Helping Kids and Parents Understand Writing Notebook Rubrics

I recently wrote about wanting to encourage a playful spirit in the writer’s notebook, but also about my expectation that my 6th graders write words. Lots of words. It can be hard to feel like I’m being clear about what I think should be happening in students’ notebooks in order for them to become stronger and more confident writers, and to have lots of raw material for making things outside of their notebooks.

With help from colleagues and a couple of parents, we created this rubric for our 6th graders: CopyofGr6WNBRubricV3 It’s still being revised a little at a time, but this is our current version.

The rubric itself is not that helpful unless we all agree on what certain terms mean, such as “thoughtful and/or reflective.” In order to make sure that our other 6th grade Humanities teacher and I were approaching this the same way, we looked at students’ notebooks together. When we were ready, we then made a slideshow for kids to walk them through what it looks like to meet or exceed expectations in some key areas of the rubric.

Gr6 Understanding the Writer’s Notebook Rubric

When students got their first rubrics of the year, they were all able to understand their feedback, and work with me to set personal goals for themselves as writers.

Can We Play in a Writer’s Notebook?

I’m back from a year off of posting. Long story.

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Why are some kids tortured by writers’ notebooks?

I got an email from a parent the other day, at her wits’ end because she said that getting her son to write entries in his notebook was like pulling teeth. It was miserable for them both. Now that’s not the feeling I want to encourage in young writers!

Later that day, I sat down with my own third grader to write an entry in his notebook, which had been assigned for the next day. It was the first entry of the year he’d be writing at home rather than in school. He’d been putting it off.

He whined a bit, and complained that he had nothing to say. He tried to bargain with me. Then he got angry. I thought about letting him just not write the entry and take the consequences at school. It was an important moment, though, and I wanted to have some input into how his attitude toward writing would be affected, negatively or positively, by this experience. So I held firm. I saw an entry he’d done in class, which was a page full of small drawings of memorable experiences he had had. His teachers had clearly taught the class that this was a tool they could use to generate ideas in times such as this, when they can’t think of anything to write. We looked at all the pictures, and he told me the stories contained in them. He chose one to write, and then wrote it. The tool worked. Continue reading

Kika’s Historical Fiction

One of my students from last year wrote this amazing story in her 5th grade study of Human Rights. They chose a Human Rights issue, researched it, designed a presentation, and wrote a historical fiction piece. This is her first draft. To see how one of my former students has continued her journey as a writer is so amazing. It also turns out she’s one of my future students, since I’ll be teaching 6th grade next year.

Enjoy!

Yuki looked like a wild horse, galloping through the streets of the small, friendly town, her silky black hair flying through the wind.  The glaring sun beamed down at her.

“Japan bombed Pearl Harbor!” she screamed. “Japan bombed Pearl Harbor!” Continue reading

The Learning Plan Learning Curve

The idea of having fourth graders set their own course for working and learning is not widespread. It can be hard to find people who are trying the same thing in their classrooms- people who might be able to shed some light on my fumbling around. The lovely and talented Ann Marie Corgill, is doing this work in her fourth grade class in Alabama. She started it a month or so before we did, and inspired me to give it a go. With not much more than a hazy vision of what independence and self-determination would look like, we launched.

Continue reading