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September 12, 2014 Reader's Notebook Makeover By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    At the end of every school year, I reflect on what went well and what needs to be improved upon. I thought that I had finally come up with the ultimate reader’s notebook, but I am still in search mode. Conversations with my colleagues made me realize that there is not just one way — I need to select a “tool” that will work for my students and me.

    Last year I used a soft covered binder which allowed students to write as if they were using a spiral notebook. The beauty of this reader's notebook lay in a couple factors — papers could be moved from one section to another with ease, and it did not take up much room in the student’s book bag. But mishaps occurred because rings on the inside were made of plastic and were not sturdy enough. Papers were easily lost due to the broken rings. So once again, I am back on the search for a reader's notebook that my students and I will be able to use successfully.

    Building on the concept of a binder, I decided maybe the old school binder was better and just needed a makeover or an update. Taking what worked with marble and spiral notebooks and combining them into one, the traditional hardcover binder is the format that I have decided to embrace. It's a reader’s notebook makeover — middle school style!

    With any tool that I use in my classroom, I must consider its purpose. I want it to be easy to use for my students, affordable for my parents, and easy for me to access with the least amount of interruption to student learning. As I begin the process of updating the reader’s notebook — binder style, I considered the essentials needed to be included. Here’s what I have come up with so far this year:


    Materials Needed for Reader’s Notebook – Binder Style


    Binder: one inch — I do not want it to take up too much space

    Tab dividers: five to start with

    Loose-leaf paper: reinforced if possible, still considering cost


    Post-it Notes: for quotes — thoughts the reader chooses to write down for reading inspirations



    Cover: I created a cover for my binder, but for my students there will be an identification label so I know who each binder belongs to


    Tab dividers: These are the sections that my students will need to have at the beginning of the school year. As we move forward, changes can be made. Having a binder offers the flexibility of moving sections around, where marble and spiral notebooks do not.



    Organizing Your Reader’s Notebook


    Reading Classwork: This section is divided into two subsections. They are Teaching Points/Reading Strategy and Writing About Reading. The Writing About Reading section will highlight the student’s reading work throughout the current unit.


    Reading Log (In-class): Students will be able to document/log their in-class reading. This will also include a Someday List page. My class orders from Scholastic’s Middle School Reading Club and the flyers are a great way for students to build a wish list of books that they are interested in reading.


    Reading Log (At-home): Students will be able to document their at-home reading. This page does require an adult signature to support conversations between parent and child. I use the same log for students to keep track of their in-class and at-home reading.

    Glossary: A list of literary terms that we will be using in class to help build academic language.

    Reading Resources: This is our worksheet/handout section that will include graphic organizers and any tip sheets that I will use to support a strategy taught.


     Pearls of Wisdom — It is the beginning of the school year and it can feel overwhelming. Remember to breathe in and exhale. Remember to take a moment to rejuvenate yourself.

    I know that this will be a work in progress. I am hopeful that this year’s version of the Reader’s Binder will work for my students and me. If not, it’s back to the drawing board!

    What is the format of your reader’s notebook and how does it work for you? Any notebook tips that work? As always, please share!



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Susan Cheyney