Tiny Notebooks: Notebook Day is HERE!

If you haven’t read the first part of this story, check it out here.

In order to know when the next step after Tiny Notebooks was coming, kids had to do some thinking.  After chewing on the question of “What’s the right way to do “real” notebooks with my kids?” I asked them a question.  It was one I knew they had an answer to, and one that I should have asked them sooner.  It was easy: How will we know when we’re ready?  And as I expected, they knew the answers:
Screenshot 2015-09-27 16.55.16And so after this conversation, I explained the way my friends had made my head hurt (in that good way!), and how I wasn’t sure what to do.  We agreed that it made TOTAL sense that kids would get their notebooks at all different times and they were TOTALLY good with it.  They knew that they were in charge of when they were ready and that they simply had to PROVE to me that they were ready.  Challenge accepted.

And so later that week, I came into Writer’s Workshop with this pile of goodies:

IMG_5335And these smiling faces were the first round of Rm. 202 friends who were ready for their REAL notebooks!  Yippee!

IMG_5336The excitement that then filled the room was contagious!

And so what I was worried about was that kiddos would walk away from this first Notebook Day discouraged, that they would be sad that they weren’t included and just give up.  Instead, most everyone else sat down and got right to work continuing to prove that they were ready for the next round:

IMG_5342Since that day, I’ve had many small group and 1:1 conferences specifically answering the question “Mrs. Bearden, when will I be ready?”  It’s been so great to be able to use the list we made as well as notebooks of kids that were ready as examples of what they had to do to get to that next step.  It’s just the way our standards-based rubrics work: this is what you have to demonstrate to me in order to show me you’re ready.  I LOVE THAT!  And again, rather than being discouraged, kids are ON FIRE with their writing, working towards the day when they will get that red, polka-dotted gift. 🙂

A few days later…

IMG_5344And just Friday…

Screenshot 2015-09-27 17.28.53So, thank you 2nd grade team for igniting a passion I didn’t even know needed to be ignited and for nudging me to rethink the way I’ve always done things.  Most times “the way you’ve always done it” isn’t a good reason to do it that way again. 🙂

Nudge, Nudge

I love it when thinking is nudged.  I love it when someone asks as question that makes you think in a COMPLETELY different way than you were headed, and you are COMPLETELY surprised when it happened.  Well, since my team is all working from the same writing plan this year (which is not really something I’ve ever done before!), there have naturally been some questions that have come up related to what we’re doing.  Of course they have been, “Hey, tell me more about this…” kind of questions, not “What in the world were you thinking?” questions, which is nice. 🙂

So…you know we’ve been doing work with tiny notebooks as a way to introduce Writer’s Workshop this year.  Well, eventually there comes a time when our 2nd grade writers will prove to to us that they are ready to graduate into their “real” Writer’s Notebooks.  As a matter of habit, I guess, I put that step into the plan right around Day 12, when I figured that everyone would be ready; I’ve always done it that way with everyone on the same day (like here, and here).

Screenshot 2015-09-27 16.22.35I proceeded normally, working a few days ahead of my team, which was nice so I could work out the kinks of the plan (I’d used this idea with older kids, but never with 2nd graders, so I wasn’t quite sure how it would work! LOL).  Then one day, at a working lunch, the subject of notebooks came up again.  Everyone wanted to know how I had decided to actually handle it, and what procedure I was going through to get them to my kiddos.  I mentioned that I was going to plan Notebook Day for the following week, with everyone celebrating on the same day (which is again, the way I’ve always done it).  The next thing that happened was really interesting.  Most of my friends around the table just said, “Hmm….” and I could tell they were trying to work it out.  They asked me about the purpose of teh tiny notebooks and how it didn’t make sense to do everyone’s Notebook Day on the same day if everyone was ready at different times.  They were, after all, supposed to PROVE to me that they “got it.”  I explained that the real thing behind the tiny notebooks was, in addition to teaching them how to use their “real” notebook, the expectation and anticipation of getting their new notebooks.  I rationalized that I’d always gotten everyone on board in a really positive way and that maybe it didn’t really matter if they were ready; Notebook Day was more about the ceremony and excitement around being a writer.  We agreed that probably everyone else was going to give individual kids their notebooks when they were ready, rather than all at once, and that I was probably going to go ahead with an all-class celebration.  Most importantly, though, we agreed that there was no RIGHT way to do it.  Personal choice and professional judgment was paramount here.

Well, the meeting ended and I went on with the rest of my day, but I COULD NOT get that conversation out of my head.  I had a headache in a really good way.  You know those kind?  The ones when you know that you’re chewing on something really important and you’re actually ok that it hurts? (You don’t have those?  I hope so, because it means that you’re surrounding yourself with really great people who challenge you to improve your practice and evaluate how you do things. 🙂 ).  I finished out the day, still unsure how I would proceed, and went home to have the same conversation with Mr. Bearden.  I was pretty sure that (while it wasn’t a right/wrong issue) he would side with me, agreeing that a whole-class Notebook Day was a great idea.  Well…he didn’t.  He was actually really great about asking many other questions about it, and making suggestions about how I could have better explained my thinking to my team.  He sided agreed that my team’s thinking that “when you’re ready” is the best time for new notebooks.

I chewed and chewed, trying to figure out why I’d always done it that way, and whether or not it would (or should!) work for this particular group of kiddos.  Why hadn’t I ever done it “when they were ready,” as I had always explained to my students it would be?  Why had I always done notebooks as a one-size-fits-all type situation?  Well, ok, honestly probably because it’s easier.  Especially with bigger kids, I probably didn’t want to manage keeping track of who had their notebook and who didn’t, as well as not wanting students to feel like they weren’t good enough or good writers.  The whole thing, after all, was based on helping kids see themselves as writers, learn to live like writers and WANT TO BE WRITERS.  In my mind, any negative (or something they could perceive as negative) was a no-go.

But maybe a one-size-fits-all what this group needed.  Maybe, since they’re younger writers and this is the very beginning of their lifelong journey as writers, this was the year that I changed my whole process and really did what I said I was about all along (novel idea, right?)? And really, now that I admit it, when does one-size-fits-all ever work for kids?

So I decided I’d jump in and change up the whole “real” notebook deal this time around.  There are pieces of it that I knew I wanted to keep the same, but the “when” of the process would be different for this new group of kiddos.  And you know what?  It’s been totally great and then some.  Better than I could have imagined, and the anticipation and excitement are actually increased since kiddos aren’t sure when their Notebook Day will come.

(But really they can be sure…read more here. 🙂 )

Tiny Notebooks: Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas? (Part 2)

Ok, so as I got to #3 on the list of places where writers get their ideas, I figured I should write the story in 2 parts.

Here’s the EQ and the list, for a reminder:

Let’s get back into it:

4.) Heart Maps: This strategy has to do with how writers can sketch pictures to give them ideas, as well as how thinking about what’s in your heart (things that are important to you!) can help give you ideas.  These hearts are added to kiddos’ “real” notebooks as they get them.  They can be added to and changed as kiddos change, but here they are for now.  Look at all of those ideas waiting to be written about!

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5. Books and Each Other: While this was not officially one I put on the list this time, it came up in our conversations and we couldn’t let it go.  Often you get ideas just from hearing what your friend is writing about!  We are learning how to have meaningful conversations with other writers.

6. Lists: This one is so easy!  I shared lists in my notebook that I have written of characters, ideas for settings (really it’s places I saw on signs while I drove to Nashville), smells I like, smells I hate, lists of lists, lists of ideas for things I can write about in the future.  The possibilities are ENDLESS here!

7. Senses: Sound: For the example of this one, I shared an entry I had written in my notebook one day while I was at the pool.  Back in 2005 before I had kids and could actually RELAX when I went there (LOL, love you Riley and Allie!), I used to read and write in my notebook.  One day I heard the sounds of two birds in a bush next to me and imagined their chirps and coos as a conversation.  When we tried this one, we were able to go outside and enjoy the beauty of the new and improved Robinson Naturescape as we listened for interesting sounds and described them with our words.

8. Senses: Sight: I had another one in my notebook that I entitled “Santa in St. Croix,” where I described a guy with who looked like I imagined Santa would look like if he was on vacation.  I wrote about his “bowl of jelly belly” and how he was wearing tiny red shorts and black flip-flops instead of a red suit and boots.  I also read an entry describing clouds on a sunny morning and shoes I was wearing.  We ventured outside again, hoping to find something beautiful and inspiring in our backyard woods.

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9. Fierce Wonderings:  This is perhaps the one that is most transferable to other areas of learning.  Once we get kids wondering (which is really pretty easy), and then recording their wonderings (which for us was a little trickier), we can start to DO something with those wonderings.  it could be starting a research project, helping a kiddo find just the right book based on their interests, getting kids to imagine and create possibilities based on the unknown, or even a genius hour project.  We have them in our notebooks and on our Wonder Wall.  We’re hoping to do great things with them, and continue to wonder about the world around us!

The best part of all of this thinking and writing is that it’s just the beginning!  I hope you’ll stay along for the continuing journey! 🙂

Tiny Notebooks: Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas? (Part 1)

I think that probably the most hated heard phrase from writers (kids and adults alike) is “I don’t have anything to write about!”

Yep, I have heard it countless times, and maybe I’ve even said it before.  But that was a long time ago.  It was at the very beginning of my writing journey when I thought that everything I wrote about had to be a big deal.  A monumental story that would blow everyone’s minds. Or that it had to be made up–a fabulous fiction story that would be a bestseller if I just finished it.

Then I actually learned about how a Writer’s Notebook works and how what real writers do is not try to collect the most amazing things ever, but that they learn to look at the world differently so that EVERYTHING is interesting.  They see the normal, ordinary things of life in a new way and begin to find things to write about in their everyday lives.

And so that is my goal as I interact and teach writers in Rm. 202–regardless of what grade they are in.  Writers are people who collect their ideas and thoughts for later, and often times mine those ideas for a diamond in the rough that the can polish into a shiny piece of writing to share with someone else.

Ok…in 2nd grade we talked about another essential question on which we will chew and return to over and over:

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 8.37.09 PM

I mean really, in many ways, this is the key to unlocking the writing mystery.  It’s the way that we get past the “I can’t” and see towards the “Maybe I can…”  So we’ve been working hard to learning about and then trying out many ways that writers get ideas for their writing.  And I’m super happy that many of my own entries have been the mentor texts we’ve been using for examples.

While there are TONS of answers to this question, I’ve narrowed it down (along with the help of some very smart teacher mentors like Ralph Fletcher who know way more than me) to a list of things that a) 2nd graders can do and b) can be used over and over.  Remember: these are strategies, not prompts.  I’m telling kiddos WHAT to say, but instead helping them think about HOW to say it or the STRUCTURE it could take.  The topic is whatever they wish.  Nice!

We’ve been working with this list (and again, please excuse the “ugliness” of the draft!):

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 8.51.09 PMI am not sure that I have pictures of everyone of these things, but I will try my best to show each of the ideas we’ve tried.  Here we go!

  1. Meaningful Objects: Writers get ideas from OBJECTS that are important to them, often which are also linked to a strong memory of a person, a place, an event, etc.

I shared this image with the class and then my thoughts about it:

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 8.57.23 PMEach kiddo then used their own meaningful objects (many of which we took pictures of so they could add them to their notebooks) to share a story!

Check out some of our writing:

2. Memories: The best part of memories is that anything that is from the past that you want to remember technically counts here!  A memory can be something from today, or something from years ago!  Recent or ancient, they are worth saving for the future.  This was one where I linked kiddos into the “What do you want to remember when you go off to college?” question.  It seemed to help them understand the importance of how they’d be using their notebooks to save things. 

3. Artifacts: Ok, so technically, meaningful objects, memories and artifacts are all related to each otehr, but I taught them as 3 separate ways to write because they can also be used individually of each other.  Often you’ll find that an artifact IS a meaningful object that reminds you of a memory.  Triple win!  And again, like with most of these ideas, there are multiple ways to interpret an “artifact:” a photo, a ticket stub, a card, a candy wrapper, a flower petal (yep, I have those in my notebook!), a hair bow (a 2nd grade friend put one of those in her tiny notebook!), ANYTHING that makes you think of something else. 🙂

Here are some examples of artifacts we’ve been saving:

To go right to part 2 of this story, click here. 🙂

Tiny Notebooks: Why Do We Write?

I shared the very beginning of our 2nd grade writing journey here.  Since that first day, we’ve done many amazing things as 2nd grade writers.  Let me share them with you. 🙂

For this first unit of writing in 2nd grade, we’ve been working to establish our writing community, helping every writer to see their part in it.  YES, you are a writer!  YES, you have important ideas to share with us (and the world)!  YES, I want you to like it (but it’s ok if you don’t yet)!

The first big, essential question that we’ve been chewing on and answering (over and over again!) is:

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 6.14.00 PMSimple question, right?  I’d say not really.  It’s kind of easy to make a list of the kinds of writing we do, or to tie our reasons to things we want to do with our writing (i.e. make a shopping list), but to really dig down to the REASON for writing is a little harder to do initially.  So when Rm. 202 writers came up with these ideas on our first try, I was super impressed:

IMG_5296

Please apologize for the “ugliness” of this chart. It has not been beautified as an anchor chart for our wall yet, and so it a work in progress. We can up with so many great answers, and then tied them all to the idea that we write to communicate. The pink parts are sentence starters they could use with their partners when they discussed the question for the first time.

We had a great conversation about the communication idea, too, when I suggested that it is how I would answer the question.  Someone said, “So that’s the RIGHT answer?”  Someone else said, “No, there is no RIGHT answer!”  We talked a lot about how there is not ONE right answer, that there are MANY right answers, and that I DO NOT have all of those answers.  Love those kinds of chats. 🙂

So as a means of tackling this question, we began to look at how writers use their Writer’s Notebooks to collect stories.  As I mentioned in the first post, I connected their Tiny Notebooks to the idea of a scrapbook; they would begin filling it up with things they wanted to remember in 10 years (which just happens to be when they go to college!).  It was lucky that my first notebook is 10 years old, and so the time span only made sense. 🙂

For the next part of the Tiny Notebook story, check this out.

I Hope You Make Mistakes

I start almost every day in Rm. 202 by saying something to my students that still had some of them very confused:

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 5.19.11 PMI remember the first time I said it.  No kidding, some of their eyes were as big as saucers and they thought I was kidding.  “You mean you want me to mess up?”  “You want me to fail?”  Well….yes, actually I do.  Not because I want you to feel badly, or because I want anything negative for you, but because I want you to learn something.  When we make mistakes, we learn what NOT to do, or we learn how to do things differently, which helps us next time.  If we’re always comfortable, and everything is easy, then we’re coasting and not learning.  And THAT is not ok with me.

We have been talking a lot about our brains and how they work, and a couple of these videos have helped some of my friends look at me a little less crazily when I mention mistakes:

All of this fits in perfectly with our YET talk, and helps us all get on the same page as we learn and grow together.  Not everyone is there yet, but I know that as we continue to understand how being perfect is not the goal, but learning new things is, more will get on board.  Their new successes will help spur them to WANT to make mistakes, for that is when they LEARN something new. 🙂

Second Grade Read Around–Part 2

I recently posted about how Mrs. Meihaus made Read Around super for second grade.  That wasn’t the whole story….:)

Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the Read Around came after the Read Around, and it looked like this:

IMG_5248

Isn’t that great? She saved all of our favorites from our Read Around for us until we could come back and check them out. It felt a little special that this display was right in front of the circulation desk.

Just a few more pictures that show our library fabulousness.  It’s one of our favorite places to be, and I LOVE that that’s the case.  Readers are made here. 🙂

Ok, one more.  These are new this year and can be seen all over the library (no, they’re not all pictures of me–every teacher took one LOL).

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And in true Mrs. Bearden form, I was told to choose my favorite and I couldn’t do it! There are just too many great books to choose just one! Thanks Mrs. Meihaus for letting me choose 3. 🙂