Setting Up a Thoughtbook
Choosing the Right Book
Whether you choose to have students make their own, buy a Moleskine, or even a digital sketchbook, your purpose for using Thoughtbooks is essential. Keep in mind that if you intend to have students create their own graphic organizers, sketches, and writing drafts, it may be more versatile to go with sketchbooks rather than lined or graph paper. There are even hybrids that still allow the freedom of blank paper but provides structure with dot grids. There are many options but remember to choose based on your purpose.
Building your own Thoughtbooks is another option, although it can be time consuming, but is often worth the investment. Creating your own obviously allows for more customization from adding ribbon bookmarks or colored pages and tabs, to including various types of paper (blank, grid, graph, lined, to-do lists, etc.). Keep in mind that the better and more professional it looks, the more satisfaction and value the students get out of making and using it. I've seen countless teachers have their students decorate a composition notebook with various craft materials. At the end of the day, it is still just a composition book with glued construction paper and stickers to the students.
Choosing the right Thoughtbook helps students begin to commit to the idea of writing as a useful tool, so your choice is critical.
Giving students simple structures to follow in setting up their thought books will save time in the long run and help with overall organization--both for you and the students. There is no one right way to organize a Thoughtbook, and it's important to allow students to find what works best for them. Depending on their age and maturity, some of these ideas may be offered as suggestions while others may be requirements. Keep in mind that when too much is required, it takes away from the freedom to be creative that motivates students to make these more personal.
Many teachers choose to give their students a printed slip of paper that lays out how the Thoughtbook will be organized in the class (table of contents, sections, etc.). I find that this can take away a crucial teaching opportunity to use the creation of a table of contents, and other organizational tools, to instruct students on how to organize their notes after they've written them.
On the other hand, I have seen many teachers give their students a slip of paper, that the students paste into their books, that encourage creativity (click the creative guide button to the left to see an example). A colleague I worked with at a recent conference based her ideas from the popular Wreck This Journal series. My colleague gave a list to students at the beginning of the year of various "missions" the students could undertake to just have fun with their Thoughtbooks and commit to using them more.
I always start with having my students discuss the ideas of what makes someone successful, and what makes someone a genius and why they are considered such. We look at various notes of innovators throughout history in many different fields of expertise. The students look at these notes and identify features that stand out, patterns they notice, and the wide array of note taking methods.
We compare what they've noticed with how they typically are required to take notes in school.
We then look at some texts on the topic (articles and videos) and discuss the usefulness of taking notes (this dicsussion continues over the next few months on how notes can be useful in so many ways). The students ultimately develop plans and ideas for how they'd like to take notes in my class, in other classes, and even their lives. With more prompting, they come up with ideas like a gratitude journal, curiosity journal, etc.
How to Start
• Place your full name in the front cover
• Leave the first few pages blank for a Table of Contents to be created later in the year as well as learning goals (once the books have been used a while).
• Number each page
• Title each page (sometimes teacher assigned & sometimes student created)
• Create a least one pocket in the back to place items (There are various ways to do this).
I used to use sections but have found that when students mix it all together, they are more readily aware of how all writing connects. I also prefer to teach grammar with all of the sections rather than just have a grammar section that is separate. Although I no longer use sections, these are some of the types of writing we do all mixed together:
• Create a gratitude journal in the front or back
• Create a curiosity journal
• Create an idea journal
• Create a quote journal
• Create a good old fashion journal or memoir
• Create a ticket stub page
• Scrapbook pages
• Create collages both for fun and to analyze texts
• Write Poetry in all its various forms (slam, blackout/found, sonnets, etc.)
• Write various forms of creative writing
• Write text analyses (we will often paste short poems or articles directly into their books, so they can highlight, annotate, and write on blank pages.
• Mark all modes of writing (argument, narrative, informative) with different colored stickers, so students can refer back to them and find them quickly for revision.
• If you choose to divide the thoughtbooks into sections (I have my students mix everything together, hence the stickers) use tabs to create ease of access, students can create these very easily.