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Great Idea - Use ELA Notebooks to Differentiate in the Classroom

The range of strengths and weaknesses in a typical classroom can be quite difficult.  If you aren't careful, your students will generate so much paper (to grade and file!) that you won't be able to manage it.  Here's my suggestion:  Have an ELA Notebook for each child.  Nothing fancy - I'm currently using "fast-teacher-made-special" notebooks, consisting of a long piece of bright construction paper folded in half and stapled as the cover for 20-ish pieces of notebook paper.  When I taught 2nd grade, we used handwriting paper for the first quarter as a support/transition from 1st grade, and this was a fast way to help keep track of the loose papers for each subject.
Credits: Mr. Magician, KG Fonts, Hello Fonts
I know... it's really not going to hold a lot, so I encourage the kiddos to draw a line, date the entry, and then do their work, which can run over (neatly) to the page after that.  Typically, these journals last everyone for a month or so, and then I have this amazing record of their work.  If I wanted to be all organized, I could have the kiddos label what they are proving mastery of with that assignment (and there are times when this can be a huge motivator!) but that's just not where I put my time/effort.  Full disclaimer - I've created these while greeting students in the morning or while students pack up and dismiss to buses - just have a working surface near the classroom door so you can monitor everything..  Really fast if you have an electric stapler.  :)

Here's a quick look at my ELA Notebooks in action:
There you go - instant way to differentiate your ELA assignment!   Some students require more assistance, so I usually had a couple of kiddos who knew I'd be by with a post-it reminder of the assignment to help them keep on track.  The post-it method is very effective, and I'm a huge advocate for trying this with students with attention issues, as it helps them refer back to the assignment to know how many paragraphs are expected, the format, etc. They simply stuck the post it on the page, and I had a record of the assignment and the intervention.

In my various meetings to discuss a student (parent conferences, Professional Learning Team (PLT), Student Support Team, Tier II Intervention, Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, ESL, etc), I brought these notebooks to demonstrate growth or issues.  Many language issues are evident in a student's writing, and allows the adults involved to make a true data-driven decision regarding these many issues.  {Confession time - there *may* have been several times where I forgot I had a meeting, and their academic notebooks (ELA, Math, Science/Social Studies) were a really fast item to grab to illustrate my area of concern or demonstration of growth for many students!  I just love the wealth of documentation that is within the humble construction paper notebook!}


  1. Fantastic! Thanks for sharing this idea :-).

  2. What a good, solid, and easy to implement idea! By the way, your disclaimer and confession made me smile ... thanks for keeping it real!

  3. Y'all are so sweet! Thanks so much for your kind comments! :)


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