Rock, Paper, Scissors, Writer’s Notebook!

There are some sure-fire things that spark creativity in a classroom. And no it’s not always a computer! I say this despite the fact that my class is a computer lab, so bear with me. I keep magnets of all shapes and sizes handy, as it is easy to start a conversation about science with a lump of metal. I also have a box of weird-looking rocks that look like they belong to a Martian landscape.

A few weeks back our reading specialist gave me a book called A Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher. It seems pretty obvious, that every would-be writer should jot down thoughts and ideas he or she stumbles upon. The book encourages students to consider taking ‘notes’ in different ways: “Seed ideas,” “Mind pictures,” “Digging out crystals” and “Snatches of talk” among others.

When I teach writing, no matter what the task at hand is (a letter, a poem, an essay, a speech) I get the student to start with a blank sheet of paper and use it as a ‘brain dump.’ This could exist on the margin of a hand-drawn graphic organizer. Somewhere in that stockpile, there will suddenly appear a key word or phrase that you can take and run with. Fletcher explains that unearthing ideas is akin to excavation:

“Once you locate the rock you use a heavy tool like a crack hammer to carefully break off pieces of stone ….revealing a ‘gem pocket’ filled with sparkling Herkimer diamonds.”

Writing is a lot like that. Anything can spark an idea, but one must painstakingly mine it to let the words tumble out.


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