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Setting Up Writer’s Notebooks: Creating Tools for Successful Writing

Organization is key during writing workshop! To keep organized, your students can keep a writer's notebook. The writer's notebook will go with them wherever they go during writing workshop and serve as their most important writing tool. It is a place to write, keep ideas and information, and will serve as a mini reference book throughout their writing workshop journey.

What is a writer's notebook?

A writer’s notebook is a place for students to keep their ideas, important information, writing goals, and space to free write.  It is an important tool for students to use throughout writing workshop and will become an important reference as they develop their craft.  

writer's notebook

How to set up the writer's notebook

For writer's notebooks, I like to use composition notebooks because they fit nicely into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag or folder. I feel they hold up better through the wear and tear they go through during the year.

Now, I know this may be an unpopular opinion, but I have students write on BOTH sides of the notebook pages. Front AND back. *gasp* I don't like to waste any space…it's all prime writing real estate!

writer's notebook with tabs

Dividing student notebooks is the first step in helping them stay organized.

To set up writer's notebooks, separate the notebooks into four sections: ideas, goals, info, and free-write. The “info” section should be the largest section as they will collect A LOT of information in mini-lessons throughout the year.

Your students will have everything they need at their fingertips. But, when they just throw everything onto the pages of a notebook, they do not utilize their materials correctly.

Their writing may end up being interrupted by goal setting, or an idea may pop in their head, but where should it go in their notebook if they are in the middle of freewriting?

By dividing your writer's notebooks, your students can begin to use each section exactly what it's intended for!

writing workshop lessons

Using the writer's notebook for student success

  • Students will write down any ideas for writing in the ideas section. Any time an idea pops in their head, they can write it down! Writers are always thinking and jotting down ideas! Having students keep an ideas secition in their notebook will become a great writer's habit.
  • Your students should also set goals for themselves as they are writing. As they are writing everyday, they will grow as authors and their goals will grow with them. Whether it is writing stamina, skills, or spelling; whatever goals your students have are worth writing down and celebrating.
  • Mini anchor charts are a great way for students to keep all of the amazing content from mini lessons. Jotting down information from anchor charts or gluing in their own mini anchor charts will turn their writer's notebooks into their own little writing reference books, filled with so much good content! You can have students copy your anchor charts or create mini anchor charts to glue into this section. So many skills can be used across writing genres. Your students will become familiar with looking back in their notebook at all of this amazing info.
  • Have you ever been stuck and felt writer's block? It happens to me all. the. time. And we have to understand that it happens to our students too. If they are feeling stuck, they can turn back to their ideas section and take some time to free write…no rules, no prompts; just writing of their own choice. This is a great option for early finishers or for centers too. I have had students use their free writing section to start their own short stories that have continued on throughout the entire year! #futureauthorsinthemaking
writing workshop quote and tips
writing workshop anchor chart pieces

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launching writing workshop

Happy Writing!

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