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Reader's Notebook: How to Set Up This Powerful Instructional Tool

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

The Reader's Notebook can be the most powerful instructional tool within the classroom.

The Reader's Notebook is the place in which readers can see themselves as readers and watch as they progress and grow.

Within Reading Workshop, we must build a community in which students feel comfortable to talk and work. When we talk, our ideas and interests are discovered. Sometimes interests we didn’t even know we had can begin peeking through to the surface.


Launching reading and writing workshop at the beginning of the year needs to include some time for students to build and discover their reading identities and how this will be uncovered in their Reader's Notebook

Discovering and developing your reading identity provides some structure and boundaries within which you can find your interests.

For students to understand how to determine, develop and grow their reading identity, teachers need to share their own. Honesty can win a lot of hearts in the classroom and inspire others to be honest with themselves about their own reading identities.

I started every school year by launching my reading workshop. Part of the launching unit included sharing my reading identity and my Reader's Notebooks. Then students would work to build their own identities and Reader's Notebooks.

When we work towards a goal of sharing our honest selves with each other, we can establish the learning community needed to help each other grow towards proficiency.


This reading identity work became the foundation for Reader's Notebooks. It started by building reading identities through a series of activities for students to discover their true reading selves.

These activities started on the first day of school! Then, continued through the first week as we discovered how the classroom would work and how the tools for Reader's Workshop.

The Reader's Notebook is a place for students to keep track of their reading work.

Teachers can use it to analyze student thinking and establish student goals based on the student’s work.

A Reader’s Notebook needs to be organized and set up for ease of use.

Students will begin to treasure their notebook as it is used within classroom instruction and see how it evolves over the course of the school year based on their reading and their learning.

The Reader's Notebook is an organizational tool and the activities and strategies included in the notebook will add to the value of this instructional tool.


Providing several different sections within the notebook will organize the work that will be added. (If you are interested in the printables shown for each section, scroll through to the end to see where they can be located)

PERSONALIZE: Students should personalize and make their notebook special. This could be done by covering the notebook with special paper or even students adding stickers and drawings to the cover. Students should feel like this notebook is theirs and not just another place the teacher assigns work.

THINKING STEMS: Thinking Stems placed inside the front cover provides direct and easy access during minilessons, conferences and when students need a boost while independent reading. The thinking stems are not just added at the beginning of the year and forgotten. These will be referred to throughout the school year.

READING IDENTITY: The Reading Identity section should start on the second page of the notebook. (the front counts as one page and the back as another page)

There should be blank pages left after the beginning of the year work is done so that the reading identity can be revisited and updated several times throughout the year, preferably mid year and end of year.

Check out the gallery below to see what I include in Reader's Notebooks.

You may wish to have students create a Reading Attitudes and Reflection survey to spark thinking before completing the activities above to include in the notebook. The students will have a 'rough draft' and the teacher will have a summary of what each student included in their notebooks.

PERSONAL BOOKSHELF: The Personal Bookshelf is the place in the notebook where students keep track of the reading they do throughout the school year. There should be about 5-10 pages for students to keep track of their reading. You will have to decide how students will track their reading: reading list, reading log, visual bookshelf, etc.

READING GOALS: The Reading Goals section will be the place for students to track and document their own progress in reading as well as reflect on their work at several times throughout the school year. You will want to have a few pages saved for student goal writing and reflection.

READING RESPONSE: The Reading Response section is a place where students will complete work from the minilessons and independent work. This section will grow and evolve throughout the school year based on the minilessons conducted throughout the year. You may wish for students to include post it note thinking or think sheets. You may wish to have students glue or tape in mini versions of the anchor charts. This section is totally up to you and your teaching style.

READER'S NOTEBOOK RUBRIC: The Reader's Notebook is an instructional tool and students need to know what is expected of them during Reader's Workshop and Independent Reading. A Reader's Notebook Rubric is a way to let students know the expectations and know they are held accountable for their work. This could be placed inside the back cover of the notebook.


The Reader's Notebook can be the most powerful instructional tool within the classroom. The Reader's Notebook is the place in which readers can see themselves as readers and watch as they progress and grow.

When readers begin to see how their reading strategy use is changing they can see the progress they are matter what level they are at!

It's so important to use this tool daily to document reading work and progress, as well as, reflect on progress throughout the school year.

The Reader's Notebook is so much more than a place to complete independent reading activities and tasks. It's an instructional tool that you and the student can use together to see how the reader has changed, developed and progressed throughout the year.

Until next time...

All of the pictures shown above include resources that are found here on Teachers Pay Teachers here...If you are interested in the resources shown above here, you can find these items here.



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