Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher (1996)

     For the last few hours I have been reading a book that I just got today, a book that I couldn't stop reading until I reached the last page. You may be thinking that I must be writing of a mind wrenching novel, but instead I was reading about writing.
     I met (in an abstract way) Ralph Fletcher last semester in my language arts class. The assigned textbook was a book by Fletcher titled What a Writer Needs. This is by far one of the best textbooks I have purchased during my college years. Recently, while substitute teaching in a second grade class I discovered another one of Ralph Fletcher's books leaning against the chalkboard, A Writer's Notebook. This book had quite a few bookmarks, so I proceeded to open to those pages. At first I seen little notes saying READ next to paragraphs. I was glad to see that this teacher was sharing Fletcher's wisdom with her students. Then I continued on to find the written words DO NOT READ..DIVORCE..and large X's covering paragraphs and even pages. I was very disappointed that this teacher was choosing not to share the whole point of the writer's notebook with her students, which I will now transition into.

     A Writer's Notebook is not a diary, or just like any other journal. The writer's notebook is a place to share everything, from snatches of conversation to article clippings that interest you. It is an outlet to share what you experience in your everyday living. Fletcher wrote "Many people drift through life. Your writer's notebook can work as an alarm clock to remind you to wake up and pay attention to what's happening in your world, both inside and out. There's nothing more important you can learn as a writer." As I read this book I began bookmarking pages as well. I assure you that I didn't find anything that I wanted to bookmark in order to never revisit it again.
     In this book Fletcher shared about a fifth grade teacher who wanted her students to keep a writer's notebook and then she decided that if she was going to ask her students to keep one that she should keep one too. She ended up writing many personal entries, one about divorce that she shared with her students. I thought this was so brave and courageous of her, and I thought of the student in her class that might connect with the feelings that the poem about divorce expressed and be inspired to write in his/her own writer's notebook about a similar event.
     A writer's notebook can also be used to write letters, some which will never be sent. In this book Fletcher shared a letter that a fourth grade boy wrote in his writer's notebook. This letter was to his father that had left, he wanted answers. He wrote "I'd send you this letter but I don't know where you are." Then at the end of the letter he wrote " P.S. Please write back."
     At the end of the book Fletcher shares some students writing about writing. A fourth grade student wrote "My writer's notebook is my heart, my mind, and my soul". How powerful is that? This student used her writer's notebook to come up with ideas for writing when she was without, and she also acknowledged that she may use a piece of her notebook for writing now or in ten years. That is the special thing about a writer's notebook, you never know when something you write down can be used later to possibly contribute to a polished piece.
     A Writer's Notebook has inspired me to write more. After reading it I have also gained confidence in my ability to help my students find the writer within them. This book is a great resource for students in the classroom but it can also be used to help anyone write about anything.

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