New Year, New Writer’s Notebook

I’m one of those New Year’s Resolvers. I love making lists. I love setting goals. I look at the New Year as a chance to reorganize my whole life. It’s a magical time in my weird little world. So, of course, I was immediately intrigued when I saw a mention of Bullet Journals on Facebook. I quickly fell down the rabbit hole of lists and codes and layouts. Apparently these have been a thing on Instagram for awhile, and I’m a little late to game. Later in the day, I spied a Twitter convo between Moving Writers’ Allison and Rebekah about a bullet journal layout that would make for writing notebook time.  And, I’d been thinking quite a bit about Tricia Ebarvia’s Writer’s Workshop blog post and how that could help me better organize workshop in my AP Seminar class. The pieces started clicking together, and my second semester writers’ notebooks in my AP Seminar are about to get a big makeover.


Before I go any farther, a confession. Notebooks in my AP Seminar class are a bit of a mess. And by “a bit of a mess” I mean “a total hot mess.”  The class is new, I’ve been figuring it out as I go along, and the class isn’t technically an English class, so I was never sure how much I wanted to commit to formal notebook time. As we head into second semester, though, I’m realizing that my kids need some kind of structure to guide our workshop time. Their second semester is dedicated to several large writing pieces that count toward their official AP score. They need a designated place track their progress, reflect on their work, and gather ideas for future pieces.

I think (hope/pray) that Bullet Journals might be just what we need. I love the smallness of it. Students who are overwhelmed with free writing in journals might find this idea of list making–or short note taking– a little more accessible. Anyone can make a list or jot down a symbol to record progress. Students who want to write more can reorganize a little to give themselves more space for that. My plan is to roll out the journals on our first day back, and then dedicate the last ten minutes of class to notebook time from now on. Here are the sections I’ve come up with so far:

My Workshop Time

Experienced NY resolvers know–start today!! I started charting my own writing even though we don’t go back to school until January 9.

This is a combo of Tricia’s white board and a very common layout I kept finding when I was cruising through Instagram bullet journal ideas. The idea is that kids will quickly code for themselves what they spent their time doing in class that day. Did you conference with someone? Revise? Edit? Research? Draft? I think this will push the kids to hold themselves a little more accountable to how they’re spending their time, and it will make it easier for me to quickly keep tabs on who needs nudges in different directions. Really, young student? You’ve been researching for two weeks? Maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit. Conference with someone or do some brainstorming or drafting.



Daily Reflection by Month

After students code what they did for the day, I want them to do a little reflecting–two or three lines–about how their work for the day went. If you conferenced, what questions were answered? What questions do you still have?  If you’re writing, what is going well and where are you struggling? I’m hoping that making this a daily (and short!) exercise will start to help them be more deliberate with their own progress monitoring.

Books–TBR + AR

This one is pretty self-explanatory. I’m really good about encouraging independent reading in my other English classes. AP Seminar has been less so, mostly because I’ve defaulted to “well, I know they’re getting this in their English class and we’re short on time so…”  That’s crazy.  If kids are going to collect ideas for writing and study mentor texts, they need to be deliberate about how they’re choosing things to read and they need a little guidance. I’ll share my list with them, suggest books, and hopefully help them grow their own TBR (to-be-read) and AR (already read) lists over the course of the year.


My Contextual Pool

 nb2This is a section my AP Seminar kids desperately need, but I think it could be applicable to all kinds of writing classes at different levels. Seminar is organized thematically, and I’m often starting class with “Oooh! Guys! I found this awesome podcast/read this article/heard this radio interview” and sharing something I found that related to our study.  One student joked a few weeks ago, “Are you just always thinking about us??” I tried to explain that it’s not really them I’m thinking about…I’m just always paying attention to the world around me. I’m always deepening my contextual pool and that helps me as a writer because I’m always seeing different ways to approach something I’m working on. This section will just ask them to make a note of things they’re noticing weekly. Again, it pushes for a little self-reflection. If this section has whole weeks that are empty, why? How can you push yourself to deepen your contextual pool more? For students who are filling this section up with tons of noticings and connections, I want them to spill over into the next section which is…


Monthly Ideas:  This section gives students a few blank pages to record their questions, their curiosities and their ideas that they have throughout the month. Very practically, this is key for AP Seminar because next year they will move on to AP Research when they’ll have to independently choose a research question on which they’ll focus for a whole year. The last thing I want is them to just pull something random out of the air!! They need time to think, mull things over, and record ideas. Those need to be saved somewhere so that they can be revisited and reconsidered when new writing opportunities arise.


I hate to write a whole blog post about something I haven’t done, but as a professional New Years Resolver, I know how important it is to put your resolutions out there in the world so that you’re a little more accountable.

So this year, I’m resolving to help my students become reflective, deliberate writers through the use of bullet journals.  Stay tuned for an update as I watch this unfold, and please share your bullet journaling wisdom with me if you already do this! How do you help your students organize writers’ notebooks in ways that are useful to them? Comment below or connect with me on Twitter @TeacherHattie


  1. As an avid writer and bullet journal-er and teacher I’m grateful for your post. Hoping to try some of the ideas you’ve shared. I wish you and your learners all the best–and I cannot wait to hear the update. Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks! I’m hoping my students are as quickly captivated by bullet journaling as I have been. I can’t believe I’m so late to the party!! I’ll definitely update on my progress.

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