Because our school’s literacy program is tightly tied to Fountas and Pinnell (and whose isn’t?), my students have actively used Readers’ Notebooks for quite a number of years. The conveniently packaged sets from Heineman are sold in 5 packs for $28 (web price, regular price $40!). Multiply that $28 by at least 5 for a minimum class size of 25 and add on shipping and nearly half of my classroom supply budget has been expended. The cheapskate in me just couldn’t pay that amount of money for convenience. And so, my eternal hunt for the perfect notebook configuration was born.
Beth Newingham, a third grade teacher from Troy, Michigan and Scholastic contributor and advisor, has shared her organization of Readers’ Notebooks on her school website and on the Scholastic web. For the past 2 years I’ve used flexible 1-inch binders, purchased for about $1 each (on summer sale at Staples). Then I’ve added some of Beth’s forms for tracking reading and responses. The binder system works, but I see 2 problems for me: one is that the students are also required to have a Writers’ Binder – which makes another bulky item to store – and I would like my students to be able to refer to our conferencing goals more formally.
So before this school year ends, I am working on developing a self-assembled Readers’ Notebook which will be bound with GBC bindings (those plastic spiral things) and utilize section dividers made from cardstock. The sections of the notebook under consideration are:
- Reading Log (a new page for each month)
- Mini Lesson Materials (How To References)
- Personal Reading Goals and Progress Record for Student
- Response to Reading (once each week – required)
- Readers’ Notebook Assessment (one for each marking term)
Will this work? From the reading I’ve been doing, I think it will – the big question is will it work for the students?
Our next school year promises to be one where the draconian budget cuts have a profound impact on classroom support. Whatever is put into place needs to be something I can manage without support as it looks like our Title I Reading program is being picked to the bone. Experience tells me the need is to keep it simple; to leave the grand and complicated plans behind. If it can’t be implemented successfully without help, let it go.