Da Vinci's Notebooks
Throughout his life, Leonardo da Vinci kept literally thousands of pages of notes. He kept notes on things that interested him, and he was interested in everything. Of course, he was a brilliant artist, so his notebooks include beautiful drawings and sketches. He drew human anatomy, mechanical plans, and a host of other things. He also wrote detailed notes. Interestingly, his notebooks are difficult to read, first, because they are in Italian, but also because he wrote everything backward. It is called mirror writing because the writing looks normal when held up to a mirror. Some people think he did this as a secret code, but others think it was just easier for him to write this way. Historians believe da Vinci had dyslexia. He was also left-handed.
So, you might be wondering what all of this has to do with teaching. Well, I think learning about da Vinci is a great way to get students excited about keeping their own notebooks. Da Vinci was brilliant and talented, but he had a lot of faults too. For example, he was super disorganized, and he started things and didn't finish them all the time. All. The. Time. But, he created amazing art, and he left behind this record of what he cared about. A record that we all find incredibly valuable. How valuable you ask? In the nineties, Bill Gates paid thirty million dollars to own one of da Vinci's notebooks.
If you are interested in doing this lesson with your students, there are tons of resources on da Vinci available. Introduce the artist to your students and show them some pictures of his notebook pages - they are in the public domain. Then, explain that they can keep a notebook just like da Vinci. They can record what they are learning, what they are curious about, what they care about, or ideas they have for new inventions. The notebooks can be both pictures and words. Really, notebooks are as unique as the people creating them. As you can see, my notebook is filled with writing. I use my notebook every time I am working on a new reading passage - including my most recent reading passage on Leonardo da Vinci. Like da Vinci, my notebooks are totally unorganized. When I am done with one topic, I flip to the next page and start on another.
If you are thinking, this sounds great, but don't have the time to research yourself. You can grab my reading passage set. It comes with three differentiated reading passages, comprehension questions, and discussion questions.