Monday, November 2, 2015

Technology…Let’s Integrate!

In order for technology to impact student learning, it must be used to deepen student’s engagement and understanding in an authentic manner.  Before getting too invested in a technology tool, focus on the learning objective.  There are so many resources available nowadays and being able to sort through them all can be overwhelming.  Take baby steps and start with one tool and build upon that once you are ready.  On the other end of the spectrum, don’t be afraid to take risks and let your students take charge and become your classroom “Tech Champion.” 

One of my favorite online resources is Interactive Sites for Education.  This site works well with all interactive white boards and will get your students engaged and interacting with the content through educational games and simulations.  This site works well in a variety of settings, from whole-class, small group, computer lab, or at home for student practice.  This site organizes their resources by content area and then by topic.  They are continuously adding new content, so be sure to check back regularly for updates. 

Another of my favorite online resources is StoryBots.  This site is 100% free for teachers.  There are learning videos that are engaging and fun for example: Letters, Numbers, Colors, Outer Space, Body Songs, Great Innovators, etc.  Did you know that a student’s ability to retain knowledge increases 60% when the subject matter is delivered with video?  With your free teacher account, you can upload pictures of your students and create “Starring You” books and videos to spotlight a student.  Many upper elementary classrooms use picture books to introduce/review concepts, and the list of titles available in the “Starring You” books continue to grow, for example: Shape-Land, Weather Sounds, The Pirate’s Tale, etc. 

Another great resource is my compilation of Webcams Symbaloo webpage.  I have compiled animal webcams from around the world for students to venture out of the classroom and view animals in their natural habitat.  One of my favorites is because they do the work for you and update their main page with animals that are active and also integrate information about the animals, location, date/time, and many also include sound.  What an amazing way to allow students to “visit” another part of the world and make observations, predictions, collect data all while never really leaving the classroom. 

In order to drive instruction, teachers often use formative assessments to get a read on students understanding of concepts.  There are many online resources that are excellent formative assessments, here are a few of my favorites:

  • Plickers – No need for 1:1 devices, students use reusable cards to show their understanding, while the teacher scans the room with his/her device to get a quick snap shot of students’ understanding of concepts.
  •  Kahoot – Teachers create a fun learning game, ‘kahoots,’ made from a series of multiple choice questions.  Students then use devices in small groups, 1:1, or in a computer lab setting where they answer on their own devices and then overall results are shared to promote discussion and pedagogical impact.
  •  GoFormative – Teachers create an assignment and assign it to students and then can receive live results and give feedback.  GoFormative goes beyong multiple choice as students can type, show their work with drawings, or submit images. 

Did you know that giving feedback has the highest impact on student learning?

Technology in education continues to grow and it is our responsibility as educators to provide our students with the opportunities to create, collaborate, challenge, and enhance their learning.  The best thing about integrating online tools is that they can be molded to fit each teacher’s specific needs in order to ultimately meet the needs of the students in the classroom.  So be a risk taker and start integrating!

Online Resources:

Jenn Kapp is originally from Michigan, but has lived in NC for over 20 years and considers herself to be a North Carolinian.  She is married to a Veteran U.S. Marine and they have two children. She began teaching in Wake County for seven years, then we moved down to Jacksonville where she has taught for eight years.  She attended Appalachian State University to earn her Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education and continued on to earn a Masters of Education in Instructional Technology at East Carolina University in the spring of 2014.  Go Pirates!!!  She enjoys working with two elementary schools assisting with integrating fun and exciting technology tools into the already fantastic teaching and learning that is happening in Onslow County.  She believes that the possibilities with technology integration are endless!  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Are you staying with us during the NCAEE Conference in October?

NCAEE Fall Conference
October 18-20, 2015

Here are 5 reasons why you should stay at the Embassy Suites during the conference:
  • Luxury and Convenience - Staying onsite during a conference means you can relax and enjoy yourself. No need to get up early to drive to the event and look for parking! You might even want to check out the spa, golf course, or one of their great restaurants!
  • Free Manager's Evening Reception - Network with colleagues, presenters and NCAEE board members during the manager's reception where you'll enjoy free drinks and snacks. Beverages offered include wine, beer, and mixed drinks.
  • Free Hot Breakfast - The Embassy Suites offers a full, cook-to-order breakfast for all registered guests.
  • Discounted Room Rate - Our discounted room rate makes the price reasonable, especially if you share a room with a friend. To get that rate, register with Group Code AEE.
  • Great Shopping - The hotel is located near the Concord Mills Mall, so after the conference and manager’s reception ends each day, you can shop till you drop!

Reserve your hotel room today!
Limited Availability 1-800-362-2779 or 704-455-8200
The Embassy Suites has a conference rate of $140 plus tax, which remains valid for reservations made on or before September 18, 2015. This rate includes a complimentary hot breakfast and an evening manager's reception each day! When phoning in your reservation, please be sure to tell the hotel that you're with the "AEE" group.
Click this link to go to the hotel webpage:

Click Book a Room
Verify the conference dates: October 18-20, 2015
Verify that the Group code is AEE
Enter number of rooms and people
Then click Continue
Then select your bed type
Hope to see you there!!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Enter to Win a Free Conference Registration!

How would you like to win a free registration to the Elementary School Conference valued at $175? Check out Past President Laura Candler's article, Don't Miss the Elementary School Conference to learn how you can enter! The contest ends September 13th at 6 pm EST, so take a moment now to visit Corkboard Connections and enter.

Collaborating with University Partners for Global Opportunities

Global and cultural connections for students have been a theme in North Carolina elementary schools for nearly a decade. Organizations throughout North Carolina have emerged to provide professional development and curricular support through lesson plan databases and access to supplemental materials such as Cultural Kits and opportunities to web-conference with students who are studying abroad.  Study abroad programs have emerged as a cornerstone of undergraduate preparation programs and more and more teacher candidates understand the marketability of such experiences as they look for employment upon graduation.

Elementary educators in Onslow County Schools took advantage of existing university study abroad programs to provide opportunities for existing teachers to have similar experiences.  In 2011, Carolina Forest and Jacksonville Commons Elementary Schools along with Jacksonville Commons Middle and Northside High School partnered with the University of North Carolina Wilmington Watson School of Education to send a group of educators to work alongside partner teachers in San Pedro, Belize for a week as part of their undergraduate/graduate exchange to San Pedro, Belize. The local school district took advantage of this existing program structure and has worked in collaboration with the university to send groups of teachers along each year.  The spring of 2016 will mark 5 years of this partnership which has been expanded to include yearly service learning projects for the local elementary schools and scholarships for Belize teachers to visit schools in Onslow County.  During 2015, the schools conducted a book drive and shipped hundreds of books to help create classroom libraries.    

As schools across North Carolina cope with budget and personnel cuts, looking at existing programs with our university partners are efficient and practical approaches to providing global learning experiences for teachers.  The average expense for each participant is $1500 yearly which is a bargain for a life-changing experience that will impact teachers and students for years to come.

Just a few of the schools in North Carolina with current study abroad programs worth investigating:

University of North Carolina Wilmington:

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill:

Appalachian State University:

Dr. Helen Gross has served as the principal of Carolina Forest International Elementary for the past six years.  Carolina Forest International Elementary was recognized as a Partnership for 21st Century Learning Exemplar Model School because of their globalization efforts.  She can be reached at   

Thursday, June 18, 2015

NCAEE's 12th Annual Elementary School Conference

Conference Dates: October 18-20, 2015

We are pumped about our upcoming Elementary School Conference in October! Because of the great success of our 2014 conference at the Charlotte/Concord Embassy Suites Resort, we will be there again this year.  Our theme is Building Our Future: Imagine, Inspire, Innovate and we have secured an all star lineup of presenters who are excited to share their expertise with you. Our conference committee is hard at work behind the scenes making sure that this year's conference is even better than last year's! 

Keynote Speaker: Angela Watson

Angela Watson, author of Unshakeable, Awakened, and The Cornerstone, is our luncheon keynote speaker. Many teachers enter the profession of teaching full of excitement, but later find their enthusiasm waning, as they cope with  the reality of the job's daily stressors. In this keynote, you'll learn teaching strategies, daily routines, and mindset shifts that will infuse your day with joy and purpose. Reconnect with your passion for teaching while inspiring your students to unleash their passion for learning!

A dedicated classroom for 11 years, Angela Watson has turned her passion for helping other teachers into a career as an educational consultant. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services in Brooklyn, NY, she has published 4 books, launched 2 online courses, hosts a weekly podcast, designs curriculum support materials, provides instructional coaching services, and conducts seminars in schools around the world. Angela will also host a breakout session following her keynote.

Featured Speakers & Breakouts

Our conference also boasts five featured speakers. This year's featured speakers are Justin Ashley, Kathy Bumgardner, Laura Candler, Jill Thompson, and The Bag Ladies. Each of our featured speakers will present two sessions.  Justin Ashley's sessions will highlight innovative strategies you can use to enhance your instruction and increase engagement. Kathy Bumgardner will present on effective literacy strategies. Laura Candler's sessions will share active learning strategies that you will be able to use immediately and she will share information about DonorsChoose to support classroom learning. Jill Thompson's sessions will center around seamlessly integrating technology into your instruction in a meaningful way and personalized learning. Finally, The Bag Ladies will share hands-on strategies to help students understand content through foldables. 

In addition to our keynote speaker and featured speakers, we have over 70 highly engaging breakout sessions in the following strands: Active Learning, Administration & Leadership, Educator Effectiveness, Social & Emotional Needs, STEAM, Technology in Education. We have carefully selected strong sessions from teacher leaders and dynamic administrators across our state and beyond. We are confident that your conference experience will be overwhelmingly positive and you will feel inspired and energized!

Register Today! 

Come join us in Concord in October! We have a great location, amazing speakers, and there will be many opportunities for networking and connecting with your fellow educators. Registering is easy and can be accomplished in multiple ways. This link will provide you with more details about our conference and share ways to register. Registration and payment is available via phone, mail, internet or fax. If you want to register right away, we encourage you to do so via our secure shopping cart system here. Discounts are also offered for groups of 5 or more.

We hope to see you there!

--Lisa Pagano & Nancy Betler,
NCAEE 2015 Conference Co-Chairs

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Occupational Therapy: More than Just Hand Writing

When a parent mentions that their child receives Occupational Therapy at school, what is the first thing that most people typically think of? Hand writing. Although writing is part of occupational therapy, OT is so much more than that. In the school setting, our job as Occupational Therapists is “to help children prepare for and perform important learning and school-related activities and to fulfill their role as students” (Occupational Therapy in School What most people do not know is that in the school setting, OT supports both “academic and non-academic outcomes, such social skills, math, reading and writing (ex: literacy), behavioral management, recess, participation in sports, self-help skills, prevocational/vocational participation, and more, for children and students with disabilities” (Occupational Therapy in School

Here are some ideas of how Occupational Therapists can assist in a few of the above skill areas previously mentioned.

  • Behavioral Management: For more information
  • Eliminate as many environmental distractions as possible.
  • Establish a well-defined work area for the child. This will help to limit outside activities that would detract from his/her concentration.
  • Use classroom aids such as headphones, videos, etc. Provide for controlled exposures.
  • Pace activities realistically.
  • Incorporate gross motor skills into activities whenever possible.
  • Use bilateral activities, using hands and eyes in the lesson. 
  • Use a timer. When the timer stops, students may have a short break. Never use a timer to speed up work, for it will cause tension and frustration rather than increase skill.

Self-Care:  Self-Care, Community Integration and Work are areas in the school system that OT’s address student’s daily living skills in order to facilitate future employment, life goals, and independent living, as well as, facilitate the necessary functional and problem solving skills needed to access community services in order to function independently. ( )

  • Areas of self-care include: personal hygiene, toileting, self-feeding, personal devices, independence, cooking/cleaning, budgeting, and community and personal needs.
  • Community Integration and work areas in which Occupational Therapists can assist with include: information, participation, and job requirements, manage time and work, and equipment.
  • Prevocational Skills: Prevocational skills are needed to prepare for the work place. OTs assist students with analyzing the components of the job and analyze their own abilities and limitations that affect their job performance. Types of skills that may be addressed in therapy include: Time management and efficiency, body mechanics, strength and endurance, and ergonomics and dexterity skills. OTs may also assist with incorporating the use of specific tools or equipment (ex: hammer and nails) for small construction projects. One other way OTs can assist is with “on the job” training as they help students modify and monitor their work at their job site (

Occupational Therapists can be utilized more to assist with all these different areas in order to help the student achieve success and independence within their academic settings and to help prepare them for life after school.

Kristel Croffoot, OTR/L, graduated from A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona in 2011 with her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. Kristel has been working in the Pediatric field since graduating and has worked in the clinic, home, and school-based settings. She is certified in Hippotherapy and loves using horses as another treatment intervention to reach functional occupational outcomes. Kristel is currently working as a travel therapist and has worked in Texas and is currently working in North Carolina. She loves being a travel therapist and the opportunity to work with children all around the country. 

 Janet Ledford is an Occupational Therapy Assistant student at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina and will be graduating in May 2015. She is currently on her last clinical rotation, working with Kristel, in the school-based setting.  Janet is looking forward to graduation and beginning her career in the Occupational Therapy field. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why STEM Education Matters

Educators from across the great state of North Carolina have been bombarded recently with information demonstrating an increasingly value of ‘STEM’ engagement. But, what does STEM really mean? Ask educators only five years ago and many may have quickly and accurately described an emerging aspect of science called ‘stem cell’ research. But much has changed across our country and across our state. We now understand the STEM acronym to mean Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We hear the words innovation, creativity and critical thinking linked to the acronym. Still, I found in my work that STEM education means different things to different people.

For knowledge sake, there are a variety of starting points for elementary educators to find true meaning in ‘STEM’. Did you know that North Carolina has an exciting center called the North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center ( Anyone can find critically important and relevant STEM “strategies that engage the mind” on the interactive web portal. For instance, supplementary STEM lessons and units (i.e. weather, forces and motion) are maintained there. In practice, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) has clearly outlined and articulated what a quality STEM program looks like ( Actual STEM attributes are available to guide any school in earning a coveted STEM designation from the state. For instance, increasingly popular and relevant engineering education connections and applications can be found here.

The amount of readily available STEM information, resources and activities grows day by day. But, what does STEM mean to me as an educator? Simply put, STEM education is the true practical intersection of content disciplines. Instead of starting with content strands and topics to be covered in the Common Core and Essential Standards, think of actual problems children can solved when applying the content to real world problems. STEM is an actual mindset. As current director for UNC Wilmington’s Center for Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (, we design professional development that engage teachers in problem based learning that requires content knowledge and understanding from different disciplines…like math and science. We use technology as a tool in our resources and encourage engineering as the application of learned skills. STEM literacy occupies the true meaning of problem based learning. But be aware, true STEM engagement also involves real and active partnerships. It means reaching out to businesses and corporate interests. It means working with community colleges and universities. And, it means working across interdisciplinary teams in your schools.

So, I’m often asked, “What is the easiest way a school can get involved with STEM education?” While there is not one single answer to this question, I provide this simple recommendation as a beginning for school involvement: Elementary Science Olympiad ( I’ve been fortunate to co-direct UNC Wilmington’s Science Olympiad over the past 10 years, and if there is one single competition that encapsulates the interdisciplinary nature of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, it is Science Olympiad. There are other great competitions across the state, but Science Olympiad is the largest and most comprehensive. So, don’t delay and get your kids involved in the competition!

Dr. Dennis S. Kubasko directs the Center for Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CESTEM) on the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). He is an associate professor in the Watson College of Education and has been preparing future science teachers for the past 13 years. Dr. Kubasko is co-director for the UNC Wilmington Regional Science Olympiad serving close to 1000 middle school and high school STEM infused children in the Southeastern North Carolina area. He also coordinates and leads the international field experience to Belize for college seniors and graduate students. Dr. Kubasko taught high School Biology in the suburban Philadelphia public schools for 7 years.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Supporting and Retaining the BEST Educators, One Principal’s Reflection

There is often a correlation between the level of some teacher’s success and the level of effectiveness with their principal.  At times, teachers perform better, when their supervisor performs better.  The following five suggestions were created by one principal, after careful reflection and purposeful contemplation regarding interactions with the very best teachers after several years of working together.      

Display and foster high levels of positive energy.   It is important for all administrators to display a high level of energy when working with students, teachers, and parents.  In addition, it is equally important that school administrators foster high levels of positive energy within the classrooms of the schools they lead. Much like a mirror, when a principal is highly energetic and positive, student and teachers respond and work in a similar manner.

Tell others no, on the teacher’s behalf.  Advocate for your teachers, tell others no, on their behalf, and teachers will be grateful. As most of us know, schoolteachers are some of the most hardest working individuals ever. At times, it is difficult for them to say no, even though they know how quickly their plates can fill up. Step in for teachers, protect them, and keep them from unnecessary work. In addition, let teachers know that you are willing to be the “bad guy,” as needed, in order to protect them. Reassure them, if they are asked to perform certain duties or complete various tasks, that in the end may prohibit them from best serving their students, they can always come to you, ask for your help, and you will gladly and politely say no to other individuals, on their behalf.

Tell teachers yes, anytime you can.  Be very aware of how many times you tell your teachers “yes” and how many times you tell them “no.”  On the first day of school, and regularly throughout the school year, tell teachers that you promise and commit to saying “yes” to them, with any request that they have, as long as it benefits students and their classroom. This promise from the principal does great things for a school’s culture, climate, and staff morale holistically. In addition, it sends a message to all school stakeholders that the principal is willing to do anything and everything in order to help students and increase student achievement in general. When you say “yes” to anything and everything that educators need in the classroom, this shows teachers that you are doing your part to positively impact student achievement and also shows that you will accept nothing less than their individual best when it comes to their teaching, helping students, and getting positive results at the classroom level.

Visit every classroom, every day.  Teacher after teacher reports that one of the number one things that any principal can do to support them and support students is to visit classrooms and be highly visible on a regular basis. School administrators should make it a goal to visit every classroom, every day.  As a former principal, with a school of more than 1000 students, this can be a hefty goal, yet one that pays off big time with everyone on campus. Visiting every classroom, every day, shows teachers that you support them, allows you the opportunity to witness instruction firsthand, gives you the chance to interact with students, and serves as a springboard for great success when it comes to offering individualized feedback to teachers regarding their lesson, classroom management, and other classroom topics.

Follow through and hold everyone accountable.  The best classroom teachers want a principal who is willing to follow through and also hold everyone accountable. With emails, phone calls, promises, and the completion of tasks, never underestimate the power of simply doing what you say you will do.  Often, teachers report that students like boundaries and also like it when there is great structure and high levels of accountability in the classroom, and with assignments. This is true for your most effective teachers as well. It is easy for people to say that they have great follow-through, but saying it and doing it are two very different things. In addition, accountability is something that will help with both your effective teachers and your ineffective teachers. The heightened level of accountability can help bring an ineffective teacher up to proficient levels, and that same heightened level of accountability shows your most effective teachers that their hard work is not going unnoticed, and that you are holding everyone to the same standard.

The above strategies have been utilized regularly in schools and have yielded the highest levels of success.  After a careful review of thoughts, notes and reflections, these items were consistently represented, and in the end, had a positive impact on teachers and in theory, students.

Dr. Davis has been an educator for the past 16 years, serving as a Professor, Educational Consultant, Principal, Assistant Principal of Instruction, and classroom teacher.  He is currently licensed to serve as a teacher, principal, curriculum specialist, and Exceptional Children’s Director.  Dr. Davis is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Education at High Point University.  He has his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Urban Education.  Dr. Davis has presented and been published at the state, national and international level.  He works daily on his personal mission statement, to "Love Kids, Support Teachers, Involve Parents, and Pass it On."

Dr. Davis can be reached at:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Global Perspectives and Connections: Keys to Being a Global Citizen

In North Carolina, teachers are evaluated on how they encourage students and colleagues to be globally aware. To be a proficient teacher in this area, teachers must “promote global awareness and its relevance to the subjects, (North Carolina Educator Effectiveness System [NCEES], 2015).”  To be characterized as an accomplished teacher, integration of global awareness activities must be demonstrated in the lessons taught (NCEES, 2015). While this is a step toward building a globally-minded student, it is a small step. To give students an edge in today’s marketplace, they need to be more than aware – they need to develop global understanding.

Two significant ways to develop global understanding is through perspectives teaching and real-world connections using today’s real-world tools. Perspectives teaching is teaching students to be open-minded to hear and understand another’s point of view. That does not mean that one has to agree with that perspective, but open to listening to it and understanding the culture from which that point of view stems. This is why having students engaged in collaborative groups is essential in the elementary grades – it is the basis for building the understanding that we all have different ideas based on our experiences and culture. Perspectives teaching can be effectively taught through global literature (including children’s books, fairytales and folk lore, quotes, plays, movies and poetry) and role-playing lessons. Teaching students to compare with their own culture helps them not only understand a new culture, but equally helps them further define their own culture.

Teachers too should be encouraged to read global literature written for adults to gain perspective themselves about a certain region in the world so as they teach perspectives, they can be alert to any possible misconceptions or over-generalizations. Here are a few suggested books for children and adults:

  • Extra Credit by Andrew Clements compares the point of view of a student in Iowa and a student in Afghanistan using landscapes, cultural differences and similarities.
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba shares the struggle of a village in Malawi and how one boy’s inventiveness helped to solve a problem in his community.  It can also be linked to the use of electricity and how it is used and valued in different communities. 
  • It Happened on the Way to War by Rye Barcott takes you to the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, and shares how one person, connecting with others can make a difference. The videos on his non-profit organization website can be used in class:  while students will be captivated by the story of village children who wanted to play soccer (futbol) but had no ball and how they instead made the ball from plastic bags! Futbol video -

Two great books about how girls/women are treated differently around the world are King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman, and I am Malala by Malala Yousatzai and Christina Lamb.

If teachers help students understand cultures and respect the perspectives that each offers, students will become global citizens who can make significant and globally-minded decisions and differences in the world.

Cathy Dalimonte currently serves as the Assistant Principal at Queens Creek Elementary in Swansboro, North Carolina. She began her teaching career in 1991 and has had an expansive career to include teaching K-5 regular education and STEM classes, and her service as a Curriculum Coordinator and Family Liaison. She recently published Global STEM Navigators in the Science and Children Educational Journal (October 2013).  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Notebooks in the Writing Workshop

Why Notebooks?  

Notebooks provide a safe space for students to document their thoughts, dreams, and growing knowledge of the world around them without the anxiety of producing a perfect piece of work. Inside the pages of a writer’s notebook, students are free to play with written language, doodle, try out bold writing moves, and experiment with a variety of beginnings, endings, and all the parts in between.
The child is the sole audience of the notebook entries until the point he decides to move an idea through the drafting process. “Ownership of authorship” is a critical component to the success of this important Workshop tool. Additionally, the frequency of entries in the notebook cannot be understated as daily practice living the writerly life supports the development of writing. Notebooks are a necessary and integral part of the Writing Workshop!

Personalizing the Writer’s Notebook

Whether the notebook is a handful of notebook paper stapled between two sheets of construction paper, a composition book, or a fancy journal students purchase on their own, the main consideration is that students have ready access to their notebooks on a daily basis to make entries that are uniquely their own. One sure fire way to enhance ownership of the notebooks is to allow students to personalize  them. There is no one best way to do this – let students’ creativity soar! If you have a bundle of old magazines, students can select pictures, words, and phrases to glue on the notebook covers.  You can ask students to bring in special photographs and two-dimensional mementoes from home (send a letter home to parents ahead of time) to decorate the notebooks. How about using technology to accomplish this task? One terrific online tool for the Here, children can easily locate desired images (from approved websites) or upload photographs and produce a one-of-a-kind work of art. Regardless which process is used, be sure to “laminate” the notebook covers with packing tape or clear contact paper for durability – a terrific project for parent volunteers!

Getting Started

For some children, notebooks may be a new addition to the Writing Workshop. Scaffold their understanding by sharing a few trade books featuring notebook entries to give children ideas for the many and varied ways to use their notebooks.  Some titles to consider are Amelia’s Notebook (Simon & Schuster), Max’s Log Book (Scholastic), and Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Amulet).

It is helpful to decide ahead of time how notebooks will be organized and designate sections accordingly. For example, you may want students to leave space at the front of the notebook to allow for the creation of a Table of Contents or to serve as a place for housing collected phrases and snippets of conversations to inspire future writing endeavors. Pages at the back of the notebook may be reserved for helpful writing tips or lists of potential topics. Of course, the majority of the notebook is for students to WRITE. They need lots and lots of blank pages to try out new writing moves in response to minilessons, conduct quick writes, sketch ideas, experiment with poetry, brainstorm, create mind maps, and all of the many ways in which authors practice their craft in the pages of a notebook.

Strategies to Generate Notebook Ideas 

Once your students understand the purpose of a writer’s notebook, have their notebooks personalized and organized, they are ready to begin the important work of growing as writers! Published texts (of all kinds – think beyond books!) are the typical “go to” for sharing interesting text structures and “ways with words”, but don’t overlook the gems found in student writing samples and your own notebook entries.  In addition to mentor texts, support students in finding their own ideas and writing voice by inviting them to try some of the following strategies:

  • Generate Lists – things that are funny, scary, silly, sad and why they make you feel that way
  • Create Webs and Mind Maps – center on a special event, place, person, imaginary travel, etc. and write down every associated detail that comes to mind
  • Write around Artifacts – ask children to bring in a photograph or souvenir from home and record the memories that surround it (the artifact should remain at the point of writing in the notebook – an envelope can be taped to the page for storage, if desired)

Written by Debbie Linville, September 2014

Dr. Debbie Linville served as the Department Chair of the Elementary and Middle Grades Education at High Point University. She has been involved with NCAEE since 2005 and served as the Director of Region 5 and Chair of the NCAEE Regional Advisory Councils. Dr. Linville has been teaching for over 30 years and her passion is enabling educators to promote the proficient, joyful reading and writing lives of children.