In 2018, I toyed with the idea of digital writer’s notebooks. In 2019 I piloted it with just one class during the Writer Wednesday part of our weekly ELA warm ups. When we found ourselves in a global pandemic in 2020, I was glad I took that risk! If you’d like to try my templates out for yourself, click here. I love this format for a few reasons.
Teachers Have Easy Access
Gone are the days when I would photocopy an entry I wanted to share with a parent or counselor or history teacher. When I am in a meeting and someone asks me about Daniel’s writing, all of the answers are as close as my Google Drive.
Assessment Opportunities Abound
You know when you are doing grades and you realize you don’t have as much data as you’d like about Johnny’s “conventions” or “revision?” Those days are OVER. Just open his document and have a peek! Here’s my favorite routine: Teach a mini-lesson. Invite students to demonstrate that skill somewhere in their Writer’s Notebook. Assessment: (Drumroll) Ask students to highlight the example of that skill they are MOST proud of, and add a comment explaining their brilliance. I put a sentence starter on the board like, “This is great descriptive writing because…” This saves me from reading hundreds of pages of text! The comment helps me understand their thinking (and misunderstandings) and the sentence starter categorizes the data point for me. My work is DONE!! And I lugged ZERO crates of notebooks to my car.
Students Revisit Their Writing Often
I knew the idea of a writer’s notebook was that my students should write often and revisit entries… but to be honest, it never happened before like it does now. Students ALWAYS have their writer’s notebooks at their fingertips- always. Extra time? Dive in! Fast finisher? Go for it! Feel inspired by that thing that happened in PE? Add it into a narrative.
We Publish Student Writing More
Publishing was a thing before. It took forever, I needed everyone involved at the same time. It felt like an unattainable goal and left me exhausted. Now, since kids are revisiting their writing so often I am asked “when can we have another shuffle” at least once a week. I call our online sharing of written work a “writing shuffle,” and it works without much effort from me! The writing process is finally organic and student driven. I apologize to all of the students I had in my first twelve years! Teachers, we really do just need to get out of their way- these young writers are amazing!