Creating a Writer's Notebook


Watch a video tutorial on how to create a Writer's Notebook


See our other

Core of Writing

Video Tutorials


Creating Ideas



Creating a Writer's Folder


What is a Writer's Notebook?


Writer’s Notebook is often used as the vehicle for implementing a writing curriculum in Grades 3-6 and is the recommended for implementing the Getting to the Core of Writing curriculum. It is a place for organizing thoughts, gathering snippets of writing for inspiration, collecting ideas, and practicing skills useful for the writer.  This daily tool for writer’s workshop is where the student glues in charts helping to focus on specific skills a teacher is teaching in writing lessons. Once these charts, short exercises, or tips are pasted in the notebook, the remaining blank pages are where the student practices the writing skill or records the idea that is targeted in a lesson.


Keeping a Writer’s Notebook is important because it is where ideas and resources for writing are collected and returned to for reference. These ideas cover the full range of writing development including topics for writing narrative, informational, or opinion pieces; practice for building sentence fluency; models for organizing a piece; and practice for improving word choice, voice, and conventions. Keeping a Writer’s Notebook is one of the best practices for developing successful writers in grade 3-6 classrooms. Students start a new Writer’s Notebook each year as they move through a spiraling grade by grade curriculum.


The Writer’s Notebook becomes the student’s reference book for any writing project throughout the year. In Getting to the Core of Writing, we organize our Writer’s Notebooks with a Management chapter followed by a chapter for each of the six traits of quality writing. Our last chapter is for Assessment where a student can put in a sample of his or her writing supplied at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. These three “benchmark pieces” are intended to demonstrate the child’s growth as a writer over the year. In addition to a Writer’s Notebook, each student in grades 3-6 also has a Writer’s Portfolio (sometimes called Writer’s Folder) where works in progress and finished pieces are kept.


In the Video above, watch Co-Author Jan McNeel, model how to set up a Writer's Notebook in Fourth Grade. Then get more detailed information in the Writer's Notebook section in the Core of Writing Series for grades 3-6.




Supplies Needed:


1. Example of a completed writer's notebook for teacher to model and show to students (see above).


2. Blank Composition Notebook for each student.


3. Colored Flags or Tabs enough for each student.


4. Black Fine Line Marker for each student.


5. School glue.


6. Scissors.


7. Materials and photos for decorating either supplied by school or students or both.

Blank Compostion Notebook


Colored Flag tabs


Black Fine Line Marker




Step-by-step instructions for teachers modeling to thier students how to create a Writer's Notebook. See more detailed instructions in the Getting to the Core of Writing books.


Step 1:

Each student has a copy of a composition notebook on their desks.


Step 2:

Pull them in for a community meeting and use the mentor text Amelia's Notebook as justification for developing their own Writer's Notebook.


Step 3:

Show the notebook and then explain the Traits of Writing.


Step 4:

I either place the Table of Contents, Step 4 on an Elmo or have on chart paper.


Step 5:

Have the students copy the Table of Contents onto their notebooks. Next, give the students 8 flags and a black fine line marker to organize their notebook by chapters according to the Table of Contents. They have to count the number of pages according to the Lesson plan (pg. 52, in the 3rd through 6th grade copies of the Core of Writing) and place their flags to separate each chapter.


Begin by creating a Table of Contents listing the chapter titles found on page 52 of the Core of Writing. Each chapter has a set number of blank pages onto which the students will write throughout the year. For example, Chapter 1, Management will have 10 blank pages, Chapter 2, Ideas, will have 15, and so on as laidout on page 52.

Stagger the chapter tabs, 1 through 8 so each can be seen. It may be helpful to color code the chapter tabs for easy reference.

On the page immediately following the TOC, create:

Chapter 1


Count 10 blank pages for Chapter 1, Management

Chapter 3


Count 15 Blank Pages for Chapter 2 Ideas

Chapter 2


Chapter 4


Chapter 5

Word Choice

Chapter 6


Chapter 7


Chapter 8


Count 15 Blank Pages for Chapter 3 Sentences.

Count 15 Blank Pages for Chapter 4 Organization.

Count 15 Blank Pages for Chapter 5 Word Choice.

Count 5 Blank Pages for Chapter 6 Voice.

Count 15 Blank Pages for Chapter 7 Conventions.

Count 5 Blank Pages for Chapter 8 Assessment.

Completed Writer's Notebook ready to decorate and use.