Many published writers talk about using a notebook as a place where they collect ideas, try out phrasings and snippets of writing, and generally explore their craft. Using a writer’s notebook has a sound basis in writing and English classes as well, especially for teachers who see themselves as apprenticing their students into the craft of the writer. Since our focus in this course is specifically on style, and grammar knowledge as a component of style, we’ll do something similar with our style notebook.
Keeping a style notebook in this course will, primarily, expose you to the practice of focusing on and playing with style, and help you see its tangible benefits for your future students. Our notebook will be something of a hybrid, being a place where you will explore issues of pedagogy as well as the craft of writing and language.
I think it’s important to note that our notebook will focus largely on language and language use, and that this represents only part of what I think a writer’s notebook should be in a regular classroom; typically, this notebook should include a lot of students’ own writing, in response to in-class prompts or other opportunities. Given time constraints, we won’t do a lot of freewriting for this notebook, although I want to stress that such writing should occupy a lot of a writer’s notebook in a traditional classroom. Thus I’ve given this assignment a slightly different name.
Format & Organization
Your notebook for this course must be a physical notebook—I suggest a composition book or notebook with lined pages. Feel free to decorate and personalize your notebook—most professionals do this, and the literature on classroom use suggests that doing this has benefits for students. In most English classrooms, this notebook would contain a lot of room for students to write (as per what you practice in English 423); we won’t be doing that in this class, so you could see this notebook (with its focus on grammar, style, and mentor texts) as a section of what I’d encourage you to use in your future classrooms.
The notebook should be divided into sections to help organize your notes as well as the activities we’ll engage in during the semester:
- Writer’s Palette. This will be the largest portion of your notebook. Here, you’ll make note of and include mentor texts that demonstrate the grammar features and techniques we’ll spend time on this semester. We will also include specific notes in this section about concrete grammar and stylistic techniques I teach you in class. We’ll rely on this section as a place to practice the techniques we explore during the semester.
- Mentor’s Craft. This section will contain mentor texts that I give you in class and you’ll annotate these mentor texts to describe the effective rhetorical choices made by the writers we examine. This will be important practice for the Mentor Craft Analysis assignment you complete for the class, and will provide inspiration for your own writing as explored in the Writing Practice Piece.
- Observations. The rest of the notebook (you’ll only need a few pages, really) will be a space to record ways you see the language at use in the world around you. I’ll assign some things specifically for you to observe and will ask you to make other, independent observations as the semester goes along.