The Writing Kind of Life

The Writing Kind of Life

“A writer’s notebook is like a ditch – an empty space you dig in your busy life, a space that will fill up with all sorts of fascinating little creatures.  If you dig it, they will come.  You’ll be amazed by what you catch there.”

-Ralph Fletcher, A Writer’s Notebook

Receiving a writer’s notebook has been a rite of passage for Opal School third graders for several years now, but this year looked a little different.  Since this year’s Sitka Community is made up of both third and fourth graders, we wondered if the returning fourth graders might like to offer the gift of writer’s notebooks to their community.  They accepted the invitation and planned a gift giving ceremony that included suspense, ribbons, and shiny fabric.


Roan:  We have some surprises.

Seba:  Should we tell them?  We’re not telling you.  It’s a surprise to help you throughout the year- you can put secrets in them.

Rowan:  It’s a place to help you grow and help you throughout the year- a place to put ideas in.  We thought with these notebooks…

Seba:  These notebooks are going to be a safe place to put all of your writing.

As teachers, we invited students to cover these new “gifts” with words and images that would tell us more about them, what they love, what they’re interested in, what’s important to them, etc.  What began as an investigation into self quickly became a community building experience as magazine cut-outs flew across the room and students began reading text in search of just the right words to describe them.  “Has anyone seen a surfboard?”  “What about ‘wild’? Anyone want to use ‘wild’ on their cover?”  

Through this approach, efore even cracking the first page of these gifts we got such an important window into the individuals that make up our community.  We can now wonder together about the stories that will emerge from these words and images that cover our newfound gifts.  

Ralph Fletcher writes that “a writer’s notebook is nothing more than a blank book, but within those pages you’ve got a powerful tool for writing and living.”  We can’t wait to see what happens when these writers put their pens to paper and transform their own blank book to something more within.

What rites of passage does your school honor?  

How might these rites of passages help honor both the individual learner as well as the community as a whole?

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