Reading Notebooks

Katie asked:

How often do you collect and look at notebooks or are you doing it as you conference with students?

I rarely read through a student’s notebook during a Writing Conference.  The reason is that I want to use the conference time to talk with them about their writing, what they’re working on at that very moment, and then try to figure out how to lift the level of their writing to make them a better writer (i.e., to teach them something that will help them with more than just what they’re working on right-at-that-moment).

I eat lunch in my classroom daily so that I can read through my students’ notebooks while they’re at Recess and Lunch.  (Fans of the teacher’s lunch room might deem this is a sad existence.  However, I have a couple of colleagues who poke their heads in daily to say hello, so don’t feel bad for me!)  I’ve been doing this for three years, so it’s become something of a routine.  Plus, I’ve found I know my students much better because I read their notebooks!

Here’s how the notebook checking works:

  • In September each student receives a notebook checking day.  I simply take my class roster, alphabetize it by first name, count up the number of kids, and divide by five.

    • This year I have a tiny class, so I’m only checking three to four notebooks/day.  When I was in NYC with 32 kids, I had to check five to six/day.

  • I send home a notice, with each student, listing his/her notebook checking day so that parents are aware of it.  I also inform parents of their checking day at Open School Night in September.

  • Each of my students has a reminder on his/her desk and by his/her coat hook about his/her notebook checking day.

  • I list the kids, by name, whose day it is to turn their notebook in, on the white board in my classroom daily.

I often make notes to myself about something I noticed in a student’s notebook as a way to remind myself to check-in with a particular student when I confer with them.  However, reading each child’s notebook on a daily basis allows me to focus more on the one-to-one conversation, rather than on reading their writing, when I pull-up alongside them for a writing conference.