Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tanny McGregor: Notebooks Make Life More Meaningful

When I was a little girl growing up in the 70’s, I loved to read. I borrowed books from the Bookmobile each week, anxiously awaited the arrival of my Scholastic Book Club selection in the mailbox each month, and cherished the books I was given for my birthday. These books became my friends, and I still own most of them today. 

Even as much as I loved books filled with beautiful, interesting words, there was something else I loved even more: books that were empty. Notebooks. Journals. Business ledgers. Appointment books. Planners. Calendars. Sketchbooks. My heart would literally race with anticipation when I’d get my hands on a new notebook. For me, a volume of blank pages defined possibility. It could be anything I wanted it to be! Just let me draw, doodle, paste, collect, write, jot and color. I found a brand of pens I loved and the rest was history. In this way I was an author, of page after page, of book after book.

Tanny keeps her notebooking pens in a tool roll.

Mostly I had teachers who understood. They knew I made sense of the world with a pen in my hand. I even had teachers who valued my sketchnotes enough to want copies for themselves and to share them with other students. These teachers boosted my confidence more than they knew; when they accepted my notebooks, they accepted me.

I need notebooks. They are not a luxury. If you see me at school, in my office, relaxing at home or traveling across the country, a notebook will always be nearby. They serve the usual purposes that notebooks serve, acting as a holding place for new ideas, lists and artifacts collected along the way. These are great reasons to use notebooks, but for me, there’s more.

Click to enlarge any image.





Notebooks make life more meaningful. If I’m bored, I find instant entertainment as I fill a blank page. When things seem out of control, notebooks give me a place to organize the world. When I feel lonely, notebooks listen and accept what I’m thinking without judging. Likewise, when everything is wonderful and life feels great, notebooks celebrate with me! With a notebook, I’m mindful. With a notebook, I’m metacognitive. With a notebook, I’m me.


What kinds of notebooks am I keeping right now? 

daily gratitude spiral
concert ticket notebook
professional learning journal
graphic notes collection for an upcoming book
travel log
various other little notebooks in random places in my house, office and car

If you want to explore your creativity, learn to sketchnote or just slow yourself down on a busy day, pick up a notebook. Even spending 5 or 10 minutes a day with pen in hand can get you started.  Write something. Draw something. Tape something in. Let me know how it goes!


Tanny McGregor is a teacher, reader & writer who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her favorite moments include working with kids and teachers to make school a better place.  Tanny has authored two books and coauthored a third:

COMPREHENSION CONNECTIONS: BRIDGES TO STRATEGIC READING (Heinemann 2007)
COMPREHENSION GOING FORWARD: WHERE WE ARE & WHAT'S NEXT (Heinemann 2011)
GENRE CONNECTIONS: LESSONS TO LAUNCH LITERARY & NONFICTION TEXT (Heinemann 2013)

You can connect with Tanny on Twitter @TannyMcG and by email at tanny@fuse.net.  Learn more about her work HERE at the Heinemann website.

Thank you so much to Tanny for generously donating copies of her two books, COMPREHENSION CONNECTIONS and GENRE CONNECTIONS to two commenters on this post.  Please comment by Thursday, December 31 to be entered into this drawing.

Happy Notebooking New Year to All!
Please share a comment below if you wish.

31 comments:

  1. Tanny, you're so inspirational! Your thoughts and feelings about "the power of pen in hand" reminds me of the importance of taking time to simply stop and reflect. How great it would be if I gave my kids this creative outlet to "doodle" every single day. Hmmm...ideas for the new year just over the the horizon.

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  2. I love my notebook, but I wish I used it more. I sometimes think I'll remember the things I think...silly me--it never happens. Today I have renewed interest in making my notebook more of a companion because of your words. Thanks!

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  3. I have been sketch noting with my iPad and the Paper 53 app, but today I took notes with a stack of my favorite Papermates and my daughter's blank drawing paper tablet. My notes look nothing like yours, though. I think I need a blank notebook of my own. :)

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  4. Tanny,
    Congratulations on your published books about connections. Thanks for the giveaway. I will post this on my Facebook page for educators and those who love to keep notebooks.

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  5. I almost wouldn't call those "notes" - that's ART! That would make me go back & look over my notes for sure!

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  6. I just don't know how to take notes quickly and effectively but make them is so beautiful as yours!

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  7. Tanny I too need notes/notebooks around. As I tried to get more tech savvy and put my notes in digital form I couldn't remember them as well. It's something about the physical act of writing...

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  8. Tanny, your creativity and ability to think outside the box is wonderdul. I am a Reading Specialist with grades 1 to 4 and am constantly searching for different ways to show kids how they comprehend. This will help me reach more of my learners. Can't wait to hear more about it!

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  9. Your notes are beautiful and inspiring! I think I am going to start again. What a great way to jot things down you want to remember. Maybe I will even try this with my third graders. Have them keep a notebook handy to doodle in while they learn....things that stand out to them! Thanks for the inspiration!!

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  10. I am a huge fan of altered books, both for myself and for students. I feel like I need to investigate more of the power of interacting with content in this way- I know it to be true!

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  11. Comprehension Connections is my all time favorite professional book! It is always my first go to! :)

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  12. Amazing and inspirational. Your book on Comprehension Strategies was so influential in starting my School year off with my third graders. I now tell all teachers about that book. Thank you.

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  13. Tanny I too was that "bookmobile kid."
    I not only went during the school day but also walked to the bank parking lot every week to get even more books at the bookmobile. I got to see your note taking in person at one of our instructional coaches meetings last year. Quite impressive. Why didn't anyone ever tell me that I could have taken notes like this when I was a student? Think of our little kiddos who would definitely benefit from this creative nite taking.

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  14. So much of our lives is visual, and your notebooks show how that might look for some if we only let them know, or showed examples. Your notebooks are inspiring and such a pleasure to see. Thanks for sharing all that you've done and still do. The bookmobile saved me too!

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  15. Tanny, Students in your care are so fortunate to be encouraged to hold their thinking on a way that makes the most sense to them. Too many times as teachers we fail to allow students to share their thinking in their most natural way. For some that is discourse while others need to organize their thinking. Concept maps are a strategy that helps me the most but unfortunately I didn't discover that until I was teaching others. Thank you for sharing your thinking with us.

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  16. Thank you so much for your constant and awe inspiring inspiration on Twitter and through your professional resources that we use all the time here on the Prairies of Sasakatchewan! I have sent this post to myself and to my elementary Writer's Club to add another dimension to their passion for writing! Thank you from all of us here at BES!

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  17. Tanny, You've inspired me to get back to journal writing and doodling. I have good intentions always, but I want to get my students to do more journal writing and I need to model for them. Thanks

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  18. As a teacher, my notebook is vital to figuring things out. It (well, they) holds nuggets from reading, or PD that will potentially show up in my room. Units, weeks, semesters of teaching get sketched out in them. My newest one is a poetry teaching notebook with poems pasted in, accompanied by notes for teaching.

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  19. Always looking to meet atidenta where they ate, your visualizations are greatfor this

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  20. Your notebook examples inspire me! As a hs freshman English teacher, I've tried to place fewer restrictions on the "what" for kids' notebooks, allowing them freedom to express their responses to reading and words found--reading your post has led me to a goal for 2016: keeping a notebook for teaching ideas/suggestions/reflections to house them in one place instead of random post its slapped on my laptop. ('Course I can always stick them into my notebook!) Thank you. :-)

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  21. I love your notebook collections. Moving into to 2016, I would like to add a "commonplace" notebook to my collection so that I can have all the great ideas and lessons shared by those before me in one place. Your students are so lucky to have someone like you to encourage them to write and express their thoughts and feelings through written word.

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  22. I was so inspired that I purchased a blank sketchbook and a set of Sharpie fine tip pens today so I can use note booking to help with metacognition and as a creative outlet. Thank you!

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  23. Thank you Tanny for sharing your creativity with the educational world! I'm an art teacher turned reading teacher and appreciate every opportunity to allow students to express themselves creatively. I love your Comprehension Connectons book and found that the metacogative lessons you created to be so helpful to my struggling readers. I'm looking forward to the Genre Connections book and all of your future endeavors. You are truly inspiring!

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  24. I am so excited because I was asked to be part of a writing club and I am excited about being creative. I know giving students the opportunity to be creative in their writing will help them open up to their own creativity. As a cults we have to be in the midst of it, too so we can encourage them to let go and be writers! Thanks for the inspiration that comes from your work.

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  25. I am a big fan of your writing and have used it many times in my classroo . Really like the way you carry pens!��

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  26. Thank you for your passion for reading and writing. Thank you for sharing it with so many. I have used interactive notebooks in my classes for several years. I am excited about starting a new personal notebook of blessinga in 2016. Thank you for your inspiration.

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  27. Such an inspirational post. I've been away from writing and blogging the last few months and this might be exactly what I needed to read today! Thank you Tanny!!

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  28. I completely agree there is an "art" to taking notes. It also just helps your connect & think about what you're writing. I buy at least one {maybe more like five} new notebooks a year for various reasons - even when others insist I go digital, I know there is something powerful about a pen! Thanks for sharing your story!
    -Amanda

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  29. Tanny, thank you for sharing your thoughts on notebooking. Your notes are amazing! I have used journals over the years to jot down my thoughts and dreams, but I need to become more consistent. In the classroom though, my students used reflection journals to write down their thoughts in response to literature. They loved it, and I can definitely say that it increased their comprehension because they were thinking deeply. You are an inspiration. Your blog has given me the encouragement that I need to begin my own blog. I've been thinking about it for sometime. Again thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings!

    Sheila Hill

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  30. Thanks to all for merging your thinking here with mine. Here's to more doodling, sketching, drawing, coloring and notebooking in 2016!
    Tanny McGregor

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  31. I am now motivated to start "taping things in" my notebooks. I have napkins, backs of envelopes, grocery receipts; all with snippets and snatches of ideas that come to me in the most inconvenient places (like restaurants, groceries stores, etc)! Thank you for an additional organizational tool! Loved the article. I too, was and am an avid reader....I was soooo good at walking 1 mile to the town library and walking back home while reading at the same time. I never did get hit by a car....nothing short of a miracle! Thanks for your wonderful article!

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