Friday Notebook Programs
Literacy is vital: it connects us
with ourselves, with each other, with knowledge and the world. Confidence as readers and writers deepens a sense of identity and agency – and expands exponentially the choices and opportunities available to children, teens, and young adults …throughout their lives.
Friday Notebook writing programs boost literacy, learning, and engagement.
They are highly adaptive to a range of settings and purposes. From Early Literacy to Workforce Development, every program has at its core four key elements: Stories, Crafting, Collaboration, and Celebration.
Stories are the building blocks of literacy.
Kids are natural storytellers – sometimes whispered, often ringing out loud: in the lunch line, on the playground, during math lesson. And every hallway conversation that falls away when teens enter a high school classroom is a story, if we invite it in.
When we begin with stories – of family, of life, of the imagination – the world opens up from inside. Participants with different abilities, participants learning English, participants of differing races and cultures: all are experts in this curriculum.
“I’m exploding with stories!” – 3rd Grader
In sharing their worlds, children and teens begin to think of themselves as writers – as good writers. They become relaxed writers, and the natural storytellers that they have always been will weave their burgeoning skills and confidence into the wider world of the classroom.
Imagination is the rocket fuel of stories.
“Tell me a story about a time when you were surprised… ”
Imagination is an abundant and universal resource. It is also a powerful source of learning. So we introduce Creative Writing tools – fiction, metaphor, imagery, dialog – to spark that imagination.
Imagination is also a leap into uncharted territories. If we want children and teens to take this leap, we have to create a setting in which it is safe to explore the stories that matter to each of them. This safety is established and sustained through four simple guidelines, embedded in the Friday Notebook program.
Stories infused with imagination carry a deeper power. They elicit new perspectives and offer new understandings – of each other and the world.
Collaboration creates engaged learners.
“I remember the red shoes.”
“I like that he kept his promise.”
“I like the part where time disappears.”
Small, inclusive learning communities are the heart of every Friday Notebook project. Younger writers work in Story Circles, with four to six members. Teens work in groups of 12 to 16. When one person reads, their colleagues respond with what they remember and what they like about each piece.
Kids and teens quickly become experts at pointing out important aspects of the shared stories. While deepening their ability to listen for key elements, participants with diverse skills and backgrounds also become a supportive learning community.
How can I write this so others will understand? A natural curiosity about craft emerges, and students’ interests turn to editing. Spelling, adjectives, dangling participles: the list broadens, and the many forms of grammar that are part of the ongoing curriculum become magnetic.
These skills extend into other areas of learning, as well: participants begin to hear the ‘stories’ and key elements embedded in reading groups, in social studies and science – and in the everyday conversations of their homes and communities.
Celebration deepens community.
Friday Notebook activities are project-based. Each round of writing moves through stages of exploration, revision, and sharing with a larger community. Sharing pieces in the small group leads to sharing with the class, with the neighboring classroom, with sister programs, with parents and families. Older students read their work to younger students; third graders have an annual poetry reading; pen pals meet for the first time. Writing – and connecting through writing – becomes contagious.
Literacy, Learning, and Engagement: tangible and measurable outcomes.
– Literacy rates accelerate, for beginning readers in elementary grades, for high schoolers at risk of dropping out, and for young adults developing career skills.
– Learning expands: students with burgeoning skills and confidence as writers begin to view other subjects and career challenges as opportunities for exploration and learning.
– Engagement builds inclusive communities as participants share their work across classrooms, programs, and communities.
You can see sample Friday Notebook programs in action
through the links, below:
An early morning school program that boosts literacy for third graders in a public elementary school.
Voice, Choice, and Leadership:
An urban after-school program that helps 10- to 13-year-olds gain a sense of voice, identity, and agency.
Community Engagement and Learning:
A public high school Creative Writing class that increases skills; builds connections among students with a wide range of backgrounds and abilities; and improves the retention rate for students at risk of dropping out.