Writer's Notebooks and Idea Starters (Freebie)

Last year, I used binders for my students' writer's notebooks, and I liked them sooo much better than the composition notebooks and pocket folders I used in years past!  Here are some reasons why...First, binders are easy for the students to personalize since they can easily decorate papers to insert into the front and back covers of their binder. Binders are also great because they keep papers more permanently than folders, so they can show growth over the entire school year.  In addition, they can hold many types of paper including lined and unlined papers for writing in different genres as well as stapled books in the inside pockets. 

One thing I like to do is add some idea starters to my students' writer's notebooks so if my students ever have writer's block, they can easily find a topic to write about.  When I give the students their writer's notebooks at the beginning of the year, they will find some idea starters printed on colored cardstock behind the beginning of the year writing paper.  Over the first few weeks of school, we fill out the idea starters before our independent writing time starts.  These are the idea starters we use:
  • Heart Map - Write down (or sketch) all of the people, places and things you love.  Add to this map throughout the year as you might have new ideas later on.
  • Hand Map - Write down things that you like to do.
  • Foot Map - Write the names of places you have been or where you would like to go.
  • Neighborhood Map - Draw your neighborhood map.  Include your house, friend's houses, areas where you play, and places you like to go frequently.  Put stars on places that would be great writing topics.  Later, extend this by drawing a map of the different rooms of your house.
  • Family Portrait - Draw and label the members of your family. Write some words describing them or things you like to do with your family.
  • All About Me - Answer the questions with words and pictures. 
When your writers get stuck, simply help them refer to their idea starters to choose a topic that is meaningful to them!

If you would like to download my Idea Starters, click HERE. Enjoy!


  1. LOVE!! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. This is a really neat idea! I like how visual it is for the students. Thank you so much for sharing!


  3. Hi there, I am really interested in your writers workshop ideas. I am a homeschool my son, he is in first. I was wondering is there a book I can read or follow. Or do you have an order you follow. Anything to help point me in the right direction will help. Thank you.

  4. Alicia, Thanks for stopping by my blog! My favorite book for first grade writers is Of Primary Importance...here is the link:


    I also refer to About the Authors: Writing Workshop with Our Youngest Writers a lot...


    They both give tons of great ideas for units and mini-lessons, which I love! Good luck!

  5. I've adapted the hand map idea for my college level writers. There are so many engaging activities that can come from these.

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