George Lucas Educational Foundation

A Simple Notebook System for Classroom Management

A Simple Notebook System for Classroom Management

Related Tags: Classroom Management
More Related Discussions
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share
Illustration of teacher writing in a notebook

Hi All,

When I taught middle school, I tried lots of different methods for classroom management, but I found that basic notebooks were ultimately the thing that saved me, in two ways. I have videos on my website that explain both uses, but I'll summarize them here:

First, notebooks served as an emergency brake when things got really bad. This happened more often in the earliest years, but I even found myself using this technique in year seven. When my students started getting really talkative and I felt at my wits' end, I would simply stop teaching, pull out a notebook, and start writing. In less than a minute, the whole class would be dead silent. See the video description of this technique here:

Later, I ended up developing a much more proactive use for notebooks, one that really helped increased students' intrinsic motivation. I kept a 3-ring binder, and each student had a blank page. Anytime a student did something that got my attention -- good or bad -- I just recorded it. That's it. Over time, a student's page would fill with details, and I found that most of my students really just wanted good things written about them, with no other external kind of reward or punishment. I used this effectively with seventh graders AND college students. I go into more detail about this in the video here:

Hope this helps someone else!

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (9) Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Conversations on Edutopia (9) Sign in or register to comment

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

I love the idea of keeping track of ways that students have grabbed your attention, and especially how the kids over time came to see that you noticing their good behavior was reward enough for them.

Brittany Palmer's picture
Brittany Palmer
Student teacher from Burbank, CA

I love this idea as well. I think this is a great strategy. I think all kids want to be perceived as intelligent and they want to succeed deep down. This is a nice subtle way of letting them know that you are aware of everything they do and it's almost of clue for them that they need to self monitor without you saying anything. It's so simple, yet so effective.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Maker Educator, Google Certified Innovator, Dreamer, Doer. Learning experience designer, workshop leader/speaker, author. Stanford #Fablearn Fellow. #GoogleEI

"Name in the Book" is a very popular and common classroom management tool in Second Grade at my school - but it has a negative connotation only. It's extremely powerful in that way, NO ONE WANTS THEIR NAME IN THE BOOK, but I wonder about implementing it in a POSITIVE way as suggested here. Hmmmm. Thank you!

Lori Winterhoff's picture
Lori Winterhoff
Religion Teacher from Canada

Great tool! I'm currently on extended leave for health reasons, but when I return to work I will start the year off with the students providing me with a page each with their names on them. Might make an ice breaker out of it.... hmmm...

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

We posted about this on Facebook. If you're interested in the conversation that happened there, you can find it by clicking the image below.

Nachliel Selavan's picture
Nachliel Selavan
seventh grade teacher from Brooklyn, new york

I tried the method of the 1st notebook. Indeed it immediately got the students to quiet down and whisper about what I might be writing.
However, this created a negative effect. Since I did not necessarily write anything about any students (just write your thoughts or observation), or write down everything students did, students began getting upset. They expressed to me later that since they never got the actual feedback of who i wrote and what he did, they would become upset for the remainder of class.
Furthermore, the follow-up technique isn't clear to me. After I stop writing, do I just continue until interrupted again? If they don't know what I'm writing, then what will deter them from continuing, after it's been done a few times?
And if I do tell them (as I did) that it's my record of behavior, which may reflect on grades (as suggested for notebook #2), the above happened, so unless i actually stop and say what I wrote, it doesn't seem effective.
Please advise, dear teachers. Thank you

Jennifer Gonzalez's picture
Jennifer Gonzalez
Blogger at Cult of Pedagogy


Thanks so much for your questions. I'll do my best to offer some follow-up here.

First off, you bring up a good point that there are no instructions as to what you should do AFTER the first notebook strategy. I basically offered that as a life-raft, for when you're completely drowning. It's an alternative to blowing up at them or bursting into tears. So let me think about what I did after a few minutes of writing in those cases....I would just tell them what I had just done. I would say something like this: "A few minutes ago, you were all being so loud, and no one was listening to me, and it didn't matter what I did to get your attention. I was starting to feel really angry, so I just decided to stop and gather my thoughts. I'm glad it kept me from screaming at you, but it took five minutes away from our class time, when we could have been learning something instead."

Sometimes I'd stop there, and other times, when they would ask what I had been writing, I would tell them in general terms. "At first I just wrote a couple of very angry sentences about how I was feeling. Then I started taking notes about what was happening, about who was actually paying attention and who wasn't, and it made me realize that a whole lot of you really were trying to follow instructions. That helped me to calm down. If you want to know if I wrote anything about you, you can ask me later."

Inevitably a few kids would come over to me after class -- some would say, kind of sheepishly, "I know you wrote my name down, didn't you." And we would talk calmly about this, and I would explain that I had no immediate plans for what I wrote down, but I would keep it for future reference.

This is how the second method came about for me. I realized that I could actually use those notes to document behavior. It would help me to recognize patterns, but better still, it would help students recognize them as well.

So in the short term, right there in class, you can just tell them what you were doing, that it's merely a record, and that most importantly, it's their PATTERN of behavior that you're looking for, not single incidents. If they misbehaved just then, but stopped and didn't do it anymore, then they have no need to worry, because if it's not something that shows up over and over again, then it's just an isolated mistake, and everyone messes up every now and then.

Please add follow-up questions if this hasn't fully answered your question. I'm interested to hear about complications people have with this, and to help you make it work!


Elizabeth Dyer's picture
Elizabeth Dyer
Retired high school and middle school science teacher from Chubbuck, ID, now volunteering in my local school district

I really like that this shows the students that teachers think about thinking and they try to problem solve just as we would hope students would do. Taking some time to write what happened lets everybody think before they react in anger or defensiveness.

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.