November 1, 2011

Daily Pages

I've had students use a composition notebook as a "writer's notebook" or "journal" for years, but it never seemed to have a focused purpose.  Then a few years ago I discovered Aimee Buckner's book Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer's Notebook.  Reading through Notebook Know-How, I was immediately drawn to the strategy-based writer's notebook lessons.  Since we use The Sister's CAFE reading strategies model for reading workshop, a strategies approach for writing has made good sense.

One of my favorite strategies from Buckner is the "daily page" to develop writing fluency.  It's pretty much exactly what it sounds like, students write a page a day.  This is not a new idea by any means, but if we're truly going to work with our writing they way that good writers do, my students need to be able to write a substantial entry and have many entries in their notebooks.

So today, I made a pact with my wonderful class of good writers.  We agreed that good writers write more to become better writers, and we all want to become better writers.  They're going to write their daily page each day and I am going to write a blog post each day.  After all, I need to be a good model for my students and this a great challenge for myself as well.

A few kids wondered why they had to write in their notebooks and couldn't they just write a blog post?  Valid question.  We talked about our state standardized test and that they would have a writing prompt and would have a specific amount of time to write an amazing knock-your-socks-off story.  My wonderful writers agreed that daily pages could be good practice.

Together, we set some guidelines for daily pages:

  • Write about any topic but stay on topic
  • Write with complete sentences, correct spelling and capitalization
  • Write varied sentence beginning and different types of sentences
  • Write red line to red line (margin to margin) and use all the lines, normal word spacing
  • Label each entry with the date and start/end times (we're calculating elapsed time)
  • Begin writing your entry at school, but it's okay to finish at home if needed
  • Have fun!
Each student signed our "Daily Pages Guidelines" and then began their first daily pages.  There is so much we can teach students about writing through the example of their own writing.  In her book, Aimee Buckner also uses the metaphor of "kneading the notebook."  While my students may feel that writing the daily page is a bit painful this week, it will get easier, the ideas will begin to flow, the conversations about writing will begin, and we will knead our notebooks in a recipe for wonderful writing.

Other favorite resources:
Choice Literacy - subscribe to The Big Fresh newsletter for practical and inspirational literacy ideas
The 2 Sisters -  Daily 5 and CAFE author's website
Writing Fix - the Northern Nevada Writing Project, sign up for the ning site and get an amazing monthly writing lesson delivered to your email inbox each month.

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