Sunday, July 24, 2016

Alexandra Zurbrick: A Purpose for Each One

Like many other writers, I have this feeling of desire and inspiration when I come across journals. No matter the store, I always end up finding the notebooks. So, when I say that I “collect” journals, I am really expressing that I have little self control when it comes to purchasing them.

I love receiving journals as gifts because each gift notebook has even more meaning to it. The question that then haunts me is: What should I use this journal for? I always fear that the contents I choose to fill it with could somehow destroy the aesthetic.


I consider myself rather creative, but to make such important decisions, like what to write in a journal, I cannot brainstorm alone. I then turn to my friend, Pinterest. While there are so many brilliant ideas on this website/app, it is from my experience, I have learned it is no fun to just copy the ideas displayed. Instead, I allow them to get me motivated to act on my own ideas, so that they represent me!

There are no rules when it comes to keeping a notebook, which is part of the writer’s block that comes with each new journal at times. I recently sat down with all my journals and stared at them. There were so many; what was I going to do with them all? One was from when I was 10 and used it as a diary. Another was and still is being used as a diary. Okay… two down and many more to pick fates for. After much thought, I put sticky notes in my journals to designate a purpose for each one and to feel ready for the journey with each one.

Here is a list of the different types of journals I am keeping:
Diary Style
Photo Journal
Future Journal
Question Journal
Adventure Journal
Prompts/30 Day Challenge Journal
Short Story Journal

By listing these variations without much explanation, it allows your imagination to wander and create your own variations of these journals!


An Exercise:
Sometimes when you are just getting started in your notebook, you begin to feel pressured to fit everything in. Especially if it is diary style! If you wish to try diary style journaling, start by bulleting the things you want to be known in your diary. For example, if you want to run through the day’s events, bullet them. This way, if there is an event you want to give more information about you can refer back, but everything is in there. 

Some people say that after keeping a daily diary, it begins to feel like a job. You CAN avoid this, just keep it simple and keep your diary the way that works for you!

Here is an excellent Pinterest page to inspire any writer!

Alexandra Zurbrick is a 2016 graduate of Orchard Park High school. She will be attending SUNY Oswego Fall 2016 to study Journalism and Creative Writing. Alexandra has written for the Buffalo News and was Editor in Chief of her school’s newspaper. She is on the path to become a fictional author as well as a magazine journalist, hoping to inspire other writers. 


In honor of Alexandra's sharing here, Sharing Our Notebooks will send a copy of one of her favorite books,  WRITING FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION by Orson Scott Card, Philip Athans, and Jay Lake.  Please leave a comment, including a way of contacting you should you win, by Sunday, August 21, to be entered into the drawing.

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.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Find Out Who Won NOTEBOOK KNOW-HOW Today!


Congratulations to Deanna H., winner of Aimee Buckner's wonderful NOTEBOOK KNOW-HOW.  Deana - please drop me a line at amy at amylv dot com with your snail mail address, and I will get your book off to you.

So many thank yous to Katie Liseo and her students for their generosity in sharing their inspiring notebooks and back-up work.  If you have not read her post yet, please don't miss it!  You can find it HERE.

Please know that Sharing Our Notebooks is full of blog posts and writing ideas....have fun poking around and inspiring yourself!

If you keep a notebook or know someone who does, I am always interested in featuring all kinds of notebook keepers.  Just let me know...

And please don't miss so many generous notebooking ideas from all kinds of folks! Find them at the tabs above, or click HERE for starters, to get your own summer notebooking going.

Next up, I am happy to announce, is recent high school graduate and about-to-be journalism major Alexandra Zurbrick.  Stay tuned!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY Giveaway Winner!


Congratulations to Maria Gianferrari, winner of a signed copy of THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY by Laura Shovan.  Maria - please drop me a line at amy at amylv dot com with your snail mail address, and I will share it with Laura.

So much gratitude to Laura Shovan for her wonderful peek behind the scenes of her new book and for offering this giveaway.  If you did not have a chance to read her post yet, you can do so HERE.

Please know that this site is full of blog posts and writing ideas....have fun poking around and inspiring yourself!

If you keep a notebook or know someone who does, I am always interested in featuring all kinds of notebook keepers.  Just let me know...

And please don't miss so many generous notebooking ideas from all kinds of folks! Find them at the tabs above, or click HERE for starters, to get your own summer notebooking going.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Katie Liseo: The Chance to Be Adventurous as Writers

“Can I stay in during recess and work on writing?”  This is not a usual phrase uttered in many elementary school classrooms and in fact, this is a phrase I’ve rarely heard in years prior to this one.  However, this year these words are not uncommon, often asked by several students as we all get up from our share at the end of writer’s workshop and prepare to line up for recess.

So, what was different about this year? Let’s go on a journey back to August, back to the beginning of a new school year with endless possibilities, fresh routines, new friends, and blank writers’ notebooks.

I have the privilege of working on a grade level team of educators who are risk takers-  we keep what’s best for kids in our forefront which drives us to always push ourselves to try new things and see what happens along the way.  As we sat to think of the possibilities for writer’s workshop this year, we kept coming back to an idea that we really, really wanted to try in the past but just hadn’t quite figured out how to get it started ….independent writing projects, otherwise known as back-up work.

Click to enlarge any image.

Katlyn created a writer’s notebook just for her back-up work.

This was something that we had read about in STUDY DRIVEN by Katie Wood Ray and had learned about firsthand from respected literacy consultant, Matt Glover.  We mulled over the idea for a few years, then after a visit from Matt last June, we knew we were ready to get this idea up and running in our classrooms. We knew the what: we wanted to give our students the chance to be adventurous as writers, explore new genres, to transfer old and new skills/strategies as writers, and to take hold of their writing lives.  We wanted them to be self-directed in their process but the only holdup was that we were not too sure of the how.

When thinking of how to launch writer’s workshop this year, we were guided by the words in Aimee Buckner’s NOTEBOOK KNOW-HOW: STRATEGIES FOR THE WRITER'S NOTEBOOK and Ralph Fletcher’s A WRITER'S NOTEBOOK.  We wanted to launch the workshop in a new way with the focus being on the notebook.  Notebooks had always been a pillar in our writer’s workshop, but they were not being used to their fullest potential.  We wanted students to truly use their notebooks, not just keep one at school.

We always hoped their notebooks would travel back and forth from school to home, on road trips, to holiday celebrations, etc.  We hoped that their notebooks would brim with ideas for possible writing pieces, be a place they could turn to when no one else would listen, be a place for reflection, and even hold yearnings and desires for their futures.  We wanted students notebooks to be a poignant and purposeful piece of their year as a 4th grade writer and beyond.  Aimee Buckner’s launching strategies and Ralph Fletcher’s inspiring words gave us the springboard for creating a sacred place to house beginnings for countless future writing pieces and we just needed to give our students opportunity and time to explore themselves as writers, and back-up work was just that.

After generating many entries, students combed their notebooks 
and noticed patterns in both their own and each other's entries.

It was a few weeks into the school year and we had begun to fill our notebooks with promising ideas. This lead to an a-ha -- why not let them take one (or several) of those ideas out of the notebook and use these as sparks for our students’ very first pieces of back-up work.

We created this chart at the beginning of the year 
with examples from student’s notebooks.

We invited students to choose an idea from their notebook that they had more to say about and from there, we nurtured this idea with focus lessons that centered around applying skills that they knew to use as good writers and focusing on their processes and reflecting as they worked through their own independent, self-selected pieces of writing.  As a teacher, I choose to intentionally model with genres that I knew were not taught in our district's units of study.


 We wanted our writers to see the possibilities beyond the genres we studied.  Of course, techniques and skills learned from those genres would transfer to back-up work, but we wanted writers to discover their “secret writing lives”- the kind of writing that kids often wished they could do in class, but couldn’t.  We wanted them to realize that they could be inspired by a new genre or an author’s unique style and make that their guiding force for a back-up piece of writing.

We wanted this back-up work to be the writing they would turn to when they had time to work after an immersion into a new genre, when they had writer’s block, at home, or when they were working in self-directed time while guided reading groups were taking place.  As the year progressed, so did our realization as teachers as to what this new opportunity meant to the writers in our classrooms.  We saw writers taking risks, setting goals, collaborating, and truly living writerly lives.

Selena’s first piece of back-up work was inspired by 
Peter H. Reynolds’ book THE DOT.

Back-up work quickly fueled this writing energy in our classrooms that had never been felt before.  Students were doing things like seeking out the music teacher to collaborate on a song and asking family members and neighbors for writing tips.  Notebooks were being taken home and used more than ever before.  Students were truly seeing themselves as writers all of the time and not just during our writer’s workshop block.  We even held a back-up work writer’s celebration halfway through the year.

For this celebration, students could showcase as many pieces of back-up work as they wanted; some even choose work that was still in progress and talked through their process with visitors at the celebration.  Some had published pieces and some didn’t - the purpose of the celebration was not to show a final, polished piece  for that’s not what back-up work’s all about.  Rather, the purpose was to celebrate their lives as writers.  This writer’s celebration felt different because each writer had something unique to share and they so beautifully articulated their process because the writing they were sharing was completely and 100% theirs.  From there, the rest is really history…

One student created a plan for a poetry anthology 
which was part of back-up work.


Kara wrote a play; auditions will be held during recess. 
The first performance should be any day now.

Back-up work is a cornerstone of our writing lives now.  Since jumping in and making back-up work part of our growing writerly lives this year, students have written numerous songs, become playwrights, poets, graphic novelist, started a school newspaper, written reviews, crafted “choose your own adventure” tales, written odes, comic books, greeting cards (which were briefly sold in our school’s front office), the list goes on and on.  Students are even going to feature their back-up work in our school library for fellow students to check out!  And as a teacher-writer, along with my teammates, I have worked on several back-up writing pieces of my own.

Students have created back-up writing partnerships outside of their initial writing partnerships, and they have formed collaborative groups centered around creating a poetry anthology, a mini series, or just to bounce ideas off of one another.  What is so amazing is that these collaborations are personal and purposeful.  Students often sing their fellow writers' praises and choose to work with someone based on a strength that writer possesses or a shared passion for a particular genre.  Reluctant writers are more motivated than ever- they work hard on our unit work because they know that they have their own writing life waiting for them.  The transfer of skill and stamina to writing both unit work and back-up work by all writers is impressive, and growth is evident.

Raymon was inspired by figures in Greek Mythology 
to write a choose your own adventure story about King Midas.


This piece of back-up work started as an idea in his writer’s notebook 
and was taken out of his notebook and to his drafting pad.

As the teacher of these amazing writers, I cannot speak enough to how powerful it is to hear the hum of a room with students who have a true passion for writing.  They continue to be just as passionate and excited towards their unit writing work, however seeing their eyes light up as they share a piece of back-up writing is really as good as it gets in a teacher’s world.

This piece of back-up work was inspired by a writer 
who had some questions about the weather.

As we approach the end of the year, I overhear my 4th graders questioning the 5th grade teachers in the hallway about back-up work and pleading that it has to be a part of their writing lives next year. I smile as I walk past because this too, is something I didn't expect to hear and it is music to my writing teacher ears.

A recent note from a student.. My favorite is his last line- 
out of all things to thank me for, he chose back-up work.

To learn more about about back up work, read this post by Dana Murphy at Two Writing Teachers.


Katie Liseo is a 4th grade teacher in Kansas City, Missouri.  Katie has been teaching for 5 years and loves learning alongside each of her students and colleagues. She enjoys reading many education blogs such as: Two Writing Teachers, Indent, Edutopia, Mr. Schu Reads, and The Poem Farm. She also loves learning from all of the collaboration that takes place via Twitter (@KatieLiseo).  When she is not nerding out on school related things, Katie enjoys hanging out with friends and her dog, Oliver. 




In honor of Katie Liseo and her students' inspiring notebook work, Sharing Our Notebooks will send a copy Aimee Buckner's NOTEBOOK KNOW-HOW: STRATEGIES FOR THE WRITER'S NOTEBOOK to someone who comments on this post.  Please leave a comment, including a way of contacting you should you win, by Sunday, June 12, to be entered into the drawing.

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.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Laura Shovan: Working on a Jigsaw Puzzle with Moving Pieces

Notebooks are great for recording ideas and research, writing first drafts of poems and scenes, for sketches and doodles. But there comes a time in the life of a big writing project when an author needs to get organized. That's when I go for the binder.

When Amy asked me to put together a post about constructing THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, I knew that the centerpiece of the post would be my big, giant binder of revisions. However, my novel in verse started small -- as a page of scribbled notes (and one important doodle) on the back of a writing conference handout.  Here is the story, from scribbled notes to my new book.

Click any photo to enlarge.

Literary Inspiration

I read SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY during my first year of teaching high school English. The class was “Literature About Society.” I loved the layers of this verse novel, published in 1915. Each poetic monologue adds to the nuanced view the reader has of a small town outside of Chicago.

The idea of re-setting SPOON RIVER in a fifth grade class bubbled up after I started working in elementary schools as a visiting poet. But it didn’t really solidify until…

Human Inspiration

 … my son’s fifth grade year. I was active at his school and knew his friends, his teacher, and observed many little details about their class.

They were obsessed with the WARRIORS series. They made little origami boxes out of Post-it notes and kept their erasers in them. Their teacher, Mr. Schoenhut, shook hands as the children walked into the classroom each day. (BTW: Robbie is in the red and white stripes.)

Initial Book Ideas

The summer after Robbie moved up from fifth grade, I was at a local SCBWI conference. Agent Stephen Barbara and I had a conversation about SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY, a book we both loved. That night, I sketched out the initial ideas for my book. You can see above where it says “Spoon River ES.” On the left is a sketch of a concrete poem in the shape of a boy – one of the few things on this sheet that exists in the finished book.

Jason Chen's Bio-Sheet

Initially, I stuck close to the structure of Spoon River. I developed a collection of 30 poems, each in the voice of a student in one fifth grade class. There was no true plot, but together the poems were a portrait of a year fifth grade.

When I received feedback, readers liked the voices but didn’t understand what this was. It wasn’t a novel yet.

Over several years, I developed the characters. Above you can see a bio-sheet for one student: Jason Chen. It lists his character arc, what happens to him in each quarter of the book, facts about his family, who his friends are, what activities he likes. I have a sheet like this for every character.

Early Character Seating Chart

I created spreadsheets and lists and kept writing. The book went from 30 pages and 30 characters, to 50 pages, and finally 150 pages and 20 character when it sold. It was like working on a jigsaw puzzle with moving pieces.

One of the ways I kept track of the voices was by making seating charts. This is an early one. Some of these characters were cut from the book.

Giant Draft Binder

Working on revisions with my editor meant cutting two more voices and overhauling the book again.

Above you can see the giant binder where I kept drafts of all of the poems. Each tab represents one character. Every time I worked on a major revision, I pulled the book apart and focused on one voice at a time, so that each character’s voice sounded consistent and true to him or her. Then I reconstructed the order of the poems.

Despite cutting two voices, the book grew to 180 poems during this final phase.

Almost eight years later… THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY made its debut. It was a team effort, with lots of help from my agent, Stephen Barbara,  my editor, Wendy Lamb, and the team at Random House Children’s Books.

Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is former editor for LITTLE PATUXENT REVIEW and editor of two poetry anthologies. Her chapbook, MOUNTAIN, LOG, SALT AND STONE, won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. Laura works with children as a poet-in-the-schools and was the 2015-2016 Howard County Poetry and Literary Society's writer in residence. THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY  is her debut novel-in-verse for children (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House).

Visit Laura Online Here:
Website
Blog
Twitter
PDF of LAST FIFTH GRADE Educators' Guide


Laura has generously offered to send a signed copy of THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY to someone who comments on this post.  Please leave a comment, including a way of contacting you should you win, by Sunday, May 22, to be entered into the drawing.

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.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Giveaway Winner - SYLLABUS by Lynda Barry!


Congratulations to Sue Heavenrich, winner of SYLLABUS: NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL PROFESSOR by Lynda Barry.  Sue - please drop me a line at amy at amylv dot com with your snail mail address, and I will get your book out to you.

Thank you to Stefanie Cole for her wonderful post which inspired this giveaway.  If you did not have a chance to read her post yet, you can do so HERE.

Please know that this site is full of blog posts and writing ideas....have fun poking around and inspiring yourself!

If you keep a notebook or know someone who does, I am always interested in featuring all kinds of notebook keepers.  Just let me know...

Next up is Laura Shovan, author of THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Stefanie Cole: Notebooks are Important, Spotty or Not

Notebook usage in my Grade 7 language class is framed in spottiness.

Don’t get me wrong.  Notebooks are an important tool in my class, but we never end up using them the way I want to.

Please click any image to enlarge.


I dream of my students keeping notebooks like the ones Linda Rief describes in Read Write Teach.  I’ve read Aimee Buckner’s Notebook Know-How and collected her strategies to help us develop our writing.  I’ve poured over Lynda Barry’s drawings and reflection activities in Syllabus because I know that words might be my friends, but they aren’t necessarily the friends of my students.

Some of my students, especially ones who find writing more difficult, have greater success and enjoyment when they draw out their ideas, and I have to give them space and time to do this, but in the busy-ness of school life that dream of regular reflection often falls away.

When Amy asked me to write a Sharing Our Notebooks post, I didn't think I was qualified to write it.  One of my goals as a language teacher is to have students develop the habits of readers and writers.  Using a notebook is one of those habits.

My students know I have a notebook as I often respond to the videos, poems, ideas, stories & questions with them.  I've helped them recognize that a notebook doesn't have to be neat, as they can barely read mine.  They see the cross outs, angled writing, bubbles and boxes I use to frame my ideas.


When authors Ted Staunton and Richard Scrimger, joined us to take us through their process of story writing, they generously shared their very different notebooks with us, reinforcing this idea. But I still didn’t think our use of notebooks was overly impressive.

The process of story writing made us turn to our notebooks...  

Students listed character traits, habits and personality quirks 
of their antagonists and protagonists 
so they would have them in mind while they were writing. 



They pictured their settings and wrote details to use in their stories.


They wrote various opening lines to see which ones would draw in their reader.


They experimented with the problems their stories would encompass.


They drew pictures to show rising action in their plot lines.


And sometimes they simply let the arrows tell the story. 



 They were creative, engaged and funny.  

I wondered if they appreciated the time and planning we put into the notebooks before getting down to the writing or if they were just following instructions.  I asked them to complete a Quick Write answering the question, "Did the planning activities in your notebook help you with your story?" so I could see their thinking.

Interestingly, responses fell into two distinct categories.


They found their notebooks kept ideas safe and accessible:

Raine: It helped me remember what I wanted to add to my book and ideas we could add.

Dakota: It keeps your ideas organized so that you can look back and get more ideas.

Carter: Writing in our notebook helps a lot.  We could write down ideas and remember them.

Tyler: We could just look in our notebooks and write our ideas in the story.


They also found their notebooks allowed them to generate more ideas:

Connor: It helped me visualize the characters and setting by jotting down different ideas and pictures.

Sarah: The more I read all my ideas more and more came to my head!

Ashlyn: It also keeps your ideas flowing.

Raine: It helped me plan out my characters and how they will relate to the story.


I was amazed that the collection of minds which make up my classroom, male, female, various learning disabilities, differing socio-economic backgrounds and varying degrees of academic success came to the same consensus.  

I didn’t fully appreciate how insightful my students were until I came across Sunni Brown's reflections in her book, The Doodle Revolution, on something she calls The Extended Mind.  If we think about it, our notebooks are extensions of our brains and repositories of our often fleeting ideas.  

Brown states that “Creating a physical place in which to pour our thoughts and images permits our minds to release that information from short-term memory, thus letting us see it externalized and releasing us to organize, examine, and reflect on its deeper implications,” (p.24) and that, “extending the mind…is often what makes the emergence of creativity and deeper analysis possible.”  (p. 25)  My students knew that.  They might not have written it as eloquently, but given the chance to reflect, they recognized the power of the notebook. 

Spotty or not, we will continue to use our notebooks to allow that generation of creativity and analysis.  Even if our notebooks aren’t pretty, they have an important place in our classroom, and I’ll just have to work harder to find ways to allow them to experiment with and recognize what a notebook can do!

Stefanie and Her Son William

Stefanie Cole has been an avid reader and collector of quotes in multiple notebooks from her hometown, Uxbridge, Ontario, for over thirty years.  Yes, that's thirty years of notebooks stashed away in her house.  This habit eventually led to her becoming a teacher-librarian.  For the last five years of her teaching career, she has had the honour of balancing library with Grade 7 Language and now she fills her notebooks with her own writing, as well as the inspirational words of others.  She works to pass her passion for the written word on to her students. 
 


Stefanie has generously offered to give one copy of Lynda Barry's SYLLABUS: NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL PROFESSOR to someone who comments on this post.  Please leave a comment, including a way of contacting you should you win, by Saturday, April 30, to be entered into the drawing.

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.