Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer Writer's Notebook Inspired by Mr. Cornell's Dream Boxes

One of the educational blogs that I follow is Two Writing Teachers.  There are always great tips and encouragement for writing teachers.  In the past few weeks, several of their posts focused on ways to keep students writing over the summer break. This is where I was introduced to the wonderful picture book Mr. Cornell's Dream Boxes by Jeanette Winter.


The author tells the true story of Joseph Cornell who built imaginary worlds inside wooden boxes. Museums and collectors bought his work, but his favorite audience was children, and he held special exhibitions of his dream boxes for children. Joseph Cornell also was a writer. Ms. Winter writes, “He wrote about his dreams, and his thoughts, and his ideas. His journals filled over 30, 000 pages.” This beautifully illustrated book is sure to inspire students to keep writing, and I was inspired by this text to develop a summer writer's notebook for students.

I like to give my students a new notebook and fun gel pen as an end of the year gift, hoping this will motivate them to keep writing over the break. I think that I could take this one step further next time by setting aside an hour or so on one of the last days of school for students to decorate a new writer's notebook to be used over the summer, just like we do at the beginning of the year. I would invite students to bring in craft supplies, stickers, photos, etc. to personalize their notebooks.

Next, the students can glue the prompts I have created, which are based on ways that Mr. Cornell got ideas for his writing and his dream boxes, into the left hand side of their notebook. I have developed it to be like an interactive notebook; the prompt/graphic/flap is glued onto the left hand side page and the right hand side is blank to be used as the space for students to write more about a particular idea, or to write the story of a memory inspired by the prompt. Of course, students may enjoy adding color to the black and white outlines with their colored pencils, crayons, or markers. I think this activity would be a great way to spend some time during the last few days of the school year!

The summer writer's notebook I have developed is available on my Teachers Pay teachers store: Heidi Clarke. I have designed this product to be used with or without having read aloud the book Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes to your students. You can still use this product even if you do not have a copy of the book! However, this beautifully illustrated book is sure to be inspire them to begin writing!

I hope your students are inspired to continue living like writers over the summer! Please leave a comment to share what you do to motivate your students to continue writing over the summer vacation!