Friday, January 5, 2018

Dina Bolan: A Think Tank of Ideas

Class Notebooks!

Writers notebooks have been a part of my writing teaching in every classroom, at every grade I’ve taught. However, my eyes were completely opened when Amy came to do an author visit at our school. She showed her many notebooks and modeled the type of writing that these writers notebooks should really be meant for. And so began the work of shifting my mindset about not only how I taught using the notebook, but also how I used it myself.

Our fiction unit flowed beautifully. Students used their notebooks as a place to imagine, dream, try out new things, play with words. We had an ongoing, seemingly endless list of ideas for fiction notebook entries. It was a beautiful thing.

Once we began our nonfiction unit, that flow of ideas for notebooking stopped. Even I had a hard time coming up with ideas for my notebook. We searched for resources and ideas on the internet, but nothing was better than when we finally sat as a class “think tank” and made a list of our own ideas!

This is what we came up with:

Class Think Tank Chart

The handwriting may be difficult to read, so here is our list: 

  • Write about something cool you just learned
  • Compare 2 things
  • Write about something that interests you and you think others will like to learn!
  • Animals 
  • Write about something you learned in a book
  • Draw a map and write about it
  • Take someone on a tour of a place you know well
  • Write about someone or something that inspires you!
  • Write a review about your favorite book
  • Write like you are in an animal’s natural habitat
  • Collect data and make a graph or chart
  • Sketch someplace you’ve been and write a lot about it
  • Write a how-to!
  • Write a poem about something you know a lot about, then write long!

Look what happened when we tried out this writing strategy...Write a poem about something you know a lot about, then write long!

by Jannat


by Owen


by Isabel


by Grey


This was an amazing experience in mixing poetry with nonfiction.  Try it!




Dina Bolan is a third grade teacher at Alexander Hamilton Elementary School in Glen Rock, New Jersey. Dina attended Teachers College, Columbia University where her love for reading and writing bloomed. She enjoys learning from other teachers and teacher leaders about ways to grow passionate writers! You can connect with Dina on Twitter @mrsbolansclass.

With gratitude to Dina Bolan and her students for sharing here, I will send a beautiful mystery notebook to a commenter on today's post.  Please comment by Sunday, January 28 to be included in the drawing...and please remember to leave a way to contact you should you 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 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.  I welcome you!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

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