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Launching Writer’s Notebooks Using Aimee Buckner’s Notebook Know-How

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One of my favorite tools for teaching writing, especially at the beginning of the year, is a writer’s notebook. Launching the notebook can be the trickiest part. You need to get buy-in and establish a solid routine for kids to follow for their writing for the rest of the year. Enter Aimee Buckner.  Her book Notebook Know-How is one of my favorite resources. For a lot more information on how specifically I set up my reading and writing rituals and routines you can download my guide 10 Steps for Effective ELLs Teaching.

Launching Writers Notebooks Using Aimee Buckner's Notebook Know-How

My copy of Notebook Know-How is completely dog-eared and marked up, but I still found it difficult to find each strategy and access the resources I needed to teach it. For the “launching” and “kneading” sections of the book– what I typically use in the first couple of months of the year– I created this handy chart as a quick reference.




Quick Reference Chart Writer’s Notebook Strategies:
Launching and Kneading the Notebook

Strategy: Description: Possible Resources:
Launching the notebook Everyone has a story to tell. Sharing ideas with others and themselves in their notebooks. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
History of a name Write the history of your name. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes


“My Name” by Sandra Cisneros

Writing from a list List of 10 best, 10 worst life events. Then self-selected lists. Use for jumping-off point for other writing. Teacher model.
Questioning Students write questions they have always wondered about. They don’t have to have answers. Teacher model.


Research answers.

Daily Pages Fluency strategy. Write one page (100 words) every day. Write anything, without stopping. (10-15 min) Make a list of “freewriting rules”, posted as guidelines before starting
Writing off literature Students write immediately after being read to without discussion or pause. No prompt. Keepers : Poetry by Alice Schertle
Writing from a word Choose a noun, put at top of the page. Students write about this word for 20 minutes. They write without stopping even if they get away from the original word. Class vocabulary.
Observations Read mentor texts, then what they notice. Students observe with all five senses around them and then write. Create a picture in the reader’s mind. Twilight Comes Twice by Ralph Fletcher


The Great Frog Race by Kristine O’Connell George

I’m in Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor

Rereading and highlighting Reread their notebooks from beginning to end. Highlight, make notes, or think of questions for use with later writing.  Individual writer’s notebooks
Lifting a line Look at highlighted lines and choose one to write about. This becomes the first line of the new entry.  Individual writer’s notebooks.

If you would like to download a copy of this table, it’s in my Freebie Library. You can join and download!

I typically teach older ELL students and so some of the materials for younger kids don’t work as well for me. Chrysanthemum is a little young instead I have used is Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. I also like adding heart maps to the launching section of the notebook which is actually from Ralph Fletcher’s Writer’s Notebook.

Ralph Fletcher's Writer's Notebook

There are two different Cisneros stories that are great for the launching phase of writer’s notebooks. The first is My Name and the second is Eleven. You can use Eleven for writing off literature, or for a regular old reader response type question. I like being able to do some teaching about Sandra Cisneros and I also like that we can begin with the study of a Latinx author.

Buckner talks about Ralph Fletcher’s Writer’s Notebook and I think a combination of the two resources for getting your writer’s notebook off the ground is dynamite.

For assessment, I really like this rubric that The Fourth Grader Flipper created. Get it here on Tpt for free!

Happy teaching!


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