notebook holds my thoughts about the books I am reading and the pieces I want to write. My personal notebook captures all of the details of my life I don’t want to forget and offers me a safe place to share my hopes, dreams and fears. My miniature notebook travels with me at all times and is for writing EVERYTHING that I see, wonder about or just don’t want to forget from the day.

But my ‘One Little Thing’ notebook is even more special than any of them. My daughter made it for me with colorful stickers that make me smile each time I look at it. I keep this tiny notebook right next to my bed with a special colorful pen that I write with every night. 
Each year, I choose one little word to guide how I want to feel in the year ahead. This year, my word is ‘love’. Each day, I try to spread love and kindness in my family, my friends and in the world. And each night, I write what I did that day to bring my one little word to life. 

Most days, I can easily think of something I did to live with love and if I can’t, I think about how I can spread love tomorrow. Out of all my notebooks, this one has been the most impactful because it is more than just a notebook. It is a reminder to celebrate life: what makes me happy, what brings kindness to others, what helps make the world a better place. I write in my notebook at night and just knowing that I have a blank page waiting to fill energizes my day and reminds me to do something worth writing about. 
My ‘One Little Thing’ notebook is guided by my one little word, but yours doesn’t have to be. Think of this notebook as a way to celebrate each and every day. Let’s give it a try!
Turn to a fresh page in your notebook. Think about one little thing today that made you happy, that made you smile, that you did for someone else or makes the world a better place and write it down. Then, repeat. Everyday. Not only does this change how you intentionally go about your day, it helps you celebrate the little things and not get too bogged down by the big ones.
My One Little Thing notebook has carried me through difficult times in my life by helping me celebrate the positive, not the negative, and remember all of the good in the world. 
I hope you’ll try a One Little Thing notebook, too!
Image of Stephanie  Affinito
Stephanie Affinito is a literacy teacher educator at the University at Albany in upstate New York. She has a love of all things reading, writing and coaching and published her first book with Heinemann on Literacy Coaching. Learn more about her here:  

Stephanie is generously offering to give away a copy of Ralph Fletcher's A WRITER'S NOTEBOOK: UNLOCKING THE WRITER WITHIN YOU. She says, "This was such a powerful book in my own notebooking journey, and I'd love to pass it on." Please leave a comment (including a way to contact you) on this post by 11:59pm on February 2, 2020 to be entered to win.
Please know that Sharing Our Notebooks welcomes all kinds of notebook keepers - of any age and interest - to open up their pages and share their process.  At the present time, I am accepting all notebook entries and am especially hoping to receive more entries from boys and men who keep any kind of notebooks.  If you are interested in writing in this space, please contact me, Amy, directly.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Matthew Grundler: Visual Journals

Old Dictionary Pages Become Art
by Matthew Grundler
A New Layer of Dictionary Page Art
by Matthew Grundler

Early in my life, I was always surrounded by sounds of lyrics and the beats of music, and I was always building all sorts of things.

When I struggled at an early age with prioritizing, people suggested that I make lists to order my priorities. It was not that I hated to write, I just felt like ideas were easier to show visually, than to describe with words. It was easier for me to build things. Georgia O’Keefe said that “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for.” 

Visual Journaling
by Matthew Grundler

by Matthew Grundler

After I got married, had kids, and was teaching full time, I needed lists because some tasks were not getting finished. And then, about two years ago, my wife introduced me to a thing called visual journals.

I thought that visual journaling was interesting and fun, and three very influential people (known as the Journal Fodder junkies) influenced my journaling path: David Modler, Sam Peck and Eric Scott.

I attended an all-day, pre-conference workshop with David, Sam, and Eric, and quickly began to see how others use their journals for more than diaries and lists. I learned how to use a journal as a place for everything at all times. I became fast friends with these three, and we began sharing ideas of things that could go in the journals. Sam Peck, who has an MFA in printmaking, inspired me to start printing again and to add these prints to my journals.

I was hooked!

I began experimenting with all sorts of mediums and drawing styles. Sometimes, I even find myself using a Sharpie instead of pencil because once I start with a permanent line, I am fully invested and have to figure out ways to change something and take it in a different direction if necessary.

I found myself watching lots of Friday night journaling videos by Eric Scott, videos full of great ways to find ideas for mixed media. One of these videos included book pages with boxes drawn around words: blackout poetry.

Black Out Poetry Journal Page
by Matthew Grundler

Journals can help us understand how different subjects connect. And so, with this newfound fire for journaling ablaze, I bring the idea of journals into my classroom.

Thanks to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for asking me to share my journals. 

More Visual Journal Pages
by Matthew Grundler

Try It:
1. Glue book pages into your journal (little kids' book or any other type).
2. Scan through the pages looking for any words that jump out at you.
3. Be patient, knowing your work is work in progress. It will change over time.
4. It is OK not to finish a page before you move on to another page.

More Visual Journaling Resources:

Matthew Grundler

Matt Grundler is an art educator from Plano, Texas. He is a proud parent, and blogger. With is Art Educator wife Laura, he is co-founder of the popular Twitter chats #CreativelyConnectedEDU and #K12ArtChat. Matt started out as a graphic designer; however, after finding the commercial side of design unsatisfying, he soon found his niche as a K-5 Art Teacher and now teaches at the middle school level. Both Laura and Matt are passionate about raising their three creative kids, sharing their love of art education with their professional learning network, and continuing to grow every day.

Sharing Our Notebooks is offering a giveaway of a book Matthew recommends - JOURNAL FODDER 365 by Eric Scott and David Modler - for a reader of this post. Please leave a comment by 11:59pm on Sunday, July 28 to be entered into this random drawing for a used copy of this book in very good condition.  Please be sure to leave a way to contact you as part of your comment.

Please know that Sharing Our Notebooks welcomes all kinds of notebook keepers - of any age and interest - to open up their pages and share their process.  At the present time, I am accepting all notebook entries and am especially hoping to receive more entries from boys and men who keep any kind of notebooks.  If you are interested in writing in this space, please contact me, Amy, directly.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Dr. Shari Daniels: Whatever It Be

My notebooks are in a constant state of growing and changing, layers of me evolving right alongside them. Early notebooks began as diaries and emotional purging mediums, of which I penned much ink during those high school and college years back in the 1980’s. As my children arrived, snippets of their silliness and precious moments I didn’t want to forget were peppered between entries that contained my hopes and dreams as a young mother and wife. I realized early on that my notebook housed what was close to my heart.

(Click to Enlarge Image)

Some twenty years later, Julie Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, would prompt a shift in my notebook writing, and morning pages were born. As a ritual, each morning still, three pages of whatever shows up finds its way to the notebook with the intention to hear the whispers of my soul and receive guidance for the day. I learned to recognize patterns of whining and emotional drama and discovered that writing in my notebook could pull me out of the sludge; sometimes an anchor, sometimes a buoy. And: what I put my attention towards shaped my life.

Later yet, as a newly minted literacy coach being trained at OSU, I was introduced to Ralph Fletcher, Georgia Heard, and Donald Graves, and a new layer of transformation took place. The concept that a notebook is a treasure box housing precious gems, random threads, and collectables to one day grow into something more: a story, a poem, or a book, was my new mantra. Now I was not just writing for myself, but with the possibility that I could go shopping in my notebook for any topic that calls to me, play with it, write deeper into and around it or reshape it for the public. 

I turned into a "story-catcher," living wide awake for any remnant to be safeguarded in the notebook: an image, dialogue of another (especially my husband - the sharp witted man he is), a random wonder or text message. The world became fodder for my notebook.

(Click to Enlarge Image)

In the last 5-10 years, my notebooks evolved once again, as they screamed for creativity and meaning. The work of Lynda Barry, Lisa Swerling, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Leah O’Donnel, and Sunni Brown,  Austin Kleon, dozens of children’s authors and Amy of course, inspire the poetry and drawings, doodles and silliness that now pervades my notebooks. I’ve added art journaling, Instagram images, and visual storytelling to be more playful in this space. Mary Oliver’s words to “Pay Attention ~ Be Astonished ~ and Tell About It” feed purpose into my devotion to adding more ink on the page. In a world of “un-noticers”, being one who “makes alertness a hidden discipline of familiarity” (as David Whyte words depict) feels like a special gift I have been granted. 

(Click to Enlarge Image)

My notebooks, for me, and for others I’ve spoken to, have led me to a discovery and documentation of who I am. Following the threads of which I collect, to a larger meaning unearths the hidden treasures of which I learn from and see new perspectives. Words revealed are guidance, often medicine for healing, and quite frankly, just a sweet bliss upon the surprise of the next line. Once that essence is tasted and experienced, it becomes a necessary nourishment for the feeding of my soul.

Invitation (I love “invitations” ~ borrowing the word from Donald Graves and Julia Cameron):

Writing has taught me to live with a sense of presence and awareness of anything that aspires or inspires, creates a sense of wonder, and for what surprises me, shocks me, and disturbs the core of my being. Cultivating a new lens for "seeing" is the first habit of mind for living this writerly life.

So, listen to a podcast for words that abduct you, snap the photo of a tweet that calls your name and Paparang it (I'm in love with this new little gadget I bought myself), writing from it to see where it takes you, capture a sentence overheard from your children, or learn to doodle people and make speech bubbles as the thoughts and words.  Whatever it be, capture it.  Be a witness to the threads of stories around you.

If you are just beginning to cultivate a sense of awareness and need a scaffold, I’ve revised Lynda Barry’s tool for paying attention and found it is a good “starter” in teaching the eyes and ears what to look for. Each snippet saved can later be lifted to explore your way into a story to find meaning or some Universal Truth. It’s a lovely strategy in which the only requirement is that you put down your phone and live wide awake in this world.

(Click to Enlarge Image)

Because, the world is waiting for you. Our lives will pass us by and we will wonder how we spent our days and who we were. Pull out the net and do some capturing of all those sweet butterflies.

Thank you so much to Amy for inviting me to share my notebooks. Digging into my neglected blogging space to share past scribbles with you has made me realize how much I miss blogging and a writing community.  New nudges are being stirred to venture down some untraveled paths.

Shari 😊

Dr. Shari Daniels has taught for 25 years in a variety of roles: kindergarten teacher, first grade teacher, third grade teacher, and literacy coach. After literacy coach training at OSU, she felt a calling to graduate school and earned her PhD in Teaching and Learning. Currently, she is an assistant professor teaching preservice teachers at the University of Minnesota in Crookston. Shari is mother of four amazing children who are all following their callings in the world of adulting, grandma to Grayson, who is 2 and 1/2, with a sibling on the way, and wife to her high school sweetheart of 30 years. She hopes to one day live out on a plot of land in the country, with a couple small writing shacks scattered about and maybe raise llamas. She will probably will wear purple.

Sharing Our Notebooks is offering a giveaway of a book Shari recommends - POEMCRAZY by Susan G. Wooldridge - for a reader of this post. Please leave a comment by 11:59pm on Sunday, April 7 to be entered into this random drawing.  Please be sure to leave a way to contact you as part of your comment.

Please know that Sharing Our Notebooks welcomes all kinds of notebook keepers - of any age and interest - to open up their pages and share their process.  At the present time, I am accepting all notebook entries and am especially hoping to receive more entries from boys and men who keep any kind of notebooks.  If you are interested in writing in this space, please contact me, Amy, directly.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Brett Vogelsinger: Variations

One of the advantages of keeping a writing teacher’s notebook is that I have the opportunity to practice an idea or follow a thread more than once over the course of a day.  If I ask my students to respond to a poem or write in the manner of a particular poet, I will do so several times by the day’s end.

In my class we respond to a poem in a variety of ways.  Sometimes, we write “after” a poet, borrowing a first line and writing a sort of spin-off poem.  Here are my variations on the poem “Hope” by Ali Liebegott, experimenting with various first lines borrowed from the original.

In the following poem draft, I challenged students to write a line that sounds like it is from the poem “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye, almost like a “deleted scene” you might find in the DVD extras for the poem.  I challenged myself to also incorporates a vocabulary word from our study of the book Night to demonstrate usage.

And in this third example, I wrote lines in celebration of small victories or gratitudes in my life that the ending of “won’t you celebrate with me?” by Lucille Clifton drew out in my heart.

In all three cases, I see my writing change and sometimes grow throughout a given day.  

From this I have learned that the first idea is frequently not my best idea.  It gives me the opportunity to share that process with students the following day.  And it reminds me to have students create more than one variation on an idea. For instance, in the Lucille Clifton model, could students think of three different “come celebrate with me” statements to make about their own lives?  Might these be arranged into a poem of their own? Or might we evaluate which one has the best rhythm or the broadest appeal to an audience outside of the Writer’s Notebook? Or might this simply invite greater gratitude and cheer into my classroom?

Variations invite possibility, and possibility grows writers.  

Try it:  
If you are a teacher, find a poem or passage that inspires you and invite a class to write something that sounds a bit like it but also brings in their own voices.  Then, repeat this with several of your classes, writing something different each period. If you are feeling especially brave, write under a document camera! If you are not a teacher, then try this same process in your notebook across the space of three to four days, coming back to same prompt from a different angle each time.  Your first approach is seldom your best approach.

Real Brett & Wonderful Student Portrait of Brett

Brett Vogelsinger is a ninth-grade English teacher at Holicong Middle School.  He is advisor of the school’s literary magazine, Sevenatenine, and runs an annual blog project, Go Poems,  promoting daily poetry reading in the classroom. You can find him on Twitter @theVogelman.

Please know that Sharing Our Notebooks welcomes all kinds of notebook keepers - of any age and interest - to open up their pages and share their process.  At the present time, I am accepting all notebook entries and am especially hoping to receive more entries from boys and men who keep any kind of notebooks.  If you are interested in writing in this space, please contact me, Amy, directly.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Miriam Haefner: Recording the Sky

Judy R. is the winner of the moon journal!  Please, Judy, see my note to you in the comments.  Congrats! Thank you so much to Miriam, for this delightful post that has us all looking up and thinking about this moon we share.  xo, Amy

Notebook by blackbird letterpress

One of Miri's Moons

I have been fascinated by the moon pretty much my whole life!

An early recollection?  When I was about 8 years old, I summoned my older brother to my bedroom.  He was six years older and could solve problems for me. I wondered what the light was that glowed on my blanket.  He took one look outside, saw the bright full moon in the sky and declared that the moon was actually shining down in through my bedroom window onto my bed.  I wondered how that could be. The moon was so far away, up in the sky.  I used my hand to create a shadow – and I did. There were no outside lights on the house and no street lights.  I actually had the moon light shining in my bedroom. Awesome!

On July 20th, 1969 - I recall sitting on the living room floor in my parents' house, watching television as the first men walked on the moon.  My father insisted that this was a big moment.  He was right.

When my sister had kids, I often would point out the moon to them as we walked in their local neighborhood.  The days came when they had to move out of the United States, over the Atlantic Ocean, to the country of Luxembourg.  I burst into tears when I saw the semi-trailer moving van in their driveway.  They were really leaving.

For three years I would not see these kids that I had known since their births.  How would we stay connected?  Before they left the U.S., I told them to notice the moon, especially the full moons.  When they saw the moon up in their skies on Luxembourg nights; it was the same moon that I would have here.  I told them that I would talk to the moon and tell it to take care of my kids – so far away.  I told the kids to talk to the moon and tell “Miri’s moon” to watch over me.

I even looked up the names of the monthly moons: Harvest Moons, Blue Moons...  Why does the moon sometimes look especially large and close, and sometimes so far away?  An orange glowing moon is really special as it fills the sky.  So much can be learned about the moon!

While my sister's family was living in Luxembourg, my sister, Lori Runk, was aware of her kids' and my fascination with the moon.  She painted this picture for me.

Painting by Lori Runk
Photo by Miriam Haefner

I love teddy bears and she added a bear to the picture, which has the full moon shining bright outside in the night.  The picture still hangs in my computer room.  The kids are all grown, but they remember the story surrounding my picture.  “Miri’s Moon.”

Back on December 20, 2017, I decided that I would like to see if December 21st was really the date that the days started getting longer in Buffalo, NY.  I had always been told it was so.  Technically, yes is the answer.  Daylight is shortest on December 20th at 9 hours, 1 minute and six seconds.  Daylight is longest on June 20th at 15 hours and 21 minutes.

But, if you look at sunrise and sunset numbers, the story changes a bit.  On December 8th, 2017 - sunset times started getting later from an earliest time of 4:41:11pm.  Sunrise times started getting earlier from a latest time of 7:47:26am on January 2nd.

So, even though December 20th is the day noted for being the shortest, other features of sunrise and sunset are in play.

Since December 2017, I have been making daily listings of sunrise and sunset times.   I decided that I wanted to know when I was losing the darkness!  I enjoy dark mornings when I can sleep in so snugly!  To my delight, from December 20th until January 2nd, sunrise kept getting later.  It did not come earlier on December 21st!  On December 20th, sunrise was at 7:43am; January 2nd, it was 7:47am.  I got three more minutes of darkness – for sleeping!  Sunrise did not get back to 7:43am, until January 16th.  Who would have guessed?

So I checked the sunset times.  From November 26th, sunset went from 4:44pm to the earliest of 4:41pm on December 8th.  By December 20th, three minutes of daylight had been added to my day – back to 4:44pm.  By January 2nd, sunset was at 4:53pm.

Over the years, I have found many moon items.  Halloween has many full moons!  Jewelry can be purchased with all the phases of the moon.  The full moon is my favorite.

Here are 3 pages of my daily notes, from June 17th to August 31st, 2018.  

Miri's Notes
Photo by Miriam Haefner

For sunrise and sunset hours, I used the daily edition of THE BUFFALO NEWS, but a smart phone will have the information as well.  For purposes of writing this article, I supplemented my time recordings with full hours, minutes and seconds found online.

Photo by Miriam Haefner

Being an accountant, tracking numbers interested me!  I have now tracked the sunrise and sunset numbers, as published in THE BUFFALO NEWS on a daily basis, since December 20th, 2017. 

I learned some fun things:
  • Daylight times change from a high range of 2, 3 or 4 minutes per day (never 5 minutes), to a low of 0, 1 or 2 minutes per day. 
  • Between February 14th (Valentine’s Day) and February 20th - over 7 days we gained 21 minutes of daylight.  Days were changing quickly.
  • March 17th had sunrise and sunset times of 7:24 - am and pm.
  • September 26th had sunrise and sunset times of 7:07am and 7:06pm.
  • May 4th, was the last day we gained 4 minutes of daylight – in one day - (the usual was 2,3 or 4 minutes per day) before heading into summer. 
  • From June 18th to 23rd, there were 6 days that sunrise and sunset times did not lengthen or shorten the daylight hours.  Hmmm…  Talk about the seemingly long days of summer?  It is true. It feels like the days are long – and there are many of them.  
  • From June 20th until 14 days later – on July 3rd, sunset stayed at 8:58pm.  Over those 14 days, we only lost 5 minutes of daylight from our mornings.  Note:  Remember to appreciate June 20th to July 3rd each year – time is yours to spend freely on long days!
  • It wasn’t until August 2nd that we started losing 4 minutes of daylight in one day.  August has a knack for catching us off guard – summer is fading away.  It really does.
  • Between October 14th and October 20th - over 7 days we lost 20 minutes of daylight.
  • Our earliest sunrise was 5:36am on June 11th.  Our latest sunrise was Jan 2nd at 7:47am.
  • Our earliest sunset was 4:41pm on December 8th.  Our latest sunset was June 26th at 8:58:27pm.

  • Around April 16th, I decided to start tracking the moon phases.  New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon and Last Quarter.  Honestly, I could not have told you the difference between a crescent moon of the First Quarter and the Last Quarter.  The difference?  The brightness of the moon you see on the First Quarter in on the right side of the moon.  Brightness is on the left side for the Last Quarter.  So when you look up in the sky at night, you can tell by looking at a crescent moon, as to whether the Full Moon has passed you by or if it is coming up within a few days.
  • I find the full moon fascinating.  The brightness is intriguing.  Have more odd events seemed to happen in your life on days when the moon was full?  Hmmm….
  • If someone comments on what time sunset is – you know the answer; if you can remember what you wrote down on your daily note pad.
  • I came to notice that there was extra light in the sky 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset – “Twilight”.  Extra minutes every day.  I can finish cutting my lawn on cool fall evenings.
Even when life doesn’t go the way we like at times, it is important to remember that each night the moon will still be waiting for us up in the sky.

Try It:

On your own, try tracking sunrise and sunset numbers on a daily basis.  I did not track the differences in daylight each day until a month into the process.  I became curious as to the numerical patterns.  Warning - the math does get a little confusing when sunrise and sunset are not both increasing or decreasing at the same time!  I could have used a spreadsheet to track the numbers, but did not.  I kept the note pad on my refrigerator, so that I could easily record the numbers daily.

No rules – create your own format!

Note from Amy:

You might also find inspiration through NASA - don't miss this Moon Observation Journal!

Miriam Haefner is a moon-interested aunt and accountant living in the Buffalo, NY area.

Please know that Sharing Our Notebooks welcomes all kinds of notebook keepers - of any age and interest - to open up their pages and share their process.  At the present time, I am accepting all notebook entries and am especially hoping to receive some entries from boys and men who keep any kind of notebooks.  If you are interested in writing in this space, please contact me, Amy, directly.

Please share a comment below if you wish.