Apr 24, 2013

ELA Notebooking Updated :)

Do you use notebooking in your classroom?  I recently had a fellow ELA teacher mention to me that she struggles with helping her kids keep their notebooks organized.  If you structure your curriculum into project based learning units, problem based learning units, or any type of units,  staying organized is obviously a big deal.  The first year I implemented project based learning, I struggled with this myself.  As with anything in the classroom, you have to find a system that works best for you and your teaching style.  
I have found a system that seems to work very well for us.  At the beginning of a unit, I post an organizer that allows my students to set up their notebooks for the entire unit on day 1.  Not only does this keep us organized, it gives the kids a type of syllabus so they know what to expect in the coming weeks.  It also gives me an opportunity to explain how I plan to address our essential questions, and to get their "wheels spinning" on the topics we will be covering.  They seem to take ownership of the activities when they have goals    to accomplish, and they know that everything, absolutely everything they do will be put into their notebook, assessed, and kept for at least the remainder of the year.   

We start our notebook set-up by gluing in our unit newsletter as the cover page for the unit.  We
always glue it on the left side of the page like the cover of a book.  We tab the top so it is easy to find as a reference.  I list the topic(s) of study, the project(s) we are working toward, tests, important information, essential questions, etc.  and they get their parents to sign it so they are aware of our unit and can talk about the topics at home.    

Immediately following the newsletter, my students glue in any rubrics that will be used for their projects, and basically the meat of what we will be focusing on in our small group meetings (see post here if you are interested) for the entire unit.  If there are articles, handouts, etc. the students go ahead and glue those in on the appropriate pages based on the headings listed on set-up organizer.

Following the “meat” of the unit, we set up for all our work stations that we will be visiting over the course of several weeks.  I try to group them by topic within the set-up, such as word work, nonfiction stations, etc. but sometimes learning opportunities crop up so we fill those in as they come up on pages available at the end of the unit.    

I teach 5 units before Christmas and 5 units after.  We start new notebooks after Christmas break.  By the end of the year, each student has 2 notebooks filled with everything, I mean everything they have done in fifth grade during our literacy workshops.  If necessary, they can easily find their notes, handouts, rough drafts, word lists, articles we've read, research, etc. for reference to use with any type of assignment that may come up in later grades or simply for bragging rights.  :)  Do they keep them?  I don’t know…but I would sure like to think so!

Do you use notebooking in your classroom?  Do you have any tips or suggestions that might help me or another reader during our workshops?  I am always open for learning something new and would love for you to share your ideas with us in the comments.  I would also love for you to connect with me using any of the links on the right so that we can keep in touch.  Thanks for stopping by!

****Updating to lead you to some fabulous posts about INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS! Hop over and check them out 4mulaFun!
Also, I need a bit of a favor...I will continue to use interactive literacy notebooks next year but will be completely integrating our Social Curriculum into my informational text instruction. I need a lot of books to make this work the way I have planned.  If you have been reading my tweets and posts over the past week, you are all too aware that I am begging for suggestions.  ;)

Here's what I need:  My time frame is 1865 to present, which is designated by my South Carolina fifth grade SS standards.  I have set myself up for 8 units of study, with civil rights weaved throughout.  Suggestions?  Tips? Ideas? I need a book list!
1. Reconstruction
2. Westward Expansion
3. Immigration and Industrialization
4. Becoming a World Power
5. The Great Depression
6. World War II
7. The Cold War
8. Globalization
So, let me hear it!  This is your chance to tell me what to buy or beg for!  Please make suggestions of all types of texts that I could use with these units.  Please comment with a title and which unit it best belongs and I will add them to my list!


  1. WOW! What a great post! I have been using notebooks for math and social studies for a few years now and I love them. I will begin using literacy ones next year. I love the way you have set up your books and the organization that it provides to the students. I pinned this so that I am able to find this post this summer when I begin organizing for the upcoming year. Thank you!!
    Foreman Teaches

  2. Brandee thanks for stopping by my blog! I am your newest follower!! I haven't used notebooks in my classroom---but a great friend of mine (Shari from http://keepingitfreshin6thgrade.blogspot.com/) does. She would love this post....I will have to share it with her!

    Mind Sparks

  3. Your notebook sounds awesome. I teach only math, but I am going to share your ideas with our English department.

    Hodges Herald

  4. Love Interactive Notebooks,but am such a novice. Any suggestions of good books to read or websites to help me?

  5. What about Bud not Buddy? The Watson's go to Birmingham. A good one might be Search for the Shadowman (not really period set, however, it's about a kid doing research and his family comes from that time)

  6. I love the way you set up your notebooks! The tabs are genius!


  7. Ok, I am VERY interested in how you came up with your genre units, projects, newsletters, etc, etc, etc..... Y'all must have several 5th grade teachers that collaborate and help??? I would love to be able to do this but of course we are a small school, have the basal reader that I am trying to get away from so everything is going to be BRAND NEW this year! Ahhhhh!!! :)


  8. Hi,

    I previously taught US History 1865-present and Language Arts in 6th grade in VA. This past year I taught only LA, but I still read several novels to tie into the history curriculum. It just made sense to do it that way. Great minds think alike! We read Nightjohn; Bread and Roses, Too; Bud, Not Buddy; Out of the Dust; Number the Stars; The Boy in the Striped Pajamas; Watsons Go To Birmingham, and there are several more that I am considering this year - thinking of doing lit circles and giving kids a choice of novel for each time period. Maybe add in Devil's Arithmetic and Yellow Star to the WWII books and have a group of kids read each one. Am I making sense??! Hope this helps!


  9. Hi!

    -Dear America Series: I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl
    -Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco

    Westward Expansion:
    -Dear American Series: The Transcontinental Railroad: Diary of Libby West
    -Coolies, by Yin
    -Pioneer Girl by Andrea Warren

    Industrial Revolution and Immigration:
    -Rifka by Karen Hesse
    -The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco
    -Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco

    World Power/WWI:
    -Christmas in the Trenches by John Mc Cutcheon

    Great Depression:
    -Dear America series: Christmas After All: the Diary of Minnie Swift by Kathryn Lasky
    -Uncle Jed's Barber Shop: by Margaree King

    -Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
    -Behind the Bedroom Wall by Laura E. Williams
    -Daniel's Story by Carol Matas
    -Foster's War by Caroline Reeder
    -Lube: the Angel of Bergen-Belsen by Michelle R. McCann
    -Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
    -The Yellow Star: The Lengend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy
    -Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot by Margot Theis Raven

    Cold War:
    -Lost in the War by by Nancy Antle
    -The Wall by Eve Bunting

    Civil Rights:
    -The Gold Cadillac by Mildred D. Taylor
    -Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey
    -Henry Aaron's Dream by Matt Tavares

    21st Century:
    -Moonshot the Flights of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca

    The Sweetest Thing
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  10. Thank you for your notebooking suggestions! I always like to hear what works best for everyone! I teach 4th grade in SC!!!



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