We got started with writing in 2nd grade on our second day. I started by reading two books:
I chose them partly to be funny (The Incredible teacher one was because their notebooks used to be full-sized and are now only half-sized notebooks like I used here. By the way, they didn’t think this was funny. LOL), and also to give us an idea for somewhere to get started (an entry about something they had done over the summer). Before they left we had a quick reminder of how to label each entry, as well as a reteach of how to use the date stamp (yes, there is a lesson for this!).
After our lesson, most kiddos got to their spots and got started quickly. Some took a little extra long with the date stamp, and some did a lot of thinking. I’d say most of us got something on the paper, but I did hear some of those dreaded words: “I don’t have anything to write about!” Ugh. But then I remembered they were second graders AND it was the second day of school, so they may have been a little rusty. I worked with one friend to put an ideas list in the back of his notebook (like we had done last year but he had probably forgotten), and had multiple conversations with friends about how to find an idea (like talking to another friend about their writing, thinking about their day, showing them an example in my Writer’s Notebooks or using a book for inspiration). We had a quick share at the end of our writing time and got ready to move on. I LOVED it when the next question was, “Can I take this journal home and finish my writing for homework?” Well, of course, dear friend, you can do that! 🙂 I LOVE this not because I wanted my little friends to have homework, but because it shows me that they are already getting the idea that writing can happen anywhere, and that their stories are important enough to them that they want to finish sharing them. And yes, those notebooks came back the next day. 🙂
This whole “I don’t know what to write about” thing had me thinking about what to do the next day. I needed to get them thinking again about how ANYTHING could be an idea for writing, not just great big events or monumental occurrences. Ideas come from watching the world in a new way and expecting to see stories. Those can happen on the way to school, while you’re eating breakfast or at recess. And probably when you’re least expecting them.
This made me think about how to connect this idea to something they could understand. I thought about we could explore the idea of a scrapbook and how your Writer’s Notebook is a place to collect things you don’t want to forget. I pulled out my very first notebook (which I started in the summer of 2005, 10 years ago), and read a couple of entries (I wish now I’d brought that notebook home so I could show you those entries–boo. :(). I talked about how the moments I wrote about were not “BIG” deals, and I wouldn’t remember them now if I hadn’t written them down. We connected this to how in Inside Out the memories turn gray in long-term memory and are sucked away forever (good thing I’m up on pop culture, huh? Never know where a connection will come from!). We don’t want this to happen to our memories, and it doesn’t have to if we collect them! For them, 10 years from now is when they go to college–how cool for them to be able to think about things they want to remember at that point in their lives. Totally didn’t mean for that connection to happen, but was SUPER glad it did!
Then we read a book (as another way to help them visualize the possibilities) and made a chart of the small stories in there that we could write about:
This got many kids thinking and they shared new sparks they had: one friend said he could put in the necklace he wore this summer on the airplane when he flew by himself, and another friend wanted to bring pictures of his dogs–because they will probably be dead in 10 years and he doesn’t want to forget them. Cute, right? That same friend wanted a picture of me so he could remember me in college, too. He wrote this entry with that picture:
While of course I love this entry because it’s about me (ha!), but also because it is the definition of how I want them to be thinking about their notebooks as a way to collect and curate their thoughts. Plus I think it’s just cool how deep and wide 2nd graders can think when we give them an invitation and opportunity to do so. 🙂