Teacher Notebooks


For most of us, the school year has ended, and we are looking forward to enjoying the summer break. Summer is a time to reflect, rejoice, and rejuvenate. For me, it is also a time to begin my new teacher notebook.

What is a teacher notebook?
It is a place where I keep all things "teacher-ish". I am notorious for writing ideas down on sticky notes or pieces of paper or in several notebooks, only to be unable to find them when I want or need them.

Keeping a teacher notebook allows me to keep everything together, and I only have one thing to keep track of. I begin a new notebook right after school gets out and begin to fill it during the summer and throughout the next school year. My personal preference is a one-subject Five Star notebook because the pages are wide for spreading out my thinking, and they have a pocket for handouts or papers I want to keep handy.

What to put in a teacher notebook?
  • Things-to-do list - I keep several types of things-to-do lists. My first page is almost always things I want to do, think about, or change based on my reflections from last year. As the year goes on, I update these lists or make new ones based on my current students or instructional needs.
Summer 2020 learning and things-to-do list.
  • Goals - This section lists goals that I want to achieve, both short-term and long-term. At the start of the summer, I choose one area that I want to focus on for summer learning. This becomes my summer goal, and I try to find resources to help me with this area of my teaching. After my last observation, I think about goals for the next school year and transfer them from the previous year's notebook.
  • Plans - I do a lot of planning in this notebook from unit plans to classroom procedures to blog posts. Organizing on paper allows me time and space to think. 
I mapped out a novel plan using
A Novel Approach by Kate Roberts
  • Professional Development Notes - Professional development is a huge part of my teaching life. I take notes from podcasts, blog posts, articles, videos, PD sessions, and conferences and keep them in my notebook. When I need to go back and find something, it makes it much easier to have all of my notes in one place. Many times I will read, listen, or watch something more than once. When I do this, I use a different color of pen to make my notes. 
My notes from a Penny Kittle - yes,
I watched it at least three times.
  • Professional Book Notes - I read (or sometimes just buy!) professional books because I am always looking for ways to improve my teaching. I take my notes from the margins of the book and write in my notebook how I want to apply them in my classroom. Sometimes, these become a goal or a plan in my other sections.
  • Book Talks - I believe in living and sharing a literate life with my students. To do this, I need to read the books they are reading, and I need to talk about them. To keep track of the books I have read and to remember what the books are about, I keep notes for my book talks. After I give a book talk, I put a checkmark beside them.
How do I set up my teacher notebook?
I section my notebook and use sticky tabs as markers. The order of the sections changes from year to year, as I often mark a section as I begin them in the summer. The important part is to have some sort of organizational system so the information is easy to find when needed.

I hope you consider using a teacher notebook this year, especially if organizational skills are a weakness. Keeping a teacher notebook is one of the best ways to keep me organized. If you already use a teacher notebook, please tell us about it in the comments. I would love to continue the conversation in the "teacher hallway!"

My collection of teacher notebooks.

Comments

  1. This post has me thinking about how I could use a teacher notebook. I keep a PD notebook, but how nice it would be to have all of that information in the same book with my goals, plans, etc. I love this, Leigh Anne. Thank you for sharing it.

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    1. Thank you Tracy. I do like having it all in one place because it all right there whenever I need it.

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  2. I am still in the sticky note phase! I like how sectioned and organized your notebook is. I keep lists in my planning binder but feel I could incorporate parts of your system to work for me. I am also thinking about some new electronic folders ... thanks!

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    1. Thanks Tammy. I could never go electonic! You should see my Google drive and my desktop! But I see how that could work for others. I just tuck and take that notebook wherever I go. Thanks for reading!

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  3. I have a teacher summer notebook and then change to a school notebook and a home notebook.

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    1. As long we know where we keep it, it is all good. Thanks for stopping by Erika!

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  4. I have a notebook. I have never called it a summer notebook but based on your description, that’s what it is. I keep track of many of the same things you have listed, but I usually pick a composition book (because I love them) with a pretty color. Mine is what you’d call “ a hit mess.” No dividers. No organization—except a heading at the top of each page. I just write on each page as I think of things. But I love your idea about using sections. Haven’t started mine yet so I think I’ll give the 5-subject notebook s try this year. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. My stuff was a hot mess, too, which is why I fianlly ended up organizing it. It was always, "Now where did I put that?" or "How was I going to use that in my classroom." Thank you for reading, Lisa!

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  5. This is great! I love that you start your notebook in the summer and build throughout the year. I used to use a notebook for PD at school, but moved away from that to digital notes...which seldom got looked at again. I actually did go back to a notebook during Remote Learning to keep track of everything. I think it may be time to reconsider using a notebook. Having a visible, organized system (and tangible reminder of my goals and my progress toward them) is so valuable. Thanks for a great post!

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    1. Thank you, Molly. I hope you are able to take something from it.

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  6. You have given me something to think about. I really like this idea. I will have to work through how I can make this work for me. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you, Donnetta! My notebook has kept me organized for several years now!

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  7. Fantastic. I have "teacher notebookS" and can never find anything! I bought a one-subject last week to focus on my summer work and then I found this post! Brilliant. I love how you've organized it and am going to try it out this way moving forward.

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    1. Thank you, Kim. I hope this idea helps you to stay more organized this year. I would love to hear how you use yours throughout this next school year.

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  8. I have used a teacher notebook in the past, but often don't refer to it once school starts. So, this year I decided to do something a little different. I am referring to my teacher notebook as my teacher journal. So, in addition to things I want to remember or plan out, I am going to use my teacher notebook to write journal entries as often as possible during the school year. I have a marble notebook and haven't thought about sections, but I think that's a great idea. I thought if I kept my teacher notes/ideas/plans, etc and a journal in the same notebook,once school starts I would be more likely to use it. We'll see!

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  9. This is fabulous! Thank you for sharing how you use a notebook! So helpful!

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