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Reading & Writing Notebooks

My students use their reading and writing notebooks daily during our Daily 5/CAFE block. I made these notebooks for them a few weeks into the school year and am SO happy with them! My students love that they each had a unique binder and a place to store all things reading and writing related!

I knew I wanted to make reading and writing binders for my students, but I didn’t want to have to go out and buy brand new binders. Luckily, in our teacher supply room I found a box of white binders that had just been donated to our school! They were not in the best condition, but I made do with what I had! Hhere is what I started off with:
I got this wonderful pad of animal print paper from Michael’s with my 40% off coupon!
Then I cut the paper so that there was a piece to fit in the front slot of the binder and a small, narrow slip for the side.
Next I got on my computer and typed up the labels for their binders! I used a different font for each student. Most of the fonts I use come from Kevin and Amanda! They are so wonderful to share their fonts for free!

The binders are stored in the shelves on the side of the classroom. My students just grab their binder when they need it and put it back when they are done! This ensures that they will always know where their binder is and that they stay nice and neat.

Inside the binder I put tabs and labeled them for different sections. Beth Newingham was my main inspiration for this part! She is such an amazing teacher and is so kind to share her wonderful resources!
The Reading Record section has their reading log. I modified mine a little using Beth Newingham’s example, which you can get here. At the beginning of the year, I also had students tally the different genres they are reading and graph them using the resources Beth provided. It was a great way for them to see what different genres they were reading and to motivate them to try to read from all of the different genres. 
The Genres section has a couple sheets with information on the different genres. I got these from a wonderful Learning Headquarters inservice that I went to this year. Beth also has a great list of different genres that gives a good description of each one.

The Non-Fiction genre sheet (and a Fiction genre sheet that is not pictured) is available from the Learning Headquarters website. At this time it is only offered as part of a kit and not available separately. I bought the 4th grade Entire Writing Package for the inservice and it is WONDERFUL! I highly recommend it if you are interested in these and it is a fabulous writing program!
For the Goals & Progress section, students keep their own copy of our CAFE menu, where they highlight the goal that they are working on. After they accomplish that goal, then we meet together and pick out a new goal for them.

The Reading Responses section is the part that my students use most frequently. After reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller I was determined to stop using the traditional reading logs that I was accustomed to. Thankfully, Beth Newingham came to my rescue again and I found this list of different suggestions for letters. Now, instead of having my students fill out a reading log every night, they write me a letter once a week about a book they are currently reading. I ask that they write about at least three of the suggested letter topics from this list. The letters can be informal, and I love how they really start to have their own voice. Then I make a point to read and respond to all of their letters. I do not necessarily get to every student’s letters every week, but I will eventually get to them, even if it means that I read and respond to several of their letters at a time. I meet with them for a one-on-one meeting and they sit next to me and read a book while I am reading their letter. That way if I have any questions or if there is any part of the letter I want to have them discuss in more detail they are right there next to me! After reading the letter I write a short response back to them. They are always so excited to sit down with me and have me read their letters!

Here are some examples of the letters they write to me. I love how creative the first one is! The “interactive” history books where you choose your own path are HUGE in my class right now! So my student decided to make her letter to me “interactive” as well! Isn’t that great?! 

The Writing section of the binder contains all of the wonderful writing materials that I received from the Learning Headquarters inservice. I put all of the graphic organizers that we will be using for each writing genre in their binder ahead of time so that after our writing lessons they are ready to go back to their desks and get started right away!

In the back of their binders I have some reference sheets in sheet protectors for my students to use for their writing, like synonyms for commonly used words.
Here is a freebie that I created with synonyms for “said.” You can go to my TPT store to get it!

There are still so many ideas I have for making their reading and writing notebooks even better, but I wanted to share with you my work-in-progress!

Do you use reading and writing notebooks in your class? I highly recommend that you check out Beth Newingham’s Reader’s Notebook site for more inspiration!

  1. KRISTA says:

    Thanks for sharing! These look great!


  2. I love our reading and writing notebooks! Ours are separate though. I've toyed with the idea of using binders and like that pages can be taken in and out or rearranged that way. Do you have trouble with the holes busting out?

    Christi ツ
    Ms. Fultz’s Corner

  3. brit says:

    How do they stay so NEAT?? They look amazing! Mine looked cute for about a week – now they have papers falling out of them, half of the hole punched pages have ripped out, good grief.

  4. Katie Smith says:

    I am in love with your binders! Not only do they look super cute! They are so functional and full of useful information for your students!

    -Ms. Smith

  5. Mrs. Cupcake says:

    These are awesome! Thanks for sharing your ideas! 🙂
    A Cupcake for the Teacher

  6. Your notebooks look beautiful. I used to use notebooks like that but it got out of hand with the ripped holes.

    Lori (luvyorkies@gmail.com)
    Teaching With Love and Laughter

  7. Ginger Snaps says:

    I love these ideas! So making some changes for next year!

  8. Becky says:

    I just love those notebooks- so colorful!!
    Teaching, Learning, & Loving

  9. Love these! Could most def. modify them for my second graders! Thanks!

    The Second Grade Superkids

  10. luckeyfrog says:

    Ooh, I love these! I love The Book Whisperer too, but I love how you've taken all the resources and put them together to make something terrific!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

  11. Lou says:

    I am obsessed with Beth! Love all of her ideas. I think your notebooks are awesome!

  12. Kelly Hall says:

    I love your notebooks and always looking for ways to improve on mine! Thanks!

  13. Abby says:

    Love this! I've been debating on whether or not to keep using binders with my kiddos next year. You've given me some great new ideas! Thanks!

    Abby @ Third Grade Bookworm

  14. Ms. King says:

    I love your reading and writing binders for your kiddos! My firsties would EAT THIS UP! They would especially love the fact that they are all uniquely different. I want to do some binder contained activities with my class next year. Good luck with all your pinterest searching! Happy Spring Break from your newest follower!


  15. A M Smith says:

    Very cute!!!! I LOVE Kevin and Amanda's fonts!!!

    Ann Marie Smith @ Innovative Connections

  16. Amy Rider says:

    LOVE your reading and writing binders!!!

  17. Chelsea says:

    This post could not have come at a better time. In my teacher education classes we talk about the Daily 5 and CAFE all of the time and how important it is that we know how to use this! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the cute reading notebooks that you created for your students! I am bookmarking this post for later use! 🙂


  18. Mrs. Castro says:

    I love your binders! I have some extra scrapbooking paper just lying around and never thought to do this!
    Thanks for sharing,
    Mrs. Castro's Class 2nd Grade…Spanglish Style

  19. Mor Zrihen says:

    Great post!!! The notebooks look great!

    ❤ Mor Zrihen from…
    A Teacher's Treasure
    Teaching Treasures Shop

  20. Lori says:

    Your notebooks are fabulous! I'm inspired!

  21. Monica says:

    I use reading notebooks based on Beth Newingham's model too…but I like the scrapbooking paper idea to further individualize each students binder. I keep a separate writing folder but I'm liking the idea of keeping it in the binder as well. Great post! Thanks for the ideas. 🙂

  22. Traci says:

    Love these! I am a HUGE binder person. I'm inspired to find a way to use this with my firsties!
    Dragonflies in First

  23. Jessica says:

    Wow Molly! These are exactly the ideas I am looking for to change my reading response notebooks…I am pinning this so I can remember that I want to borrow your excellent ideas!!!!

    The Polka-dotted Teacher

  24. Jaime says:

    Thank you so much! Following you back 🙂 The binders are so neat!

  25. Hey Molly!! I am your newest follower 🙂 I absolutely love your post about the notebooks – such great ideas!

  26. Jessica says:

    Love your ideas! I am your newest follower. Come visit me at learnplayandhavefun.blogspot.com


  27. Miss DeCarbo says:

    Those look awesome!

  28. I tried to download the synonym page, which I love…love…love, from tpt, but it said that the file was damaged and wouldn't download….sniff…sniff.


  29. Fun2BinFirst says:

    You've been tagged. Stop by Fun 2B in First and join the game.
    Fun 2B in First

  30. Katie says:

    I love your notebooks! I too have integrated them into my classroom, but we have been using composition notebooks which I love too. I really like the idea of a binder, but it is hard to store 60 of them since I teach 6th grade. The cute covers are something I would do though! I am your newest follower and added your button to my blog too! I cannot wait to hear more about how you use your reading notebooks in class!

    Miss Klohn
    Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher

  31. Casey Turner says:

    I LOVE the binder idea! My students don't use these but I do! I am thinking about fancying up my own binders. Thanks! 🙂

    Second Grade Math Maniac Blog

  32. Thank you so much for the scrapbook paper idea in the binders!! I am definitely doing that next year! Hobby Lobby here I come!
    Thank you for joining my blog!

    I am your new follower!

  33. Mrs. K says:

    What a wonderful post! I am your newest follower!

  34. Becky says:

    I love this idea! I think I will be doing this next year. Thanks for sharing!

    Lesson plans & Lattes

  35. Beck says:

    Hi Molly! I finish my teaching degree this year and I will definitely be using this great idea when I have my own class. Thank so much for sharing!!

  36. Daniela says:

    After seeing what you've done with the binders I'm considering using them rather than what I currently use. Thanks for sharing!

  37. Angela says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I hopped over here after seeing this on Pintrest and now have a ton of ideas for my Lit Class for next year! Thanks so much!

  38. Amanda says:

    I was thinking of switching over to binders next year for reading and writing. I love how you put yours together. I didn't do it this year, because I would have to buy binders for all my kids and it just seemed so expensive at the beginning of the year. I am committing for next year though. Thanks for sharing! I'm your newest follower! ~Amanda @ The Teaching Thief

  39. Nita says:

    For anyone with a Wal-Mart near by, I purchased a class set of Economy brand binders at Wal-mart for .90 cents each last fall. Twenty-five dollars was not too big a hardship considering the benefits. I was not happy with the way I compiled my Writing Binder. I use a composition book as our Reading Journal. I'll see if I can combine both into one. Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  40. Anonymous says:

    How did you get your students to write so much in their letters to you about their reading? Did you set a required amount of writing for each letter? I want to replace my reading logs which I use as homework with this, but I'm concerned how my reluctant readers/writers will react.

  41. Lisa says:

    Do you have a copy of the nonfiction reference page that you have a picture of in this blog? I would love a copy of it. Thanks for sharing!

  42. Anonymous says:

    Is there any way you could attach a link to the non-fiction page with the pictures of different non-fiction texts? The one you have pictured

  43. Yes!! I would live a copy of the non fiction handout as well if you have it

  44. Anonymous says:

    Love this! My at home reading response journal has been the bane of my third graders' existence for the past few years. I have been wanting to change it up. I too use daily 5 so this would fit perfectly. It's the perfect combo of daily 5 and the reading workshop model. Thank you!

  45. Great Idea and so organized! Fellow 4th grade teacher and new blogger. Following!
    Check it out!


  46. Anonymous says:

    Love the idea, but what's the answer to the torn holes and loose papers?

  47. Courtney says:

    Hi Molly!

    I LOVE your binders, they are too adorable..This post is exactly what I needed. I'm planning on moving to daily5 and CAFE this year from a basal. I'm pretty nervous about it since the basal is all i've known/done. I don't like it at all..but am trying to come up with ways to keep the kids accountable for their learning.I love the responses that you have your kids do. Are these responses for their nightly reading homework? Or for the reading they do in class?? Do you have students do any writing about the reading they do daily in class??
    Teaching in Paradise

  48. Joyce says:

    I love this binder idea and can't wait to try it out this next school year. Thanks for sharing!

  49. Kate says:

    These are seriously amazing!!!
    ☼ Kate
    To The Square Inch

  50. SueZ says:

    I love the binder ideas and hope to use them in my coteach class next year! Thank you!

  51. April says:

    Thank you for all the wonderful ideas!

  52. Anonymous says:

    You state that the Non-Fiction genre sheet and a Fiction genre sheet is available from the Learning Headquarters website and it is only offered as part of a kit. Was it in the kit the 4th grade Entire Writing Package that you bought?

  53. Anonymous says:

    I would like more info on the non-fiction page as well. How do I get it? What grade? What package has to be purchased? Thanks in Advance!

  54. TracyS says:

    This a great idea. I am a HS teacher so buying, making and storing 170 binders would be problematic. So many of the elementary reading/writing concepts apply across grade levels, but implementing them in an organized way like this is impossible. #jealous

  55. I am trying to use your downloads but it says the file is damaged… and I can't get them, is it possible you can email me them?

  56. Anonymous says:

    I love you reading and writing binders. I can't wait to use them in my classroom this year.

  57. Thank you for sharing.

    Is there another link to the "Suggestions for Letters"?

  58. I found it by googling "Suggestions for Letters"…a website by Ms. Hillman and another through Schoalstic.

    Thanks again for the great ideas!

  59. Could you please post a picture of the Fiction Genre sheet (like the Non-fiction one you've posted)? I'd like to see what it looks like before I purchase it, and I can't find a picture on the website. Thanks

  60. Unknown says:

    I have tried to link to your Genre poster but is tells me link unfound. Is there another way I can get to it? I would love to add it to my notebooks.


  61. Susan Lopez says:

    I appreciate the link for the genre list.. I have seen it for years and couldn't figure out where it was from. Do you know if it is in the 5th grade kit as well? Was your kit the Common Core one or the ELA one? Erggg decisions, decisions. We have used Writer's Toolboxes for years. We started them when we had Joni Chancer and Gina Zestrow present. Great tools our 4th graders bring with them into 5th where we add to them. Wonderful writing sources! Thanks for your great ideas!!

  62. Jan says:

    HI! LOVE your notebooks!!! How can I get your fiction and nonfiction genre sheet – the link is broken. 🙁

  63. I would love to get some of the items from the links also but they are broken. Could you email them to me at amitisek423@gmail.com.

    Thanks love this!!!

  64. Alicia says:

    Found this online… looks like it has a bunch of printables like shown above. The non fiction and the fiction are listed. Hope this helps and that the link works. :o)


  65. Amber Tebben says:

    I think that these binders look like a great idea! It is a unique way to have the children store their writing notebooks. It also gets them out of their desk and gets rid of the excuse “Well I lost my notebook.” The animal prints you chose are so cute! I think that the children liked having their own print and special binder to store their work in. I like that on the front you even used different fonts for each child. By using the different paper and fonts, children will take less time to find their binder as there is only one of each print and font. It makes the children feel special and that you care even more than you already do about them. I really liked that the insides were so well organized! The tabbed dividers were great touches that will help the children find where to place their items. It will not only be easier for them to find but you to find their work as well. Adding a reading log to this binder will help them remember what books they have read. You can also make sure they are actually reading the books they say they are. Overall, I think this is a great organizational tool for you as a teacher and it also makes the children feel special!

  66. Mony Hussein says:

    thanks for your ideas

  67. Doreen Orr says:

    Thank you for your post about interactive notebooks. I have to tell you I have never really considered using binders for my notebooks. I am a compostion book girl. However, yours are so well organized, I may consider them for this year. I did learn one thing this year, and that is to collect the notebooks and not have them stored in their desks. I used spiral notebooks and there wasn't much left of them by the end of the year. Doreen at http://www.doreensrockin3rdgrade.com

  68. It appears that the link to Beth Newingham's Suggested letter topics is no longer available. Does anyone know where else I can access a copy of this?

  69. These are great! I am excited about integrating them into our homeschool. Thanks for sharing.

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