The Transformative Power of the Writer’s Notebook

Over the course of this past academic year, I tasked my students with writing 150 entries–at least 150 words per entry–in their Writer’s Notebooks. I assigned specific topics, theme-weeks, story starters, and a lot of free writing over the span of those entries. I collected their work every three weeks (calling these due dates “checkpoints”), checked up on their writing, and gave it right back so they could keep going.

For the final checkpoint, I was burnt out and recently spent almost all my energy grading big inquiry-based argumentative essays and co-creating a live action role playing game inspired by Fahrenheit 451 (This will definitely be a post later on). I didn’t plan anything special for their final submission, so it was unassigned free-writing. But I received quite a gift from a few of my students! On their final entries, many of my students decided to treat it like a yearbook and leave me notes of appreciation, some thanking me for making them do all that writing.

Don’t take it from me, let’s hear from Robert:
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4 Signs Your Development as a Teacher May Be Delayed

Yep. That’s me. Coming from behind. The Professional Development (PD) that I have been offered over the course of my career has been marked by a few hits and many misses. I would like to blame the principal, the site, the district, lawmakers, or anyone but me. In fact, I used to blame them. A lot.

Overtime I began to see that the my lack of development wasn’t my school’s or district’s problem, it was something that I needed to take ownership for. I was an adult who knew how to do learning on his own. But there’s good news! Things are better, and I’m getting caught up. And there has never been a better time for a teacher like me to get answers to the burning questions they have.

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What’s the 1 Thing You Can Do To Make Your Students Better Writers?

For the first ten years of my career, this was a question I wrestled with constantly. I purchased my fair share of books and attended more than a few workshops in search of the answer. I DID find it, but I didn’t realize it at the time. Then I kept looking.

The answer came in my third year on the job: Make them write more. That’s it! Make them write everyday. Make them write at the start of a lesson. Make them write at the end of a lesson. Make them write for homework. Write. Write. Write.

How? There are a lot of ways a teacher can do this. For me, the answer came in the form of The Writer’s Notebook.

MTPI Cover Compbook TG (1)

In year three, I gave it a try. And I failed. Several times actually. And because I couldn’t make it work on those trials, I decided to give up and moved on.

But now I’m back! And I am even more convinced that this is the best tool in a writing teacher’s equipment bag.

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MTMI Mail: Yes, I CAN Help!

I received an unexpected, yet most welcome, email the other day. A fellow teacher, and reader of Make Them Process It, sent me this message:

I’ve been reading your book and your blog and they both have been a big help. Thank you for all of your hard work and sharing your ideas with others. The ideas from your book and posts present the direction I want to move in as a teacher.

This made my week!

For a long time, I have wanted to be a help to other teachers. This feels like a step in that direction. Continue reading “MTMI Mail: Yes, I CAN Help!”

Get Your Students to Write Over 20,000 Words This Year

This year, I’m going to get my students to write over 20,000 words. And I’m not even counting the essays they are going to type.

At the start of the year, my students will begin building a Writer’s Notebook. This is a place the will house low-stakes, pressure-free writing, lessons on sentence craft, and a place where they will practice thinking through revision.

Here’s the English teacher math that came up with 20,000+ words:

  • 150 words per page
  • 5 pages of writing a week
  • 15 weeks of writing per semester

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What’s the 1 Thing I Can Do To Make My Students Better Writers?

For the first ten years of my career, this was a question I wrestled with constantly. I purchased my fair share of books and attended more than a few workshops in search of the answer. I did find it, but I did realize it. So I kept looking.

It turns out the answer came in year three of my teaching. I gave it a try then. Several times actually. But because I couldn’t make it work on those trials, I decided that it wasn’t for me and moved on. But now I’m back, and more convinced than ever.

What makes students better writers? The answer is simple: More writing.

That’s it. Make them write more. Make them write everyday. Make them write at the start of a lesson. Make them write at the end of a lesson. Make them write for homework. Write. Write. Write.

Stop! We need to get something cleared up first. When you think of student writing, you think of an assignment that is long and complicated, like an essay, right? Sure, that’s a type of student writing. And if that’s the only kind of writing assignment you give, then you are probably thinking that more of that will just drive you and your students nuts. And you would be correct. Nobody wants students to write more and more essays, especially because someone (you) would have to grade those essays! Continue reading “What’s the 1 Thing I Can Do To Make My Students Better Writers?”