Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reader's Notebook 3.0

A lot of the traffic I see on the blog is related to readers' and writers' notebooks. I understand why because I too go searching for information about notebooks! If only there was a strong, meaningful, user friendly example of a reader's notebook out there. There are plenty of examples of notebooks out there but they look complicated and I like to keep things simple. I think readers' notebooks are hard for most of us because it is not something we were taught to do as a child when we were developing our own reading identities. It's hard to teach something when you have a fuzzy grasp on it yourself!

I've taken a few weeks of summer off and tried not to think about school at all. No pinterest, no nothing! But now I'm starting to see the back to school displays going up in the stores and my little teacher nerd heart is starting to go pitter-pat and it's time to start thinking about reader's notebooks again. So here's my thinking about last year's notebooks and this year's notebooks.

Last Year's Readers Notebooks
The reader's notebook has always been a work in progress for me...a hot mess, if you will. Last year I decided to break the notebook up into sections or chapters according to each unit. There was a section at the beginning for a reading log and then after that the notebook was divided into units. This worked well as a more structured step for me and I felt like the notebooks were moderately more successful but not as great as I wanted. Here's the issues I had.
  • Reading log: out the window this year. The kids wrote down what they read religiously every day at the start of the year, but by December, that slowed to a crawl. Few did it at all. This year we are moving to a different strategy for recording what you've read. (Stay tuned.)
  • Organizing by unit made it difficult to find their reading responses. They didn't do much responding independently at all (but hey, that's on me - I need to set up something to hold everyone accountable for that next year), but it was hard to find the responses they did do because it was mixed in with everything else.
This Year's Readers Notebooks
So dividing the notebook into units was a good intermediate step for me because it made me think about what to put in the notebook during each unit. But they didn't respond enough! I want them to see the readers' notebook as a place to respond and show their thinking. Maybe I need to make more of a connection between showing your thinking in math and showing your thinking in reading by writing it down. Anyway, here's the grand plan for this year:

  • Continue with the word READ on the cover of the reader's notebook and WRITE on the cover of the writer's notebook. That made it really easy for the kids to figure out which notebook was which!
  • The notebook will be divided into three (not necessarily equal) sections:
    • Me as a Reader: goal setting, reading identity work, etc. goes here
    • My Work: this is the place where kids will put the work that we do together, whether it's making a concept web or jotting down ideas to share about a read aloud
    • My Thinking: here is where they will write down their responses to their reading. Giving it a separate section should make it clear that responding to your reading is valued and important, hopefully. I don't know if we will call it my thinking or my responding or something else.
  • No reading log at the front or in the book at all. We are doing something different with that this year. Part of me wants to frown on the reading log anyway. There's got to be other ways to gather data that a reading log shows besides having the kid write it down every day. 
  • More reading identity work. This lends itself to learning about genres and other important reading skills. Kids need to know about the kind of reader they are and be able to say the genre they prefer, the types of books they prefer, and why. 
I haven't made the notebook for this year yet. I bought the paper and have the composition book but just haven't gotten to it yet. We're busy enjoying summer!


  1. I have been very inspired by your blog and am modelling my notebooks after yours for my grade 2's. I have tried binders and had good intentions but failed miserably. I am not fond of photocopying a lot of stuff and find myself going back to traditional notebooks. I love how you've set them up and I love that they're a work in progress! Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Soy española y me gustaría trabajar como usted; aquí en España trabajamos de otro modo, pero el suyo me gusta más.

  3. I am thrilled I found your blog on reader's and writer's notebooks. I too have tried the binder effect but failed, which in turn fails the kids. I teach 5th grade and love this simple set up. Keeping it simple I'm finding is the important part, too much is too hindering on their (and my) learning. Thanks!

  4. I have used many of your pages as inspiration for my own notebooks. Have you seen Biblionasium? It is a great alternative to reading logs (even though it does also have that feature), and is like a Goodreads account for kids!
    Thank you for sharing!