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How to Use Student Notebooks for Ongoing Informal Assessment

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

✅ A good notebook has a distinct function!

✅ A good notebook evolves over time!

✅ A good notebook documents YOU…the good and the bad!

Notebooks—no matter their function—document our lives. Sometimes we have to piece together our lives through several notebooks. Or is that just me?

Notebooks are functional!

  • Personal notebooks can be used for documenting day to day chaos or scrapbooking or journaling. It’s great to flip back through and see just where you were and notice all that you have accomplished.

  • Work notebooks keep the work chaos in one place to stay organized and accessible at a moment’s notice. Work notebooks keep your business on track.

  • Random Scribble notebooks are a great place to keep the rambling thoughts and To Do lists at bay. It’s great to have a place to write down the random thoughts we all have at any given point in the day.

All of this notebook talks brings us to this…

The Value of Student Notebooks

Young students need notebooks to serve particular functions.

Every young student should be taught how to keep an agenda/calendar—digital or written. However, I think there is power and value in keeping a WRITTEN agenda to keep up with daily life, tasks and deadlines.

Students should learn to keep a notebook for their subject area studies. Being organized is the key to success in whatever you are doing. Not to mention, it’s keeps all the learning in one place.

Each notebook should be created with the intent to show the student’s personality. As the year progresses, the notebooks will illustrate the students’ personalities, but evolve to show their learning identity within each subject area.

Each notebook should be intentionally labeled and tabbed into sections. When students add entries to a notebook, there is a clearly defined place to make the entry. When revisiting a notebook, your learners will have quick access to what is needed based on the intentionally labeled sections.

Notebooks hold the talking points and evidence needed for students to participate in conversations about their learning.

Personalized notebooks illustrate and document a student’s learning and academic growth throughout a grading period, semester and school year.

Notebooks evolve over time and become unique to the student’s personality and learning growth.

BONUS: Well organized student notebooks can reduce the clutter of a classroom.

Notebooks As An Informal Assessment Tool

Notebooks provide a tool for quick informal assessment. At the end of a lesson, students could be asked to...

  • complete a response to an open-ended prompt or question based on their learning

  • open their notebooks to the day's work to spotlight their day's work for quick evaluation

  • open notebooks to a place that best demonstrates their understanding of a particular skill, strategy or concept along with a short post it note reflection attached

I've got stacks of open notebooks, now what?

Your students have opened their notebooks to the requested work or open ended response or reflection.

They've stacked these notebooks for you.

The day ends and there you sit staring at the stack of notebooks.

Now what?

You have a few options...

  1. Assess it like an exit ticket and divide notebooks into 3 groups: understand the skill/concept, making progress on the skill/concept, does not understand the skill/concept. Use these groups to determine if the lesson needs to be retaught, a small group needs to be gathered or individual conferences need to take place. (gain access to the exit ticket cheat sheet at the bottom of this article)

  2. Use a rubric for short jots or longer written responses

  3. Or, simply leave a little constructive feedback for students to build their future work on such as, "nice inference about the main character, but please consider adding text evidence to support your thinking".

Student notebooks are a functional and valuable part of the classroom because they are an evolving snapshot of your students' work and progress.

Until next time...

Grab this handy little tool to pack into your instructional toolkit. Download it here...


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