Organize Writing with a Writer's Notebook | This Reading Mama on The Notebooking Fairy

This post is by my blogging buddy Becky Spence. See her bio below and be sure to subscribe to her blog, This Reading Mama. She has fantastic teaching ideas!

Writing is one of my favorite subjects to teach. While I sometimes use writing prompts and occasionally use copywork, my all-time favorite way to teach writing is as a craft.

Writing as a craft is taught by modeling the tools and strategies that proficient writers use through read alouds and explicit, simple lessons. After the young writer interacts with the lesson, he is then set free to explore his own writing through the process of brainstorming, writing a rough draft, revising, editing, and publishing his work. (You can read more about the teaching of writing as a craft here.)

Using a Writer’s Notebook to Teach Writing

I simply adore everything about teaching writing as a craft except that it can feel totally out of control and messy at times. The reason it feels messy is that writing as a craft gives the control over to the young writer. He picks his own topic, words, and message, while the teacher simply facilitates his craft.

Keeping a Writer’s Notebook for my son has really helped alleviate some of the mess and kept things organized for him and for me. My son’s Writer’s Notebook is an organized three-ring binder that contains aids, graphic organizers, and writing tools to help him in his process of writing. His Writer’s Notebook started as a spiral bound notebook. But this year (2nd grade), he moved to a 3-ring binder. I really like the binder notebook better because it has pocket space for loose papers and I can use those handy plastic sleeve protectors to slide pages in for re-use.

The four sections inside a writer's notebook

Organizing a Writer’s Notebook

My son’s Writer’s Notebook is divided into four sections:

  1. Graphic Organizers– Here is where I keep the graphic organizers he uses to brainstorm or format his writing. For example, I have the fairy tales graphic organizer and the monthly writing prompts I created. I keep a little bit of blank notebook paper in this section just in case he’d rather jot down a list instead of using a pre-made graphic organizer to brainstorm his ideas.
  2. Rough Drafts– The next section is for his rough drafts. In this section, I keep plenty of notebook paper. When he drafts, I usually leave the room and just let him write. I want him to get his ideas down without criticism or judgment. I am, however, very particular that he writes on every other line when he drafts. This helps in the revising and editing process which comes next.
  3. Revising and Editing– In his section, I have several tools, like his WOW! Words vocabulary list and All that Jazz adjective organizer. These tools help him as we revise his writing together. After revisions have been done, I ask him to begin the editing process himself by going over the CUPS editing checklist which is also kept in this section.I have found that when he has to do the first run-through of editing, he takes a little more pride in his spelling, capitalization, and punctuation in his rough drafts. After he has edited, I go behind him and edit a little more. Sometimes I use his writing mistakes as ideas for teaching lessons at a later time. Sometimes I don’t. It all depends on whether or not I feel he is developmentally ready for it.
  4. Extra Helps– My last section is a kind of hodgepodge of extra helps for him. For example, to help with spelling, he has a quick reference sheet of the most common single syllable vowel patterns he has studied. I also keep his file folder of studied sight words there.

We keep his Writer’s Notebook in a predictable place, along with other notebooks in our schoolroom. When it is writing time, he knows exactly where to find it. Many days, I start writing time with a simple lesson where I model a strategy or read aloud to him. On other days, he just pulls it out and picks up where he left off the day before in his writing, revising, or editing.

But no matter how writing looks from day-to-day (or year-to-year), one of the beauties of a Writer’s Notebook is its flexibility. I can remove or add papers as I see fit. I can even change the topics in each the sections to meet our needs. Your child’s Writer’s Notebook may look very different from my son’s, but one thing remains- they are a very effective way of organizing and meeting the needs of your young writer as you teach into his writing.

More Writing Resources:

beckyspenceBecky Spence is a homeschooling mama to four little blessings who keep her on her feet {and knees}. She is passionate about teaching, specifically literacy. She is the author of This Reading Mama, where she shares reading and writing activities as well as free literacy curricula and printables. You can connect with her on , Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.


what you need for homeschool notebooking

As parents, we try to teach our kids the difference between needs and wants. Even we homeschool moms have to distinguish between the two or we will end up either overbuying or feeling that our homeschool is lacking. Just because something is convenient or cool doesn’t mean it is a necessity.

What You Need for Notebooking

One of the major advantages of notebooking is that the supply list is short. You won’t have to buy a thing because you certainly already have exactly what you need to use this learning method.

Here is what you need.

  1. notebook paper
  2. a pen or pencil
  3. notebooks

Simple, isn’t it? Notebooking requires the basic school supplies that any household would have on hand. With just paper, pencil, and a binder, your children can get the maximum benefit from notebooking. If that is all you have, feel reassured that it is enough.

More Things that the Creative Notebooker will Need

If your children are creative and artistic, they may need supplies beyond pen and paper but still well within the range of normal school supplies or a basic craft cabinet. Creative children feel stifled without additional tools for expression, so for them these items qualify as a need.

  • glue
  • paper brads
  • scissors
  • stickers
  • stencils
  • double-sided tape
  • markers and colored pencils
  • colored cardstock

If you have a creative child, you already have these things on hand, and the point is simply to make these things available for notebooking.

What You Might Want for Notebooking

Beyond the basic needs, there are a few tools that make notebooking considerably easier and create a polished finished product. If you plan on using notebooking long-term, I suggest investing in these three inexpensive items.

  1. page protectors
  2. a three-hole punch
  3. hole reinforcers

And if you want to get very fancy, you might consider a binding machine to create your own notebooks. I had one for a while, and we used it only a couple of times. We really prefer three-ring binders to comb bound notebooks. So don’t feel that you need a binding machine for notebooking. You don’t. All you need is paper and pencil.

For more must have lists, see the link-up with iHomeschool Network.



River Notebooking Pages

by Jimmie Lanley

Here are some printable pages for your geography notebook. These river notebooking pages will work for any river in the world. There is room to list the continent, countries the river touches, cities along the river, where it begins, what body of water it empties into, and its length. A section for a map can hold a pasted on map or a hand-drawn one. There are four pages in this set with the final page mostly blank for a child’s own thoughts or ideas.

River Notebooking Page

 The format helps children organize their research on a particular river in an orderly manner. The notebooking page can be an end to itself, or you can let it be a base for a short writing assignment.

Click the images to download your free printable  river notebooking pages.

And get more geography themed notebooking pages here.

River Notebooking Pages


Is Notebooking Useless Busywork or Real Learning?

June 6, 2013

I am generally surprised when I see critics of notebooking. It is such an open-ended method of learning that I can’t imagine why someone would dislike it. It works for all ages, all subjects, and even for reluctant writers. One criticism I see is that notebooking is busywork. Notebooking can be busywork. I will admit […]

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Storing and Keeping Notebooks

May 8, 2013

A reader asked these questions about storing notebooks. 1. Do you keep your daughter’s notebook from previous years, and if so, how do you decide when to discard them? 2. Where do you store all of your notebooks? I already do some notebooking with my children, and I’m a big fan of the old three […]

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Notebooking Spotlight: Judy

April 3, 2013

(photo credit by Tilemahos_E) In the Notebooking Spotlight, we feature homeschool moms who use notebooking with their children. Today we have Judy Hoch in the spotlight. Judy blogs at Contented at Home. Follow her on Twitter @judyhoch. Judy, when did you start notebooking? We got our first taste of notebooking about two years ago when Kaylee and […]

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Scrapbook Inspired Notebooking Pages {Reader Submission}

April 1, 2013

Follow my blog with Bloglovin The free printable notebooking pages in this post were created by a reader, Sunshine Connor. She is a homeschool mom, but she doesn’t blog. She kindly sent these pages to me to share with all of my readers. She says these are her first foray into creating pages, but they […]

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Q & A: How Should I Plan a Notebook?

January 17, 2013

Q: How should I plan a notebook? A: Maybe not at all. I don’t know that you need to plan a notebook. I don’t have this kind of thinking when organizing our homeschool. I don’t have a mental image of what the completed notebook will look like a the end of the year. I just […]

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Notebooking Spotlight: Corrie and Notebooking for Kindergarten

December 27, 2012

(photo credit by Tilemahos_E) In the Notebooking Spotlight, we feature homeschool moms who use notebooking with their children. Today we have Corrie in the spotlight. I really like the idea of using a notebook, but for Kindergarten I couldn’t think of how to use it. After much thought, I decided to use our Kindergarten notebook as a […]

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Notebooking Spotlight: Claire’s Presentation Pages

December 18, 2012

(photo credit by Tilemahos_E) In the Notebooking Spotlight, we feature homeschool moms who use notebooking with their children. Today we have Claire in the spotlight. Claire homeschools her five children using a self written history curriculum as the basis for the majority of their schooling. She blogs about their homeschooling adventures at Angelicscalliwags. I created a notebooking page based […]

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