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Creator’s Notebook

Welcome Guest Blogger Keri Measom-Francis

The Creator’s Notebook by Keri Measom-Francis

Emotion flooded my heart as the yellowing, faded notecard wriggled its way to the top of the stack of papers I was wrestling through. My grandmother’s handwriting, distinct and shaky, had been scribbled carefully by her partially paralyzed hand. Seeing her thoughts written especially for me, forty years prior, tickled my heart in a way that is indescribable. 
My Grandma Joy was an educated, well-read woman. A stroke had left her paralyzed on the right side when she was just 45 years old, but this did not slow her down. Memories of her delicious chicken roll ups, flaky pie crusts, and homemade carrot pudding continue to warm my soul. Better yet is that I have her hand-written recipes, forever engraved in pen. I also have books with written messages from her, books that I may have never actually read, but would never part with because they contain her signature. Saved in my few boxes of keepsakes are cards and notes painstakingly written by the gnarled fingers of my beautiful grandmother. Her written words are more precious than gold. She is instantly sitting beside me when I look upon any of her writing. 
Why do those hand-written recipes mean more than any recipe I could find online? Why are the sweet well wishes jotted inside a book of such importance? Why can I never dispose of the cards and notes written by my aging grandmother’s hand? 
The power of the pen. Writing as simple as a grandmother’s recipe or as grand as the Gettysburg Address has made its mark on the multitudes. And yet I wonder, what is being written NOW? Oh, sure there are touching novels, brilliant pieces of research, illustrated children’s books, and tantalizing cookbooks being published a dime a dozen. But when is the last time you wrote something, with an actual pen? On real paper? And then shared it with someone? 
I am a teacher. I taught elementary school for sixteen years and I will begin my eighth year at Utah Valley University this fall (2019). As an elementary teacher, I taught writing to the best of my knowledge. I read Ralph Fletcher and Lucy Calkins. My writing workshop ran as a well-oiled machine and my students loved sharing their personal writing pieces. I taught mini-lessons using six traits. My second graders wrote research papers and persuasive essays. I was confident that I was creating mini Dan Brown’s and JK Rowling’s. 

Leaving the elementary classroom and joining the faculty at UVU was just a bit intimidating. I was now assigned the charge of teaching future teachers how to teach their future little humans to write. I quickly discovered that my college students certainly didn’t see themselves as writers. They strongly believed that they were readers. They loved reading of most genres and read consistently. Every student could easily name their favorite picture book and chapter book. They could rattle off lists of books they hoped to purchase to read to their future students. 
And yet, when I asked them about writing, the crickets began to chirp.
It has never failed. After instructing over 27 sections of Language Arts for Elementary Teachers I have had a grand total of twelve students who viewed themselves as writers when questioned at the beginning of the semester. Twelve! Out of hundreds! Haunting really to imagine these students going out into the great wide world of teaching and not seeing themselves as writers, but being expected to teach such a skill. 

Enter THE CREATOR’S NOTEBOOK. This idea was born after reading The Writing Notebook by Ralph Fletcher. You could say I’m a Ralph Fletcher groupie. His books have been instrumental in influencing my writing and teaching of writing to kindergarteners and college students. Masterful. I initially read The Writer’s Notebook and assigned my college juniors, who were studying to be elementary teachers, to create a Writer’s Notebook for the semester. I gave them a generic rubric and expectations. The first part of the assignment was to read Ralph Fletcher’s little book. Of course, take two-column notes as you read. Jot down ideas for categories that you might use for your own notebook.  And if I was going to assign my students to keep a notebook then I’d better as well. I shared a few examples of blank notebooks and assigned each student to be prepared next class with their own notebook, ideas for categories, and some passion!
Integrated within each class was a minimum of five minutes dedicated to adding something to their notebook. It could be a picture, a poem, a few words, a ticket stub, a card, a quote, a recipe…anything that inspired their writing. They were also assigned to make daily entries in their notebook. 

As I began a similar process, thoughts of, “this is more than just a writing notebook” consumed my thinking. I was not just writing, I was creating. I’ve always believed that if I say it, it is so. With my notebook I was discovering that if I wrote it, it was so! I was creating my moments right along with writing them down. After a few semesters and a few notebooks, I renamed the notebooks in my class. They would forevermore be known as The Creator’s Notebook. 
Getting started on your own Creator’s Notebook! 
Go shopping! Find the perfect notebook for you. My favorite places to find unique 
notebooks are Burlington Coat Factory, TJ Maxx, and Ross.  
Read Ralph Fletcher’s Book, A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within 

Decide on categories that are interesting to you. I suggest dividing your own notebook into four sections. Ideas include:


Implementing the Creator’s Notebook by Keri Measom-Francis
Getting started on your own Creator’s Notebook! 
  • Go shopping! Find the perfect notebook for you. My favorite places to find unique 
  • Notebooks are Burlington Coat Factory, TJ Maxx, and Ross.  Read Ralph Fletcher’s Book, A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within 

  • Decide on categories that are interesting to you. I suggest dividing your own notebook into four sections. Ideas include: 

Ralph Fletcher’s Ideas from A Writer’s Notebook 
Unforgettable Stories 
Seed Ideas 
Writing that Inspires 
Fierce Wonderings
Mind Pictures 
Rereading: Digging Out the Crystals 
Implementing with students: 

  •  Tab each section.  
  • This is not a journal or a place to write your history! Focus on NOW.
  • What is happening around you? Be conscious and jot down what you notice in the moment.
  • “The sunset was as colorful as rainbow sherbet ice cream.” Or “sunset=rainbow sherbet” 
  • Add glue-ins (movie tickets, pictures, play bills, newspaper articles, stickers, etc.) 
  • Buy a pencil pouch and new markers (Paper Mate Flair are my favorite!),
  • scissors, glue stick, stickers, tape, etc.  
  • Take your notebook with you everywhere.

    Waiting for an appointment? Pull out your notebook. Waiting for a child? Pull out your notebook. Bored during a meeting? Pull out your notebook!   
  • Commit to add something DAILY. Consistency is key!

Writers are like other people, except for at least one important difference. Other people have thoughts and feelings, notice this sky or that smell, but they don’t do much about it. All those thoughts, feelings, sensations, and opinions pass through them like the air they breathe. Not writers. Writers react” (Fletcher, 1996).

I was fortunate to implement Creator’s Notebooks in my soul-sister RaDawn Anderson’s fourth grade classroom. We both learned so much! During the first fifteen minutes of the first day one little girl raised her hand and said, “I hate writing, but I can’t wait to start writing now!” The Creator’s Notebook “sparks joy” in the writer. This is a dedicated place where students can record what is important, at the moment, to them. 

  • Teacher Tips will be coming soon on my new YouTube Channel (I Teach Teachers). Here are a few steps to follow when introducing notebooks to your class.  
  • Decide on a notebook for your students. You could use the same composition notebook for all students or ask parents to donate random notebooks. Allow students time to make their notebook uniquely “theirs”. 
  • Have them divide their notebook into sections (2 -4 depending on their grade level
  • Leave the first page blank. It will eventually be the Table of Contents. 
  • Have older students add page numbers.  
  • Give them one category that you want them to have. “In Our Classroom” for example. Let them choose at least one category, or more. 
Have a “Creator’s Notebook Corner” in your classroom. Allow students to use stickers, markers, pictures, etc. from the corner.  
DEDICATE 10 MINUTES EVERY DAY for students to work in their notebooks.  
 I’ve seen teachers implement Creator’s Notebook time as students’ bell work. They work on it for the first 10 minutes of class. This allows early birds or late comers to participate and not miss instruction.  
SHARE! Put students in Creator’s Notebook Groups. Allow sharing in some way every day. Sharing is motivating!                                    

“Your notebook is uniquely yours. Only YOU can decide what to put in it” (Fletcher, 1996). 
Keri has a great new book out Christmas Underwear by Keri Measom-Francis 

Thanks for reading!  I hope you will follow this blog and subscribe to Keri’s channel.

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