Monday, September 2, 2013

Setting Up Our Reading Notebooks

We've been in school for just a week and a half now, and the class has had an opportunity to become familiar with our classroom library.  Our next step was to set up our Reading Notebooks.  I always use a reading notebook, but this year I am following Donalynn Miller's suggestions in The Book Whisperer.  I like to use composition notebooks instead of spirals, because you don't have the problem with the wire in the spiral notebooks unraveling and getting tangled up.  In the front pages of our notebooks we set up 
  • A tally List for the genres.  Students tally the books they have read as they go, and keep track of the genre requirements.
  • They keep a reading list, and record books they have read, attempted and abandoned.  Each entry includes the title, author, date the book was finished and the students assessment of how difficult the book was to read.
  • A Books-to-read list:  Students plan for future reading.  They record sequels that are yet to be published, recommendations, or books they have previewed and want to read later.

For the genre tally list, I found this one on-line.  I had to reduce it to fit into our notebooks. Each student will be required to read at least forty books during the school year.
Our 40 book requirement will include:
  • 5 - Realistic fiction
  • 2 - Historical Fiction
  • 3 - Mystery
  • 3 - Adventure
  • 1 - Poetry
  • 4 - Books recommended by friends, which could be almost anything
  • 4 - Fantasy and science fiction
  • 1 - Graphic Novel
  • 2 - Biography, autobiography or memoir
  • 5 - Informational
  • 2 - Books by the same author
  • 8 - Chapter books of their own choice
Any book over 350 pages can be counted as two books.

I am allowing them to record the books we read together, so they already have Fourth Grade Rats recorded.  We completed our first read aloud on Thursday.

That is followed by two pages that we will use as we learn about the characteristics of the various reading genres.

I used the reading list and books to read list from the Fountus and Pinnell's, Guiding Readers and Writers, Grades 3 to 6.  Students will use these pages to plan for future reading, and to keep track of books they are interested in reading.  


The rest of the notebook will be used for reading response.  This may be in the form of letters, character sketches, or other tools that I will come up with as we go along.

As suggested in The Book Whisperer, I set up a reading notebook for myself.  Instead of writing reading responses, I will set up a page or pages for each of my students.  Then I will use this space to keep notes from our reading conferences.  If I have space, I think I will write a brief summary of the books I am reading.  That will help me with book discussions.

I have already discovered that having my own reading notebook is a great way to model the tasks I want them to complete.  

I informed the class that I am also setting that goal of reading 40 books for myself.  When the class was doing some silent reading on Thursday, I took some time to choose a book for myself, that I had not read before.  I chose Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.  I didn't realize it before, but one of my advanced readers had also chosen this book.  She was absolutely thrilled when she saw that I was reading it too.  She has checked with me several times since to see how far I am, and to talk about the book.  Experiencing her excitement to connect about a book, was eye opening, and showed me just how beneficial this is going to be for my students.

One of my goals this year is to be open to trying and reading new books myself and in genres I don't usually read.  I've taught fourth grade for fifteen years, and I have lots of favorite books that I enjoy sharing with the class, but I realized that I've been a little stuck, and haven't ventured into some of the newer books.  I'm going to make more of an effort to read books the kids are reading.  It will also enables me to discuss the books with them.

I noticed that one of my struggling readers had checked out Bunnicula to read.  Bunnicula is one of my favorite books, so I decided to use that as our next read aloud.  She was excited that we were going to all read a book that she had selected.  

I am finding myself taking more time to notice the books my students are reading and to engage them in conversation about their books and interests.  I showed them some of the non-fiction books I am reading on subjects I am interested in; knitting, gardening, canning, and Argentina (because my son is going to school there).  Then I asked them to make lists of the non-fiction topics they would be interested in reading about.  I used Tagxedo to make a word cloud of those topics, and I took the list to our school library, where I checked out 23 books on as many topics as I could find.  In this way I can supplement the non-fiction section of my classroom library.

I feel like I am doing a much better job sharing my enthusiasm for reading.  Already the class is doing well at choosing books to read during those transitional times in the classroom.  I already do Daily 5.  I think it's going to be much easier to get that going now that we already have such a great start with our independent reading.  


  1. This is really helpful and shows your passion! Love the Taxedo! Have been trying to get my students to read more books - almost afraid to put a number on it - but I think I want to try this year. Will let you know how it goes.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. I was a little hesitant to set a number for the books too, so I was asking some other teachers on #4thchat what they had done with their 4th graders. Donalynn Miller responded, and said I should set the number at 40. Therefore, I decided I better set the number at 40. When the author of the book talks to me, I listen.