A notebook is essential because if we really want our kids to engage in meaningful writing, we have to give them space to explore that process. And all the looseleaf, graphic organizers, and handouts in the world just can’t do that.
Notebooks allow for play, mess, and creativity. If a student writes a paragraph that ends up getting scrapped, it’s not such a big deal. They move on to the next page. They draw an arrow. They write in margins. But if that happens on a handout with fill-in-the blanks, the implication is that it’s somehow wrong. My own notebook is a holy mess of lists, arrows, scribbles, and eventually, through that process of sorting through the mess, my thinking is shaped into writing. By allowing our students to engage in this mess, we are encouraging students to make mistakes, to grow their thinking, and to take on the hard work of thinking and writing.