I like to stay in touch with my students and their families after they leave my classroom. It's really a natural thing since we spend so much time together during our journey through the school year. What a pleasure it is to continue to watch the kids grow and to see the amazing teenagers and adults they become! I always love to hear from former students and their parents and share in the news of their transitions and milestones.
Last year, I got a message from a mom just as the school year was getting started that her daughter had decorated all of her notebooks for her new school (a 5-6 upper elementary) in the style of Amelia's Notebook that we had come to refer to as "Ameliaizing". Although the notebooks looked beautiful, Mom was a bit concerned because, as she correctly pointed out, "Maybe they don't decorate their notebooks at your new school." Her daughter's confident answer: "Well, they should!"
Of course they should! Ameliaizing makes learning more fun and makes it stick in much the same way that the pages and responses in an interactive notebook make it stick. Actually, a journal done with "Ameliaizing" is the ultimate Interactive Notebook, in my opinion!
What is "Ameliaizing", and how did I begin this journey?
While browsing in the bookstore one day (in the days before eBooks),I happened upon the very first Amelia's Notebook. I fell in love with the style of the amazing author immediately. Marissa Moss wrote that book as if it were written by a nine year old girl who was about to leave her home, school, and friends following her parents' divorce. The printing and the drawings, diagrams, arrows, highlights, and comments interlaced throughout the pages looked fourth-grade authentic to me.
Of course, I had to buy the book along with copies for several of my friends. What a great model for journal writing! My brain was buzzing with ideas the more I read, and the more I thought about the great connections and possibilities between the covers. Why not encourage kids to doodle, draw, and highlight in their journals? Why not make journaling a fun activity to continue throughout life?
I started right away to use Amelia's Notebook as an example for journaling. Adding the color, drawings, and highlighting became a way of personalizing the assignment and making it more pleasant for all students.
Some tips to make Ameliaizing work for you:
- Introduce the Amelia's Notebook series of books to your students as soon as possible!
- Notice the way "Amelia" decorates her pages and discuss what the "Ameliaizing" does for the text. Does it draw the reader in? Does it help to further explain? Does it make reading more fun?
- Decorate a notebook of your own and give students time to decorate theirs. I like to use the marble composition books for this, but spiral ones work just as well.
- Make sure that you inform parents of the new way your students will be creating their journals this year.
- Create a very simple rubric with your students to describe what each notebook page should look like.
- Use the rubric as a grading tool if you must, but try to avoid grading at first. Instead, just comment on pages with sticky notes. Keep a checklist of whether the notebook assignment was completed each day or every other day or on whatever time schedule you prefer.
- Scan, print, and post as many outstanding examples of great journal pages as your students create. Change your examples often so students always have great peer examples to guide them.
- Don't require a whole page at first. It's a great relief to kids at first to know that they only need to write a couple of sentences or a half page at first, and can fill the rest of the page with drawings and diagrams.
- As your students grow as writers, slowly increase the expectations of length up to a whole page. Many students will write two or three pages at a time before long, but don't make it a requirement.
Here's a photo of my grown up student, now a sixth grader, with two of the notebooks she's designed for this year!
If you just can't wait to get started on those notebooks, here's a freebie for you! Just click on the cover!
To visit Marissa Moss's amazing website and find out what Amelia is up to lately, click on the image of her site map below!