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The Reader's Notebook

By Beth Newingham on November 4, 2009
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Once I did away with the basal many years ago and adopted the Reading Workshop approach in my classroom, I quickly realized that my students needed a place to organize their reading materials, keep track of the books they read, and record the thinking they do about their reading.  After trying out a variety of different versions of a Reader's Notebook, including a spiral notebook and a Duo-Tang folder, I finally determined that a binder was the most user-friendly solution. 

A binder works so well for my readers because it provides them with an efficient way to add new handouts, quickly access information, and easily refer to previous reading responses in the six carefully organized sections of the binder.

I can't imagine running my Reading Workshop without having my students maintain a Reader's Notebook.  It is in this notebook that students build their reading lives over the course of the year.  READ ON to learn more about the sections I include in my Reader's Notebook and find links to download the resources I include in each section.




The Reader's Notebook


My Reader's Notebook is a one-inch view binder with a personalized cover and a spine labeled with each student's name. The binder has six sections that are separated with colored, labeled tabs.



Below is a description of what I include in each section.



1. Reading Log



Reading log scan I chose this as the first section in the notebook because it's something that students need to access easily and often. Every time my students complete a book, they record the book's title and author, and the date they complete the book.  After learning about the different genres in our library, students also record the book's genre using a genre code. (See section two for more details about genre.)  I find it necessary for my students to also include the book's color coded level and then determine if the book was E (easy), JR (just right), or C (challenging) after they have finished reading it. 

Recording the actual level with their corresponding level of comfort with the book is an important component of my reading log because my students are constantly encouraged to reflect on their personal reading growth.  It's through the regular recording of their books that students realize when a color code is becoming easier for them as the year progresses. It's at this point that they may decide to try out a book at a higher level.  Students revisit their reading log often when making connections between books they are currently reading and books they have read previously.  They also use their reading log to create genre graphs at the end of each unit of study (see section two).

I choose to print multiple copies of the reading log on card stock instead of regular paper so the reading log pages do not rip out of the students' binders.  This record of reading is such an important reflection of each student's reading growth over the school year, so spending a little extra money on card stock to make sure the log stays in the binder is worth it to me!

Download Reading Log


2. Genres

Genre definitions Genre Overview

The first resource in this section is the "Genre Overview" sheet.  At the beginning of the year when students are still becoming familiar with the characteristics of each genre and the corresponding genre codes, I can direct them to this sheet without having to meet with students every time they're not sure of the genre of a particular book. I use the genre codes suggested by Fountas and Pinnell.


Download "Genre Overview"




Genre Graphs

Genre Graph


At the end of every unit of study, students count up the number of books they have read in each genre and record the number on the "What Genres Am I Reading?" sheet. They then use the information to create a genre graph that reflects their variety (or lack of variety) of reading during IDR time. The graphs are often a wake-up call for students who get too comfortable reading a single genre, and they are a great way for me to get a quick overview of what each student is choosing to read. The results of the genre graphs often lead students to set genre-specific reading goals each month. (See more information about setting reading goals in section three.)


Download "What Genres Am I Reading?"

Download Genre Graph 0–5

Download Genre Graph 0–10

Download Genre Graph 0–20

Download Genre Graph 0–30

3. Goals and Progress

This is another important section on my Reader's Notebook because it is a place for students to really keep track of their growth as a reader throughout the year. This section is great for showing parents or referring to when completing report cards.



Students' Personal Reading Goals



Reading Goals The first resource in this section is the "My Reading Goals" sheet.  At the beginning of each month, my students set goals for themselves as readers. Of course I do quite a bit of modeling prior to asking students to set their own goals. I encourage students to set a goal in at least three of the categories listed below. I added sample goals in each category. 




Word Attack & Fluency Goals

 Use more expression when I read.

 Use the strategy ______________ to decode unfamiliar words.

 Pay more attention to punctuation when I read (periods, quotation marks, commas, etc.).

 Read a minimum of ___ pages each day.


Genre Goals

• Read a book from the ________ genre this month.

• Read ___ books in the ___________ genre this month.

• Try reading a book from the __________ series this month because I haven’t tried this series before.

• Read ____ chapter books this month.

• Become an expert on _________ by reading books about this topic.


Thinking Goals

• Stop after every chapter and think about what I am reading.

• Use Post-it notes as stop signs to make myself “stop and think.”

• Reread when something doesn’t make sense.


Reading Behavior Goals

• Remember to record every book I read.

• Read without distracting others.

• Read only books that are just right for me.

• Always do the IDR task that is assigned.



Color Code Form

Color code The second resource in this section is the "What Is My Just Right Color?" sheet.  This sheet is used as a visual record of a student's progression through the color codes in our classroom library throughout the school year.  When I see students choosing to read books well below or above their "just right" color code, I can quickly flip to this section of their notebook and remind them of the books they should be reading.

Download Color Code Form



Books I Plan to Read

Optional resources in this section include the "Books I Plan to Read" sheet and the "Chapter Books vs. Picture Books" recording sheet.  Since students may find books in the classroom library that they are interested in reading but are too challenging for them at a certain point in the year, they are encouraged to record those books on the "Books I Plan to Read" sheet so that they can remember to choose those books when they do feel more comfortable at the higher level.  Students may even use this sheet to plan future reading of "just right" books by certain authors or books that are part of a favorite series.

Download "Books I Plan to Read"


Chapter Books vs. Picture Books

The "Chapter Books vs. Picture Books" sheet is used when I have students who should be reading chapter books but who are instead reading picture books the majority of the time.  Third grade is a transitional year for many readers.  While students want to read chapter books at the beginning of the year, I find that many readers will fall back into picture books because they are a quick, "easy-to-read" choice.  Setting goals in this area is helpful for some readers.

Download "Chapter Books vs. Picture Books"



4. Mini-Lesson Handouts

TOC There are times when I want to provide students with a helpful handout that will assist them with an independent reading task or a sheet that I think they might want to reference when reading on their own.  Examples include decoding strategies, class charts (that I type up after a mini-lesson), etc.  I like this section because students can easily access resources from mini-lessons during independent reading, and I can also refer to the handouts when conferring with students if I find it necessary to reference a specific lesson or concept I have previously taught.  I make sure to only ask students to add a handout to their table of contents if I truly think they may refer to it at a later time.  Each time students add a handout to their binder, they write the title of the handout on their "Mini-Lesson Handout Table of Contents" and write a page number on the bottom of the handout.

Download "Mini-Lesson Handouts Table of Contents"



IMG_0799 5. Reading Partnerships

I will do a separate post on reading partnerships later in the year, but this section is a place for students to keep all of the recording sheets from this unit in one safe place so that they are not misplaced when students need to meet with their partners. Take a look at my Reading Partnership Unit.




6. Reading Response

Reading response When transitioning from an actual notebook to a binder, it was difficult for me to determine what this section of my Reader's Notebook would look like.  When using a spiral notebook, it was hard for my 3rd graders to keep their responses organized, and I was frustrated when trying to read their responses. This section of my binder is now more structured. There are three ways that students respond to their reading on a daily basis.


IDR Task Sheets

I ask students to use these task sheets when I just want them to do a quick task when reading during IDR (individualized daily reading) time. I want my students reading for the majority of IDR time and am careful not to always give them tasks that take up the entire time that should be spent reading self-selected texts from their book box.


Download IDR Task Sheet




Sticky Note Tracker Sheet

Sticky note pages There are other times when I just want them to write about their reading on sticky notes as they make their way through their books.  I tell my students to "talk back" to their books as they read.  Whenever they talk back to their book, they leave a sticky note on that page.   Although I confer with students often, I can't be there with them during every book they read.  For this reason, I ask them to take the sticky notes out of their books when they are done and attach them to a "Sticky Note Tracker Sheet" that is then added to their Reader's Notebook.  This way I can see the thinking that is taking place on a regular basis and use it as a tool to guide my individual conversations and necessary instruction with specific students.

Download "Sticky Note Tracker Sheet"


Reading Response Topics

Students also have lined paper in this last section of their notebook.  While the IDR task sheets and the "Sticky Note Tracker Sheets" are used when I want students to quickly record their thinking as they read or show their understanding of a mini-lesson concept, the reading response topics are to be used when I expect students to truly write about their reading.  As a class, we create a rubric that is used to evaluate the quality of students' responses.  Students are required to complete a reading response entry twice a month.  For students who I believe need to be challenged, I may ask request weekly responses.

Download Reading Response Topics






Reader's Notebook Assessment


Readers notebook rubricSince students are constantly using their Reader's Notebook to record books they've read, reflect on their reading, track their reading progress, talk back to their books, and set reading goals, it is important that I take time to check in on their work.  It is also important to hold my students accountable for maintaining their Reader's Notebook and using it to improve their reading.  For this reason, I created a Reader's Notebook Rubric that I use to assess the effort, care, and thought that is put into each student's notebook.

Whenever I formally assess the notebooks, I have the students take them home for their parents to review as well.  It is important for parents to observe their child's reading growth over the year, and the Reader's Notebook is a very concrete way for parents to see it.

Download Reader's Notebook Rubric





Reader's Notebook Storage

I like to have my students' Reader's Notebooks kept with their book boxes in one place.  This way students need to make only one stop on their way to the reading carpet for the mini-lesson.  Their notebooks are kept right next to their book boxes on special bookshelves in our classroom.



Assessment in the Reading Workshop

Check back soon for my next post that will focus on assessment in the Reading Workshop. I will describe the ways I formally and informally assess my readers on a regular basis and how I then use the information to guide my future teaching.




Comments (163)

I've been following your posts and your website for a while. I'm a student teacher and I would really like to try Reading Workshop in my future classroom. I've already bought some of the books you've recommended about Reading Workshop and your posts have been also very helpful. I have a question about the guided reading part of Reading Workshop. Where would I get the books to do guided reading? Is there a set of books from a company you can recommend? Thanks for your help!


You asked if my students include their writing workshop mini-lesson handouts in their reader's notebook or in their writing composition book.

Actually, my students have a separate half-inch writing resource binder that stores their mini-lesson handouts, editing tools, rough draft pockets, a writing conference log, and a section for their published pieces of writing.

Thanks for posting on the blog!



I love hearing that the reading trophy is a hit in your classroom. It seems like such a silly thing, but it has really improved the thought and effort my students put into their IDR task.

Unfortunately not all students are intrinsically motivated, so it is sometimes necessary to add a little incentive. I also like that it rewards effort. Too often the "good" readers are praised, and the lower readers are only told how they can improve. The "Reader of the Day" trophy allows me to also recognize the efforts of my lower readers!


A few weeks ago I read about the daily reading trophy that you give out to you super reader for the day. I started shortly after. I have the children gather for our sharing session at the end of Reader's Workshop and have them share what they did that day to help them grow as readers. They get so excited to hear who will be honored and it really has increased their level of responsibility during Independent Reading. thanks for the great idea!

Beth, Thank you so much for all the wonderful resources! My classroom library is starting to look VERY similar to yours! One quick question: Do your students include their writing mini-lesson notes in the reading binder or in their writing composition books? Thanks again!


It is so exciting to hear about the success you are having in your classroom. It makes teaching so much more enjoyable when students are truly engaged in their own learning!

I hope you will have continued success in your implementation of reading workshop!


Beth (and Angela!),

Like so many have said before, thank you for sharing these ideas. My students and I are addicted to Reading Workshop and I wanted to share that success with you. I introduced them to "talking back" to their books with sticky notes last week, and I can honestly say that 100% of my students were engaged in reading. This is a first for this group. Thanks again!


Many of the questions you've asked are answered in my Classroom Library post from a few weeks back. All of the books my students are reading in our classroom come from my classroom library.

Here is the link to my classroom library post: http://blogs.scholastic.com/teaching_matters/2009/10/classlibrary.html

If you still have questions, let me know!



Thank you for your generosity of sharing your wonderful ideas! I'm sure this process was very time consuming, which we are all short on, so you have given a gift to us all, especially the students! I am curious as to how you have the books available to your students. Do you have them in your classroom or do they come from the school library? Do you place items into their book tubs or do the students fill their own tubs and are they changed weekly, monthly, or whenever the student wants?

Thanks, Donna


Thanks for posting on the blog! I'm glad that the information Angela and I have posted so far has been helpful for you!



Thanks for your questions! That is exciting that you are thinking about implementing a reading workshop in your classroom.

You asked about how I make sure I am teaching all of the reading curriculum in my reading workshop. When creating my units of study, I used Michigan's Grade Level Content Expectations which are essentially the benchmarks and standards for each grade level in all subject areas. In addition to incorporating the benchmarks, I also used Fountas and Pinnell's Continuum of Literacy Learning to determine the reading skills that are expected of third grade readers. Their continuum also focuses on the text features readers are likely to encounter in specific levels of text, so that was helpful when writing my units of study and determining the specific mini-lessons to include in each unit.

Your second question was about accountability. That is a huge concern for many teachers in reading workshop. The Reader's Notebook is certainly one thing I use for assessment and accountability, but I will be posting more details about assessment in Reader's Workshop in my next post. Stay tuned!!


Beth, I love what you do in your classroom and I almost want to go back and be a 3rd grader in your classroom! You mentioned that you stopped using the basal several years ago and implemented Readers' Workshop. Last year and as of now, I am still using the basal. The one plus side to the basal is that I am able to teach vocabulary, teach a certain reading skill and assess all of this learning easily. I am not at all attached to continue using the basal and would love to try to implement Readers' workshop, however, I do have a few questions:

How do you make sure to teach all of the reading curriculum? Do you use the 15 minute mini lesson time to teach reading elements such as, cause and effect, summary, main idea etc? How do you keep the students accountable for learning these reading elements and assessing their learning?

Thank you! Brooke

Beth - I just wanted to thank you for being so generous with your ideas. I am trying to implement reader's workshop this year for the first time. All of the information posted by you and by Angela has been so helpful. Thanks again!

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