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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.

Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who focuses on writing workshop. I've been working with K-6 teachers and students since 2009. Prior to that, I was a fourth and fifth-grade teacher in New York City and Rhode Island.

I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).

I live in Central Pennsylvania with my husband and children. In my free time, I enjoy swimming, doing Pilates, cooking, baking, making ice cream, and reading novels.

4 thoughts on “Reading Notebooks Leave a comment

  1. in response to literacy spark’s question on Reader’s Notebook. I have my students keep Reader’s and Writer’s Notebooks and alternate weeks of collection – Readers one week and Writers the next. Students turn in a letter every other week and write in their notebook every week even the week I am not collecting. I have two classes like Mrs. V so I do end up having 10 notebooks a night. Sometimes I fall behind, but I can usually catch up on the weekend if that happens.


  2. Stacey,

    I like this idea. This year I had students turn in their notebooks on Fridays. I realized that in general I had too many assignments due on Fridays and was burying myself in homework. I had already thought about having word study on alternating days, and I can see how this idea would work really well too. This year I have 25 students, but next year I will have 2 grade levels. The other grade will have around 25 students as well. That would end up being 10 journals a day, which may still seem time consuming. Checking every two weeks seems like it would not be frequent enough though. I will have to think about it some more…


  3. That’s a great system Stacey. Now I have to ask, are you doing notebooks for Reader’s Workshop too? I do reading response letters where students and I write back and forth weekly. So….with 28 kids…2 notebooks a week. hmmmm….I need to work somewhere where we get more than 20 minutes for lunch! I definitely want to try it for next year though.


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