Sherry’s Writing Weblog

November 2, 2008

Writing to Think Critically

Filed under: Mini-Lessons for Writer's Notebooks — sdoherty @ 8:31 pm

Writer’s notebooks can easily become stagnant and very journal-like. Often, topics can be very superficial. Notebooks must be nurtured and “kneaded”. If all we do is encourage kids to write and write and write, they will continue to write the same things in the same way. I remember starting my own writer’s notebook. It was difficult at first. I wrote a lot about my dog and cat, Jagger and Mick (my babies!). My entries have since grown and become more reflective with practise.
Randy Bomer has written an article about writing to think critically. In his words, “We want students to view their writing as more than exercises for learning to write, as more than obedience to teacher instructions, but rather as a unique form of social action.” He believes in “actively teaching a socially critical lens for thinking” using the writer’s notebook. He writes about how to do this through demonstration, assisted performance, and reflective conversation.
Students can learn to think and write critically through carefully selected mentor texts, reflection and accountable talk. We need to read rich literature to them, reflect upon the big ideas, ask questions to promote thinking, and then invite our students to write.
The LNSTs are in the process of putting together a book list of mentor texts with rich big ideas. I will share the list on the blog (with their permission) once it is complete. Also, I have attached Randy Bomer’s article, Writing to Think Critically: The Seeds of Social Action. It is an excellent read.
I’m interested in hearing from others about the kind of writing they are finding in their notebooks. Perhaps we could use this blog to form a discussion group for improving writing. Let me now if you are interested.




  1. Sherry,

    After reading your blog over the past few months, it has made me think more critically about my own experience as a ‘writing teacher.’ I taught kindergarten for many years, and one of the reasons I left kindergarten was to teach process writing. I’m not sure I taught writing, I think I provided opportunities to write and assess writing, but, like you I didn’t teach enough of the actual craft of writing. I’m not sure I even understand what ‘voice’ was. It was a writing workshop by the board, combined with Ralph Fletcher and Joanne Portalucci’s (sp?) book about the writer’s workshop that really moved me along in my professional practice.

    This blog has moved me along in my personal practice. I’ve signed up for a series of after school writing workshops at the board, being held by Terri Barrette and Lisa Bott, which aren’t about teaching writing, but are about working on our own writing. And I”ve purchased two writer’s notebooks – one that I can write in and take to the workshop to share, and one with more personal entries. I don’t know how that is going to work out. Sometimes rather benign topics can lead to highly personal thoughts. I may end up just keep ing one notebook, since I don’t share with students, and being selective about what I share. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.

    Thanks for the inspiration!


    Comment by Lisa Cranston — November 23, 2008 @ 2:49 pm

  2. […] found a blog post in my RSS feed that led me to a very interesting article by Randy Bomer, titled Writing to Think […]

    Pingback by Critical Thinking and Writing « Hope Is Never Wasted — November 28, 2008 @ 9:50 pm

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    Comment by valium — February 22, 2013 @ 5:19 am

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