Notebooking With Little Kids

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When I shared a guest post over at Mary’s blog about Getting Started with Notebooking, Corrie asked a great question:

Could you go into more detail about notebooking with little kids?

Sure! Let’s talk about notebooking for the elementary age.

In the photo above, Emma was 6 years old and in 2nd grade. Taking notes at the panda reserve was her own idea. You can see she has drawn the animals and written a single word label “panda.”

My Philosophy

First of all, I am not a proponent of formal school for preschool or even kindergarten. I think those years should be filled with trips to the zoo, backyard exploration, crafts, and lots of reading outloud (to them, of course).

I also find that lapbooking is a good fit for concrete learners for ages 5-9. The physical construction of the books help children understand how to divide and organize information into logical chunks. This simple skill is an important foundation of expository writing that will come in middle school and high school.

So although you can use notebooking with non-readers and non-writers, I want to be clear that I do not encourage it at the expense of other more concrete and hands-on techniques.

Notebooking for Pre-Readers and Pre-Writers

If you occasionally want to incorporate notebooking with a child who does not yet read or write independently, there are several modifications you can make.

Serve as scribe

You can write what your child says. This is not cheating. Composing is a mental process and should never be confused with handwriting which is a physical one.

Rely on images

Your child can express himself through images. He can draw them or can cut and order images that you provide.

Notebooking for Early Readers and Writers

Once children begin to read and write, you can help them  make more traditional notebooking pages. This would begin as early as 1st grade for some children. But these methods can continue to be used into 4th grade.

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a 2nd grade notebooking page — only 4 sentences.

Serve as scribe — sometimes

Yes, you may want to continue as a scribe for some subjects, especially if the writing load has been heavy for other academic areas.

Allow the child to copy what he dictated

This is the transition step from mom’s serving as scribe to the child writing on his own. Talk over the narration, helping your child to put his ideas into words. Write down what he says, using correct punctuation and spelling.

Then have your child simply copy what he composed with your help. With the composing step out of the way, he can focus on handwriting, capitalization, and punctuation.

For a first grader, a notebooking page may have only one complete sentence and a large image. Gradually increase this length until a child in 4th grade is writing (or copying) an entire paragraph.

My biggest warning here is to not rush the transition. Your children will naturally mature into writing more and more. You do not have to push this process. In fact, pushing is normally counterproductive.

You have many years to reach the final goal of independent notebooking with multiple paragraphs (essays) in high school. Enjoy the fun of cut and paste and stick figure drawings in these early years. They pass quickly.

If you want more about notebooking at different ages, visit Carlie’s blog where I have a guest post about notebooking at all stages.

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Jimmie Quick

Jimmie is now a veteran homeschool mom. Her daughter Emma is a student of the sciences at a large university in Illinois. Her guide to notebooking—Notebooking Success—guides you through notebooking: what it is; how to use it; how it fits a Charlotte Mason, classical, and textbook curriculum; tips for getting the most educational value from it; and much more. It comes bundled with several bonuses, including a small set of generic notebooking pages that can be used with any topic.

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Jennifer Gallegos Reply

Thanks for this article! I have a 4 year old that will be learning right along with her brothers (ages 8 and 9), and I know she won’t want to be left out of the notebooking fun! 🙂

Melissa Reply

Good, informative post, Jimmie. However, I would make two exceptions to what you say:

First of all, I agree that notebooking with non-readers and non-writers should not be done at the expense of other more concrete and hands-on techniques. But, unlike you, I would also say that lapbooking should not be done at the expense of other more concrete and hands-on techniques.

Second, it’s my opinion that notebooking provides just as good of an opportunity to practice division and organization of information (using boxes, etc.) and it is a better option for children who find the physical skills of cutting, folding, and gluing a distraction from learning.

Maybe I just feel this way because I have several children who would rather lose an organ than do any lapbooking. 🙂 Notebooking has worked great for them, even when they were very young.

Corrie Reply

I have finally jumped on the notebook bandwagon. We have a timeline notebook which also contains optional coloring pages and room for other time type pages.

Jasmine Reply

Love this! I think my enthusiasm for homeschooling is way ahead of my daughter’s capabilities. =P So, this encouraged me to SLOW DOWN! =D

Pamela @ RedWhiteandGrew Reply

Excellent post! I agree with you about not sweating pre-K and K. Along those lines, we used the Reggio Emilia to “shape” our homeschool environment during those years. They don’t call it “notebooking,” but the collecting and documenting of progress is central to the approach. My son loves looking back over those books.

Off to share this post with students in my homeschool workshop group. Great job!

Julie Reply

These are great tips, Jimmie. I start using more writing-type notebooking pages in 2nd grade, but not too many. Mainly we draw with a few sentences to tie things together, plus we used a lot of lapbook components on our notebook pages for a 3D and kinesthetic twist. We do narration while I transcribe, and the girls copy that onto their notebook pages.

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