4 books to spark start-of-year notebook writing

Notebook writing Oz Lit Teacher

Notebook writing is the perfect start-of-year activity for your literacy classroom- it builds community and teaches students timely strategies for generating ideas for writing.

Now that’s a win-win right there.

Explicitly teaching students strategies for generating writing ideas is an investment of time that will pay dividends for the remainder of the school year (both in the fact that students will generate a pool of ideas they can call on throughout the year AND the fact that they’ll know how to generate different ideas for other projects).

Imagine freeing yourself of the hassle of having to constantly conjure up new writing prompts for your students. It’s time to delegate that job to the students themselves.

Using mentor texts to spark ideas for writing is an effective ideas-generation strategy so here are 4 books you can start with:

#1 Little Nic’s Big Day Out

Notebook writing book

Little Nic’s Big Day by Nic Naitanui and Fatima Anaya is a beautifully inclusive book that tells the tale of Nic’s first day of school. The book highlights the fact that difference is a strength and everyone should celebrate their differences.

After reading this book students could engage in list writing:

  • Favourite foods
  • Favourite activities
  • Things you like
  • Places you’ve been
  • People who are important to you

Alternatively, they could complete a Venn diagram with a friend to show how they are alike and different.

Writers notebook ideas
A Venn diagram showing how Shirl and I are alike and different. Each word in this diagram could spark further writing.

#2 Coming Home to Country

Writer's notebook ideas

Coming Home to Country, written and illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft, is a stunning depiction of the feeling of returning to your true ‘home.’  Bronwyn describes what she sees, hears and feels when she is in her one true home.

Students could use this book to inspire them to write about either their ‘home’ or their favourite place using their senses.

#3 Why I Love Summer

Writer's notebook ideas

Why I Love Summer is a charming book, by Michael Wagner and Tom Jellett, about the joys of the Australian summer.

This book could be used as a mentor text to spark writing about what summer means to your students.

  • What summer traditions do they have with their families?
  • When they hear the word ‘summer’, what does it mean to them?

This is an alternate activity for the run of the mill ‘write about your holidays’ prompt you know your kids are dreading!

#4 Under the Love Umbrella

oz lit mentor text poetry

This heartwarming book by Davina Bella and Allison Colpoys is about celebrating all the special people in your life.

After reading this book students could use Georgia Heard’s Heart Map strategy to record the names of the special people in their lives (the people who are under their ‘love umbrella’). They could then write a list of some of the special memories they have with these people and potentially turn one of these items into a longer piece.


For other practical ideas on how to build community with your class at the start of the year- check out my post on 5 ‘Getting to Know You’ Activities for the Start of the Year.

Another post that might be useful at this time of the year is 5 Alternatives to the Dreaded “Write About Your Holidays” Prompt


I’d love to hear about books you use to build community in your classroom at the start of the year. Do you have any great notebook activities to go with them? Share your ideas below or join in the conversation on the Oz Lit Teacher Facebook group.

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