Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: A Look at my Students' Writing Notebook

A Look at my Students' Writing Notebook

Check out these tips and ideas for putting together student writing notebooks and keeping them organized.

I am often asked about the notebook that my students used for writing workshop. After all, having the right materials helps our students to be organized and more successful. 

So here is a look at my notebook and answers to the questions that I am asked most often...

Type of Notebook

I tried everything: spiral notebooks, binders, folders and composition books! They all have their positives and their negatives. Always use what works best for YOU!

I personally like the composition books the best. They are more durable than folders and spiral notebooks, but they are cheaper and take up less space than binders. 

The first time that I used composition books, it was a bit of a mess. Students had multiple stories written right after one another and no room for revisions. After that year, I decided to add dividers to the notebooks to fix that issue.

Dividers & Cover

I don't think it really matters what type of paper you print the cover on. I typically have students use glue sticks to adhere the cover to their notebook. If you feel your students might need it, you could attach the cover with some rubber cement. 

The dividers are included in all of my writing units. I print them on cardstock so that they are more durable. On one of the first days of a writing unit (it's written into my unit lesson plans), students cut out the dividers, put them in their notebooks and color them. They love personalizing their notebooks! It gets them excited for our new unit.


I often gets asked how many pages I put in each section. I don't count! We glue the resource divider on the first page. We estimate about 1/3 of the way into the notebook and add the masterpiece divider. Then we estimate about 2/3 of the notebook and put the last divider. It's not perfect, but it works!

How many notebooks?

I personally love to have a new notebook for each quarter. We did a different writing genre unit each quarter and new notebooks kept students organized. It also helped students to differentiate between the different types of writing that we covered. Therefore, I loved to have a total of four composition notebooks for each student.

When we completed a unit, I would store the notebooks in book boxes on a shelf. Students were able to access these and write more stories as a fast finisher activity the rest of the year. Great review!

This is not always possible! If you only have one notebook for each student, go with it! 

Making Room for Revisions


If you have watched my writing videos or used my writing units, you know that students will be writing a masterpiece and then spending a lot of time revising that story as you teach different strategies. There are a few things that I do to help ensure my students have space for these revisions:
  • Write on just one side of the paper. If students have a large addition to make to their masterpiece story during revisions, they will be able to use the backside of the paper.
  • Skip lines. This is so helpful! It makes it easy to make a carrot symbol and add in a better word or even an extra sentence during revisions.
  • Draw a vertical line down the paper about 2/3 of the way across. Don't write in that last third of the paper during drafting. Now students can easily use that column for adding extra details when they revise.

Don't forget that revising and editing are going to be a bit messy no matter what. If you were to look at the manuscript from a professional author, you would see markings all over the paper. As long as students know what their markings mean, it's ok! 

I hope that this gives you a better idea of how I used the notebook during writing workshop!

Check out these tips and ideas for putting together student writing notebooks and keeping them organized.


Writing Resources & Freebies


Do you want to know more about how I taught writing? I made a series of free videos that include tips for mini lessons, independent writing, conferences, grading and so much more. Click HERE to check out the videos.

Would you like some free lesson plans and anchor charts for the first week of writing workshop? How about lots of tips for improving your writing instructions? Click HERE to read more about my free email course and get yourself signed up.

Would you like daily lesson plans, ready to use anchor charts, mentor texts and everything else you need to teach writing this year? Click HERE to check out my writing units.

Writing workshop curriculum with lesson plans, anchor charts, mentor text and more!


Have a Not So Wimpy day,