Mail Call

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I have been getting lots of emails from fellow educators who’ve stumbled across my site.  I love getting these, and I try to answer them as soon as I can.  It’s common for me to get several e-mails with the same question, so it occurred to me that there may be more people with the same wonderings who just haven’t clicked the email button.  So, here are a few questions I’ve received, followed by my responses.




 I love your readers notebook. I really want to try using them next year.  Can you help me explain how they organize it? Do they skip pages to make the different parts? I really love love love it!!!  Do you tab it?


I use a four-section reader’s notebook, and I do have the kids count the pages and tab it before we ever start using it.  The sections are as follows (page numbers are based on a 100-page composition notebook):

  • My Reading Life (~15 pages): Identity-building work is done here. (reading timelines, home-run books, identity ladders, last ten books I’ve read, etc.)
  • What I’m Learning (~20 pages): Notes or copies of key anchor charts (as they are retired from the wall) go here.
  • Read-Aloud (~30 pages): Post-its or writing long based on read-aloud with accountable talk go here.  This work is guided heavily.
  • Independent Reading (~35 pages): This section looks much like the read-aloud section, but it is not so guided, as the work is done during independent reading.
I am curious how you would suggest organizing books for students in class.  I am a 3rd grade teacher and I have lots of picture books and chapter books in my classroom library.  Right now I have them separated (picture, chapter, non-fiction) in book buckets.  However, as I get more titles, the book buckets are filling up and I’m running out of space.  I just wondered if you had any other suggestions for organizing. Thanks for your input.

— Karen
This is a great question, and one I get often! I had my books in tubs, divided in a number of different ways. I had some bins by genre (poetry, biographies, historical fiction, space science, etc.) and some bins by level to help students who really struggled with choosing just-right books. (Note: almost all of my books were leveled, but they weren’t all sorted by level.) I also had bins for read-alouds and mentor texts.  These were empty when the year began, and we filled them throughout the year, as I read a book aloud or we used it as a mentor in writing.  Finally, I let my kids have some ownership over organization – this will change your life in terms of keeping the library organized – so I started every year with several empty, unlabeled bins as well. As we launched reader’s workshop, we talked a lot about how readers choose books. These discussions revealed some general preferences in my class, and by the end of that first unit, we had newly labeled buckets for ease of finding those preferred books.  Some of these bins earned labels like “If you like Mo Willems, you’ll love these books!” or “Books about Best Friends” or even “Books with Bullies”.  I will try to dig up my book bin labels and post them as a printable soon!
Hey, Julie!  Thank you so much for sharing your charts.  I love them!  I just discovered your site on Pinterest.  I have a question…how do you store your charts?  I’m sure it’s very clever and would love to know!

Thanks so much for all you do!

I use the same storage bags that we use to store big books, and I made (well, I asked my very handy father to make) a small hanging rod for them that I mounted to the wall. I sort them by unit and label the bags accordingly.

Now that I’m using charts as models for other teachers, this preserves them better.  It’s also less time-consuming than the mount-to-a-coat-hanger method I used to use, although that method was definitely better for the time since my kids needed easy access to them.

Below is a picture of my stored charts. Hope this helps! 🙂

I absolutely love reading your emails! Keep them coming! 🙂

Happy Easter weekend!

6 thoughts on “Mail Call

  1. Hi Julie,

    Your website and blog are amazing. I want to start my own Reading Notebook this summer to try it out before having students do it, and I was just wondering what you meant by “My Book Basket”?



    • Hi Hanna,

      All of my kids had a place to keep the books they were reading – one year it was a basket, another year it was a canvas bag, and another year we called them book boxes. That page was a place for me to model what should be in that book basket/bag/box. I had kids with only one book in there, and I had kids trying to hoard twenty books at a time. This let me show them that they should have a handful of books to read right now, plus one they had recently finished and really enjoyed.

  2. I LOVE your Reader’s Notebooks! I have just started to make my own Reader’s Notebook, and have borrowed a lot of your ideas. I wrote a blog post today about my Reader’s Notebooks (so far), and I have included a link to your page!

  3. Hi,
    I just happened upon your website and fell in love with many of the ideas that I hope to integrate into my reading and writing workshop with my 4s and 5s. I came across an interesting activity that you did called “identity ladders” and couldn’t exactly make out what the activity was, if you wouldn’t mind I’d really like to know what it was all about, it looks like something I’d like to try with my class.
    Thanks again for all your sharing.

    • Hi Marla,

      The reading identity ladders involve kids responding to three prompts:
      I’m the kind of reader who…
      I want to be the kind of reader who…
      My Reading Goals:

      It’s amazing to watch your readers grow when they’ve set goals for themselves! 🙂

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