© Kathryn Dunn, 2019 gutenberg Copyright Hand Crafted in the U.S.A.

The Friday Notebook – Sample Program

Tuesday Afternoon Writers – an urban after-school program that builds a sense of voice, identity, and agency for 10-  to 13-year-old girls

We meet weekly

in a windowless, ten by ten room, freshly painted lime green. This is the Boys & Girls Club’s audio-visual room – with cameras and wires trailing around the edges. The surrounding walls serve as a green screen.

Confidence fuels revision and sharing.

I drop my two canvas bags, filled with notebooks and materials, and set up a circle of folding metal chairs. Eight girls, ages ten through thirteen, arrive and immediately try to guess what kind of fruit I’ve brought. At the start, participants all want the first piece of fruit, the most colorful pen, the single red booklet in a pile of eight blues and greens. They all want to read first; or they all want to read last. Eight people enter as an ocean, asking, “Can I be special?”

I say they are an ocean. They are also individuals from the start. Some already love writing; others discover joy in writing for the first time. One girl has to speak her words quietly as she writes – which sidetracks another member, who insists on silence. We have many rounds of How can we be fair to everyone?

We begin with each person’s world, each person’s stories.
At one point, a member shoots a look at another member. The receiver reacts. It takes separated conversations to discover that the instigator simply couldn’t figure out what to write. “What do you like to do?” I ask.

“…Play video games,” she mumbles.

“Ah,” I say, “start there. Tell me about it. In your notebook.” Ten minutes later, she shares a moving piece about playing video games with her dad.

Collaborative learning and leadership:
After we hear her piece, I turn to the group: “What do you remember?” A flurry of responses makes it clear – to the writer and to each other – that this writing is strong and memorable. Within a month this girl, the youngest member of our group, takes on a leadership roles, patiently explaining the workshop process to newcomers.

Safety for the writers:

We begin with four basic guidelines. Each week members ask about, talk about, correct each other on, and generally garble these four guidelines. Eventually, we master them, and across the series, members add two more. They make these guidelines their own; it’s how they take care of their writing, and how they take care of each other.

Confidence extends to wider arenas:
Many of our sessions close with a clamor to “wait … watch us!” At which point all ‘my’ writers line up, look to one another for the cue – and dance in unison. They execute complex moves that I can only dream of doing, in a rolling, smiling, self-sustained wave. And then they  fall into silliness and the session is over.

What does leadership look like for these pre- and early-teens?
These girls have confidence: they tackle problems, instead of arguing or running away. They learn from each other. They know what matters to each other. They have the capacity to put their dreams and goals into words – and the support to pursue them.

As the series winds down, participants still want to know what fruit I’ve brought, want to be the person who guesses it first. And they still do a dance at the close, most times. But in between the fruit-guessing and the line-dancing, they write. They create powerful and engaging pieces. They have come to know that they have something to say, that their voices matter, and that they can take an active role in shaping their world.

“Stories are when you talk about something that matters to you.” – 5th Grader

The Friday Notebook Project

Onsite Programs – Teacher & Staff Training 

Photos © K.Dunn



Kathy Dunn
664 Main Street, Suite 60
Amherst, MA 01002

kathy@fridaynotebook.com  –   www.fridaynotebook.com