Home » Teacher Tips » The Reader’s Notebook

When I launched my reading workshop, part of that included implementing reading notebooks for my students. What I would typically do is during the summer prior to the start of the new school year was assemble and organize the notebooks. I would add several different sections within the notebook.

Now in addition, I would have students personalize their notebooks so that they would feel that the notebook was their own.

When I first implemented reader’s notebooks in my class at the start of the school year, I’d often times get moans and groans from students about the number of books I expected my students to read, and the amount of time that they would read. Our classroom goal was a minimum of 30 minutes Monday through Friday. I would always get this question from students why do we also have to write about our reading?

I would make it crystal clear to my students that the purpose of writing about your reading was to make them better readers and writers. And once my kids knew the why, of why they were doing this, it became less painful for them. I wanted my students to become aware that writing will help them deepen their understanding, strengthen their conversations with partners.

Additionally, I would tell them that writing about their reading will develop their critical thinking skills. The thing that I impressed upon my students was not to simply retell what the book was about. But to dig a lot deeper to analyze and evaluate the text. I would have an anchor chart that I displayed in front of the classroom which listed open-ended, higher order thinking questions that students could pick from. They would use these questions as a way to guide their thinking.

I would give my students ownership of their notebooks and encourage them to use strategies that would help them as readers. For example, I let students use markers, highlighters, colored pencils; they could use post it notes, sketch out characters and story scenes, and create graphs and charts. It was really cool to see students sharing their strategies with their partners.

Let’s talk about finding the time for reader’s notebooks

Well, for starters, at the start of the new school year, I would go over my expectations concerning the notebooks and establish routines. I would set aside one hour Monday through Friday, whereby my kids would read for 30 minutes independently, and then “Write about their reading” followed by sharing out with partners and then whole group.

Now, let’s discuss the organization of the reader’s notebook

The reader’s notebook generally features 5 sections. I used tips found in   Fountas & Pinnel’s book, Guiding Readers and Writers. Which is an excellent resource.

Section 1 – The reading list

Section 2 – The reading interest list

Section 3 – Books to read list

Section 4 – The letters

Section 5 – Writing about your reading

We are going to discuss each of these sections in turn.

The reading list is simply a documented account of the amount and type of reading that students do.

The reading interest list is a list of books that the student wants to read. And I have to say that this section is very important for the teacher, as it details their favorite titles, genres, topics, and authors.

The books to read list are actual books that the student wants to read.

The letters section are letters that the student writes to the teacher, and the teacher responds back to the student. I had the names of my students equally divided by days – Monday through Thursday on an anchor chart displayed.

The last section, writing about their reading would begin once independent reading time was over. I would give students 10 minutes to respond to the text that they were reading. After which, the students would be given time to share out their thinking with partners. Then I would recap the day’s mini-lesson and answer any questions from the whole group.

Let’s turn our attention to using the reader’s notebook.

Each section of the notebook has to be explicitly taught. In other words, I never just handed out their notebooks on the first day of school. During the first week or two of school, I would have book conversations, and we would talk about the kinds of books that they were reading. And once my kids got comfortable sharing their books with each other orally, they came away knowing how to share their books in conversations with other students.

Then at that point, I would thoroughly go through and explain each section of their notebook.

Now in my class I had certain routines in place with respect to students using their notebooks. First of all, I had tubs that I would require these notebooks to be stored in when work was completed.

One important thing here is that the notebooks never went home, they stayed in the classroom. Students wrote in their notebooks during book talks to record titles of books that they wanted to read later on. They would have their notebooks in hand when they were sharing with a partner. Students would turn in their notebooks to me on their assigned “letter” day.

I also required my students to write an average of one page when they responded to their reading.  I had my students discuss their reading entries in individual conferences.

Now I want to address use of conventions. Though I would not correct notebook entries, I would pay attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and organization – keeping notes on the use of convention. I’ve always encouraged my students to “show me what they know” when they write to me about their reading.

In summary, reader’s notebooks are easy to use and will instill in students to take responsibility for some of their reading development. More importantly, they impress upon students to think of themselves as readers.

Steve Hiles

I am a retired military and elementary school teacher living in Tennessee. I am an avid reader and love to write. I am very passionate about helping teachers. I hope you find my educational tips and strategies useful,and enjoy hearing about my personal journey.



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Steve Hiles

I am a retired military and elementary school teacher living in Tennessee. I am an avid reader and love to write. I am very passionate about helping teachers. I hope you find my educational tips and strategies useful and enjoy hearing about my personal journey. Thanks for visiting!

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