Notebooks are an important part of my CI classroom.

We use them daily for organization and recording of many of our daily tasks.

I prefer to have my students use composition books rather than traditional notebooks. They're more durable and can contain a whole year's worth of content.

I don't know about you, but my students are horribly disorganized, lose papers, tear out papers, and shove everything into their notebooks!

Although composition books don't fix all of these issues, they are more durable, the pages don't tear out as easily as regular notebooks, and their smaller and more convenient to carry.

PRO TIP! One thing I require my students to do and it's helped so much as I continue to age is to write everything in their notebooks in INK! I don't allow pencils! Pencils, especially if students write small and light, do not contrast well with white pages and are difficult to read, but if a student writes in ink, it's so much easier to read. If a student makes a mistake, they just cross it out and continue writing. I'd much rather have this than to struggle to read pencil!

I have my students divide their composition books into five more or less equal sections. They'll fold in half the first page of each section as a divider. This way they can find each section easily and so can I when it's time to grade the items within.

Sections include:

  • vocabulary
  • reflections
  • write & discuss
  • culture notes
  • reading log


I only have my students copy down target vocabulary in their notebooks along with a translation.

Generally, on a Monday as a warm-up, I'll have students copy the lesson's target vocabulary into the vocabulary section of their notebook.

They'll fold the page in half vertically and write the target language on the left side and the translation on the right side. I generally only have them write their vocabulary on the front side of the page to make it easier to read. The words often bleed through to the other side, especially if they write hard.

Although I only require that they write the target vocabulary, they can also add any other vocabulary they wish from stories, a text, or a novel we are reading.

Some students feel more in control if they can write things down and I don't prohibit this. I do ask, though, that during an oral activity, they not write anything down. I want them to focus on what is being said and they can write things down afterwards.


Reflecting on learning is a metacognition activity that helps students realize their strengths and weaknesses, as well as what helps them learn best. Reflections allow them to take ownership of their learning and see how everything comes together.

Each week, my students write reflections in English about their learning, the class, goals, favorite and least favorite activities, etc.

I want them to write in English because I want them to be able to express their ideas fully without the limitations of the target language.

I will give them sentence starts to help them get started, but I explain to them that the simple answer to the question is not as important as the explanation behind the answer. That's where the learning and insight take place. So it's extremely important that they spend time on the explanation.

I love to read my students' reflections because I also gain insight into what they're thinking, and what is working for them and what is not.

If you're not already incorporating reflections into your classroom, I highly suggest that you start. You'll be amazed at what you learn!

Write & Discuss

Write & Discuss is an activity originally created by Susie Gross.

This is one of my favorite activities and I use it for so many things.

I use Write & Discuss to review stories, readings, culture, novel chapters, and special-person interviews. I also use Write & Discuss as a meta activity to teach writing.

Whenever we do a Write & Discuss, I have my students take out their notebooks and copy along with me. They know not to start writing the current sentence until I've put the punctuation at the end of the sentence just in case we make changes.

I like having them copy everything down because it gives them practice spelling the words and it gives them a hard copy of the discussion we had. They can use it to review what we did in class, a story, or even a novel chapter.

Plus it's all an example of how to write in the target language, so it's another metacognition activity.

Culture Notes

Whenever we talk about culture or do a cultural unit, my students are encouraged, but not required to take notes.

I teach culture in a multitude of ways. It can be part of a novel that we are reading, I may incorporate it into a story or a reading we are doing, or I may have an all-out culture lesson.

Culture is taught in the target language, but for my lower levels, I often expand on the details in English.

My lower levels take notes in English and my upper levels usually take notes in the target language, but I don't make a requirement either way.

I would just like them to have a record of what we talked about and learned so they can refer back to it if needed.

Reading Log

We do silent reading at least 2 or 3x per week.

Silent reading is one of the non-negotiable activities that I do in my classroom because I know that reading is so very important in the development and acquisition of language.

I allow my students to check out the books that they read and return them once they are finished with them.

I start my lower levels with 3 minutes of reading time and my upper levels with 5 minutes. They never know how long we read for, they just know to start reading when the bell rings and to stop when the timer goes off.

Over the course of the year, I will add minutes to our reading time as I see students getting into reading more and more.

When time is up, students will write the date, the title of the book, and the page numbers they read that day in the Reading Log section of their notebook.

I can quickly take a look at this section and see how their reading is coming and if a book may be too difficult a read for them or not based on how long it takes them to read a few pages.

It's also a great reminder for the students to see how many novels and how many pages they've read throughout the year!


I do not grade notebooks as a whole, I do give grades for their written reflections which are based on the thoroughness of their answer and the amount of thought put into them. I also give an engagement grade for their reading log.

Neither is part of their academic grade which is solely based on how well they can DO the target language.

As grading the entire notebook is extremely time-consuming and doesn't help them to acquire language, I choose not to spend any more time on it than is absolutely necessary. But as always, you do you! :)

I'm interested to know how you all do notebooks or if you even do notebooks at all? Please share in the comments!