Exciting lesson ideas, classroom strategies, book lists, videos, and reproducibles in a daily blog by teachers
























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 (164)

I would love to have access to your mini-lesson handouts.

Thank you so much!


You mention above "through the color codes in our classroom library throughout the school year".

I couldn't find the details about the colour codes in your classroom library. Could you tell me where to find information about those or could you outline what codes you use, many thanks!

Hi Beth. I have been "following" you for years. Thank you for sharing your teaching and making me a better teacher. Just curious, do you combine your reading and writing workshop or are they separate? Also, do you use Calkin's Units of Study? And, do you have a twitter handle? (I can't tell you how many times I've shared your stuff via twitter). Thanks again for all you do!

Thank you for a wonderful resource. I downloaded the handouts and I want to use them as part of a workshop presentation with permission. I intend to use them in my classroom also.

I am struggling to download your resources. Are they still available?

Thank you very much ! Very informative! With your permission, I will apply to my students . Unfortunately, our leadership requires only measure the speed of reading - the number of words per minute , but it does not motivate students to read .

This is truly helpful! I appreciate you sharing your ideas with us!

Great resource. Thank you for sharing! I do feel very strong about the use of picture books with Junior students though. I call them "Short stories with pictures", and explain that even for adults, the short story genre is very important. This text form often packs a huge emotional punch in 30 pages. They often have rich language beyond the ability of primary grades, and concepts that only older students can really fully grasp. For example, "Earth to Audrey" by Susan Hughes, any book by Chris Van Allsburg, books by James Herriot. Even Leo Lionni's fables have morals that are above many young children...often with the theme that you should believe in yourself, dare to be different, rather than preachy morals. This being said, I do have a student this year who is reading Mercer Mayer...which isn't appropriate for his age group. I'm giving him time to get see what he'll do next with some gentle encouragement, but... Anyway, don't mean to complain. You have wonderful ideas. Just don't discount short stories:)

I desperately want to try it! We have a very structured reading program but I am going to try to find a way to sneak some of this in!

This absolutely amazing! Thank you for sharing.

Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks so much!!!!!!!

Beth, my school has been a SFA school and had a very scripted program. For the first time this year all teachers are having to do small groups, etc... we are lost. Even as an experienced teacher, I am feeling very lost.

If you could email me so we could talk more about this new way of thinking in the classroom...I've never had to have work for students to do while I was teaching a small group.

Please, please... advise.

Former SFA teacher

Thank you so much! I just started Reader's Workshop last year, and I just finished reorganizing my leveled reading library this summer. I wished I had a good reading log for inside the Reader's Workshop folders, and was delighted and grateful to find all this excellent material. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you so much for all of the great information. I am looking for something new to do in reading next year and this will certainly help me get started!

This is Awesome! Thank you for sharing!!!


Thank you Beth for sharing all of your effort and experience in such a concise and well designed format. Thank you Scholastic for hosting this information.

Absolutely love this!!!!!

Thank you - I've been aware that my kids are reading well but not thinking about it. This is just what I was looking for. Amazing!

Thanks so much for your great organizational skills. I will somehow find a way to use your ideas in my middle school reading program.

Hi Beth,
Thank you so much for sharing these amazing and positive ideas. I am a primary teacher . I like your Binder idea's, not only can you apply it at school, you can do this at home as well. Most of the time children like to read on their own(as they get older) and most often they don't discuss what they are reading with their parents unless you ask them. The binder can help me to glance their genre of reading and their personal reflection of the book. This way I will be more aware of their selection and style of reading and how their writing skills progress and develop every year!.

I am done 2 book in 36 minutes, each book is 189 pages long.

You have no idea how helpful this was! Thank you! I wish I could hug you!

I have a similar Reading Binder, but you had some really great ideas to add to it. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

Thank you for creating such an organized readers notebook. It is so thoughtful, and it was wonderful for you to share!

This is my first year teaching as a Teach for America teacher. I have a self contained SPED class and am bound and determined to give my kids the support they need. The structure these provide balances out the rigor of information that is being tracked. This binder hits on so many things! Organization, self tracking,...all of it! I"m in LOVE. I have to thank you because this is the first thing I've put together that makes me feel I can approach my students with confidence that I really know what I'm doing! Thank YOU!!!!

Beth, My district has begun implementing balanced literacy and the reader's and writer's workshop. I would like to set up reading notebooks with my first graders this September. I love your ideas but I'm wondering if I should modify it for my young students since some it seems more for older students. What do you suggest? Thank you for everything you are doing!

I absolutely LOVE this idea and decided last year that I wanted to try a REader's Notebook in my classroom this year. I would really like to use the templates that you have offered, but when I try to, it takes me to the home page for Scholastic. Am I doing something wrong?

This was a wonderful resource. Thank you for your hard work. I plan on using your binder ideas and templates and incorperating the common core standards into the mini lesson section.

Awesome!! Thanks for sharing your great ideas and for making your templates available for other to use!

I LOVE these ideas! I cannot wait to implement them with my fifth graders. I firmly believe that a love of reading can be contagious and I seek to communicate that passion to my students daily. Looking forward to setting up this organized system to keep my students organized and accountable.

thank you thank you thank you

Another comment from NZ, fantastic idea and I have printed all the resources off ready to start the year in 2013! Thankyou very much for sharing!

I am new to third grade and I love your ideas. Some of them I have used in 4th and 5th grade as well. It's nice to see these things can work in third grade as well. I am looking for your Reader's Toolkit packet. I can't seem to find that on your website. Thanks for such wonderful ideas.

Hi - I'm having trouble also - downloading the "My Reading Goals form" - there is no download I can see. Please
help this looks like an amazing Journal I'd like to use in my 6th grade classroom this fall! Thanks!

Also, what about books containing Angels, Fantasy?

I was looking at your genre chart and I was wondering under which category you would place novels that are typically considered "horror" novels such as those by R.L. Stine. Would you consider them to be mystery novels or would they be fantasy or science fiction?

You speak of horror stories to ''feed' to your students' minds. As teachers, let's offer them uplifting literature that inspires and encourages them to be better think better and
Live better. Hence be part of the solution to improve our current culture. I know students will chose some of those, but on my shelves I offer quality literature and recommend it with interest and enthusiasm and they find they love it.

I first discovered your site several years ago while I was teaching 1st. I was looping with those children and wanted something to boost them so started my own variation of Workshop. Wow! Thank you so much for being generous with all of your materials. It allowed me to get started right away. The kiddos took right to it and loved it. This year I implemented the procedures of the Daily 5 with it and my reading scores soared by the end of the year. The kiddos never groaned when Workshop started and you could here a pin drop during that time in my room. I've had to change a few things because most only read for 30 minutes. Any ideas for second grade teachers who are using this? Trying to get my grade level on board but.....

Beth - what do your students bring to the rug during your mini- lessons? Do you have any issues with them shuffling through their materials during the lesson rather than listening?
Also, do you know of a good place to purchase the tab dividers in bulk for a reasonable price?
Do you do a similar notebook for writing workshop/ journal?


I have to thank you. This is my third year teaching Elementary, I was teaching middle before and I have found much of the reader's workshop to be a challenge! Your ideas and notebook setup is such a help in clarifying how to organize the whole thing. I am really excited to implement this next year.

Thanks again,

Thank you so much for all of your wonderful ideas and for sharing your materials! I am so excited to use your ideas with my second grade class. I am looping with them this year, and I know that these awesome readers will dive right into their Reader's Notebooks! Thank you again for your generosity!!!

I'm moving from K to 3rd grade next year and your blog has been so helpful. I've taught K-2nd, but this will be my first year in 3rd. I actually came across your blog while teaching K this year. I used a form of reader's workshop with my Kinders, but of course it will be a little different for 3rd graders. Your blog has been a huge resource for me. I'm getting so many wonderful ideas and I'm super excited to teach 3rd grade next year. You are obviously a great teacher, and you inspire others to be great. Thank you for sharing your expertise and ideas.

I am moving from 2nd to 3rda next year to teach Reading. I am so excited now that I have seen this notebook. Everything I was looking for is here! Marvelous! An answer to a prayer.

Wonderful resource.. thank you!

Wow! I love these ideas. I teach high school Spanish and have always struggled with (1) encouraging outside reading in the target language and (2) tracking and grading reading (aside from reading comprehension quizzes). If you have any ideas for modifying your notebook for a high school language class, I welcome them! I already know that I would want to include options for current events and periodicals.


Beth, first of all, thank you for all that you have shared! You have already put into place many things on my "Hope to Do" list and I find it wonderful to see some ideas in action, and further developed by your experience.

I'd like to ask about your mini-lessons. I read that your district creates the lessons together and I'd love to see some of the things you have created for those. I am struggling with compiling a list of mini-lessons and I have not been as blessed with a team to plan ideas and lessons with.

I'd love to hear from you, thanks!

Hi Beth,

Thank you for sharing your great ideas. I have implemented several of them this year.

I would like to ask you abut the reading notebooks. How do you keep the paper from tearing and falling out. I always have this problem when using a 3 ring binder. The paper especially tears at the holes and becomes a big mess in the notebook,and classroom.

I'm having trouble locating the Reading Partner Planning Sheet document to print. I could access it a few weeks ago, and now it won't highlight for printing.

Thank you VERY much. This is EXACTLY what I've been looking for! I have had many ideas running around in my head since I decided to voluntarily change grade levels from 4th grade (18 years) to 2nd grade this year. I knew I wanted to have something reliable, but yet, not too combersome for either myself or my students. I may not be able to implement it this year, but will definately will put the 1-inch binder on the student supply list for next. Thanks again!

Post a Comment
(Please sign in to leave a comment. Privacy Policy)
Back to Top