How do I start Notebooking?

by Belinda Letchford

Nomi using the computer to complete her Notebook page

Nomi using the computer to complete her Notebook page

I was asked this question recently and thought I would place my answer here for all to read.

How do I start Notebooking with my children - it sounds like fun.

How To Workshop: Notebooking

Before we start Notebooking we need to realize how simple this technique is.

Can your child do one of the following?

  • Colour in a colouring in sheet?

  • draw a picture and dictate what it is about?

  • Give an oral narration?

  • Write a paragraph and maybe illustrate with clip art or photograph?

  • Summarise information from reliable resources, cut and glue pictures from magazines?

  • Express an opinion?

  • Refer to the Bible when discussing something with you?

Any one of these things qualifies you, or your child, to be able to make a notebook page. A notebook page is simply a page with your thoughts, or information recorded, filed away in a Binder.

Now of course, if you were to do research online you would find many tools and ideas to make your notebook pages more complicated than that but basically that is what Notebooking is all about – your information, stored in a Binder.

So your child is sitting there, pencil poised, blank paper in front of him and you say, okay we are going to notebook page about the fireworks we saw last night. Do you get a blank stare? So how do you start this Notebooking process?

Until the children are independent, fluent and keen writers, I start any writing session with an oral session. We talk about what they saw or read, what they learnt, what they felt, what they thought. As they talk I am always on the look out for clues to a topic/subject that has gripped their imaginations so I can teach into that, and occasionally I see a window to speak into their hearts (moral instruction) as well.

If conversation isn’t flowing I like to use open ended questions as prompts:

  • What, Who,Where,Why, How are good starters.

  • What did you find interesting is another

The benefit of talking before writing is that it stimulates the vocab, stirs up the memories, and gets them thinking.

I have two emphasis with my notebook pages

  • Initially they are replicas of oral narrations - I type what they say and their notebook page is complete!

  • As the children’s own writing skills develop, they talk to me and then go back and write whatever they can remember of whatever they said, and their notebook page is complete.

  • Over time they will start to add other pieces of information into their oral and written narrations – it will no longer be a straight retell – it will start to be their thinking about a topic, incorporating other experiences or understandings. This will lead to asking more questions of themselves and researching before they write.

These types of notebook pages are the building blocks for more though. My goal is to have them aware that writing is their oral words on paper. That if they have something to say they have something to write.

As they get comfortable with this method of writing, and as their thinking skills develop, and their walk with Jesus becomes personal, I start to expect more than knowledge – I expect “wisdom”. Practical application of knowing Jesus. I expect to see in their writing that they have had a thought about God’s Word, His principles or their response to Him. If they get stuck I ask questions such as

  • What does God’s Word have to say?

  • What would Jesus do?

  • What character trait did you see in that person? Or what character trait was missing?

  • What would you do in that situation?

Many of the narration prompts you find for notebooking, don’t head in this direction. I want my children to be thinking people (more than I want them to be a writing people) so the writing process is a part of training in this direction.

Because my focus, my aim, is to get my children to think I no longer demand x amount of written work. If they express their thoughts in a paragraph I am happy with that. Of course, this is tempered by their abilities, and their potential. But so often homeschool mums push their children to write a whole page just because they are 10 years of age. Volume is not going to make our children be able to think and express themselves. As my children have got older I have expected more from them over the course of a week, but not every piece they write. The other factor here is that as my children get older I start to see glimpses of their direction in life and if this includes more serious writing we make room for that but this workshop is about starting notebooking, starting the writing process.

The beauty of notebook pages though is not just in simplifying the writing expectation. Notebook pages open the doors to all sorts of creativity. Do you remember projects when you were at school? A notebook page is just the same; playing around with text, using pictures, doodling borders, having blocks of writing here and there on the page. It reminds me of scrapbooking these days. You take the photos, write the story and decorate your page to make it all look nice. These options are available to our children too. As they spend their time decorating their work they will be thinking about things – their very thought processes deepening. A hidden bonus!

So back to the fireworks we saw last night, our options are – after talking and reliving the memories with our child:

  • Let him draw the fireworks and dictate a sentence or two

  • Get the paints and crayons out to paint fireworks, and have him dictate something he remembers, or an older student may like to write a poem

  • Maybe you took a photo last night, which the child can use, along with firework stickers from your scrapbooking kit. He may write a paragraph or a sentence but maybe he thinks about all the colours that God invented.

  • Maybe he wants to know how fireworks happened – you go to the internet together, find out some information which he summarises into his own words

  • Maybe he has read an article about the cost of fireworks and he is concerned about money that could be spent better on helping the poor in the town.

Regardless if your child has written one sentence or a couple of paragraphs if they have found words to express what they thought about the fireworks and those thoughts have been captured on paper or in art then you have completed a notebook page!

Homework for this Workshop:
I want you, the mum, to go and make a notebook page. Your topic can be a family outing, a family value, a book you have read, a Bible verse you want to remember. You can use art materials, scrapbooking or stamping supplies or use the computer. You can be artistic or just write some words.

The key here is to ask yourself – what do I know, what do I think?

Put your finished work in a page protector and show your kids! They will be impressed I’m sure, plus you have just started modeling to Notebooking to your children!

Any questions?
Let me know how you went on your homework!

Comments for How do I start Notebooking?

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How Often to Notebook?
by: Anissa

I'd like to know how often other families notebook. Is this a once or twice a week thing? How structured do other families make it? Do they require correction of spelling or correct grammar usage? My children love to draw pictures and design. The trio is almost 7 and I am interested in doing this for them. I want them to enjoy it and benefit from it at the same time. Any suggestions?

Thanks, Anissa

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