“Free!” It’s amazing how one little four letter word can generate so much excitement in the teaching world! About a month ago I create a post titled Growing Readings with Reader’s Notebooks with a subtitled of FREE Notebooks Included. Well…let’s just say it was one of my most viewed posts to date. In that post I shared my reader’s notebook templates for grades K-2. In response, I had a lot of upper grade teachers (3-5) asking for my templates for intermediate notebooks.
I have always felt that my K-2 notebooks should be a stepping stone to a more traditional regular old spiral or composition book style reader’s notebook. I really feel like in the upper grades the notebooks need to be more flexible as a tool. But…how would I roll out and use a blank notebook in these grades?
A colleague and principal friend of mine, Carly Pumphrey, shared the book, Notebook Connections; Strategies for the Reader’s Notebook by Aimee Buckner, with me just after my first blog post. She said that it was suggested to her by another teacher and she was eager to read it. Well…that’s all I needed. I was on Amazon placing my order before I left the parking lot of her school. Now, mind you, with a copyright of 2009 this is not a new book but after reading the book I found it to still be relevant and helpful.
Before we talk about the “how” of the notebook it is important to keep a few ideas in mind. First, student should have choice as to how they respond to reading. Buckner says, “Sometimes being too open-ended is overwhelming and being too restrictive leads to contrived responses. It’s a delicate balance” (15). I want students to use the reader’s notebook as a tool to capture their thinking and understanding of the text. If we give students a structure and closed prompt every day this is not likely to happen.
Modeling is the second, important idea to think about as a teacher. We, as teachers, will have to model the many different ways that we can respond to what we are reading. If you find that your notebooks are not turning out as you would like or envisioned then think about what you need to model to help improve students responses.
Another key component to the reader’s notebook is the importance of students collaboration and conversation. If you want students to develop their ideas about what they are reading and writing they need to TALK before, during, and after they write! Buckner says, “I’m not asking questions and looking for specific answers. We’re talking about our thinking during our reading of the book. As I teach comprehension strategies and the children become used to thinking while they read and to recognizing that thinking, the conversations initiated and generated by students become easier and more natural” (106). These conversations lead to better written responses. You will notice that every single lesson idea posed in this book has a component where students are TALKING about what they are reading.
So…how do we start with Reader’s Notebooks in the upper grades? First I would suggest that you need to determine your purpose for the notebooks in your classroom. Ask your self these questions (Buckner, 115):
- What reading curriculum objectives/standards am I trying to accomplish using the readers notebook as a tool?
- What writing curriculum objectives/standards will the reader’s notebook support?
- How often will students write in their reader’s notebook?
- What will students be responsible for having their reader’s notebook.
I would suggest writing down your answers to these questions. They will help guide your instruction with the notebook as well as help you reflect and refine your notebooks throughout the year.
Then…where next? The really neat part of this book is that the author poses lesson ideas and then shows you what it looks like and sounds like in action along with sample student responses. Here is the progression of notebooks in the course of a year:
- Getting to know students as readers (Chapter 2)
- From Comprehension Strategies to Notebooks (Chapter 3)
- Reading Like a Writer (Chapter 4)
The book finished up with how to dig deeper and assessment as a tool for teaching.
This book contains many mini-lessons to help roll out the notebook and writing responses as well as strategies to comprehend and go deeper with the texts we are reading. To help you get started I pulled out the first four lessons she writes about using to jump start the year. Most of these lessons can and should be revisited throughout the year as well. I pulled out lesson and then included some of the information from the text that would help you grasp the full concept of the lessons.
Here are those lessons: Reader’s Notebook Lessons from Notebook Connections . If you haven’t not read this book and want to dig deeper (because there is so much more that she says that is fabulous that I couldn’t possibly capture in one blog post) you can find on Amazon for $21. It is a small and fairly short book only 145 pages! Check it out!
Be sure to keep checking in on the link above as I’m going to continue to add more lessons which are modified from the book. If you are a google drive user and you “add the folder to drive” you will automatically have the latest and greatest lessons.
I look forward to continuing the conversation about Reader’s Notebooks throughout the summer and this upcoming school year!