How to Use Notebooking with Read-Alouds in Your Homeschool

Have you ever been absolutely sure that you found the missing piece to your homeschool, but you just couldn’t figure out a way to get started?

Believe me, I have been there and done that. For me, that “thing I was looking for” was notebooking.

Although I first started notebooking with my kids last year, I actually had my eye on it for quite some time before that. It looked engaging, practical, and effective – three things that are a must in our large family homeschool. But try as I might, I just couldn’t figure out how to get started. I had a good idea of what it was all about, and I understood the reasoning behind it, but I felt completely lost as to where to begin. 

Does that sound familiar to you?

Notebooking advice

After a little contemplation and a lot of research, I finally decided to step into notebooking through read-alouds. Since read-alouds were (and still are) the spine of our homeschool, I decided that it might be a good idea to dive into the world of notebooking in this manner.

It worked like a charm.

Because I know how hard it can be to get started on something when you only have a philosophical notion of what it is, today I’m going to share with you some tips on…

How to Use Notebooking with Read-Alouds

(This post contains affiliate links.)

1. Choose a read-aloud that really interests your kids.

If you and your children are new to notebooking, this is especially important. It’s pretty clear that children are going to listen more closely and with more interest when they are listening to a book that actually appeals to them. Being a good listener is crucial in the world of notebooking because, well, how will a child write or draw about something they haven’t been paying attention to, right?

I’m going to admit that sometimes I do read books to my kids that they probably wouldn’t have chosen themselves, and although they often do end up enjoying them, it probably isn’t a good idea to try out notebooking on a book your kids are iffy about.

Set yourself up for success by giving your kids a say in your book selection!

2. Narration, narration, narration.

Since being a good listener is a must for notebooking, narration offers a perfect way to:

  • make sure your kids are paying attention
  • make sure your kids are understanding the story
  • help your children to remember what the story is about
  • get an idea of what the story is like through your children’s eyes

Right now you might be wondering, What is narration?

Narration is simply asking your kids to tell you back what you’ve read to them. How and when you do this is up to you and will likely depend upon how many children will be narrating and their ages, but some options are to either:

  • wait until the end of a chapter and ask your child to give you a summary of what happened (this is better for older children and in homes where only one child will be narrating), or…
  • stop after every few pages or paragraphs and ask your child/ren to tell you what you’ve read about so far (this works well with younger children and in homes with multiple children)

You might be wondering what this all has to do with notebooking, and, well, it has everything to do with notebooking because these narrations are helping your children to solidify what they remember from the day’s reading, and this is where they will get the ideas for their notebooking page.

Got it?

3. Use a whiteboard to write down a word/phrase bank.

I don’t know about your kids, but mine are very active and will sometimes forget things very easily. This is where a word bank comes in handy.

After you have finished reading and your children have narrated, ask them if there are any words or phrases they would like you to write on the board to help them when they are completing their notebooking page. This may include words they just don’t want to forget, words or phrases that may help jog their memory, words they don’t know how to spell, and for younger children, sometimes complete sentences they can simply copy.

This can really alleviate any anxiety reluctant writers may be feeling about having to complete a notebooking page.

4. Let your kids choose their own notebooking page.

Before I go any further, I would just like to point out that you do not have to use notebooking printables if you prefer not to. Lined composition paper, card stock, and printer paper are also excellent resources to notebook with.

I have found that my kids prefer to use notebooking printables because there are a variety of styles they can choose from, and it helps to bring out their creativity.

If you choose to use printed notebooking pages, it can be helpful to print out a variety of generic pages for your children to choose from. (By generic, I just mean that they can be used for any topic). Some pages will have a space for drawing and lines for writing, while others will be all lines for those who don’t wish to illustrate. Other pages will be specifically for drawing only. These are fantastic for kids who do not write yet because drawing is a form of narration. A young child can easily demonstrate that they understood a story by drawing a picture about it. Don’t ever discount drawing simply because it’s not writing. It’s just as important.

With that being said, you may want to limit the number of drawing-only pages your older kids complete because as children mature, writing will be an important part of their lives, so it is very important that they do write often. With my own children, I do occasionally let them select a drawing-only page, but I limit it to about once a week.

5. Let your children choose what they will notebook about.

Now don’t get confused. To be sure, your kids will be notebooking about your read-aloud, but give them a say in how they will notebook about it.

While notebooking is generally thought of as a written narration (and it can be), there are many other ways to notebook, such as:

  • writing a character analysis
  • writing about a favorite scene
  • writing an alternate ending
  • predicting the next chapter
  • drawing a comic strip of a plot in the storyline
  • making a map of the area being read about
  • writing a book review
  • drawing a scene from the book and writing a caption or summary of the illustration

These are just a few suggestions. Let your kids use their imaginations!

6. Place the notebooking page in a notebook that is specifically for the read-aloud.

As with everything else in notebooking, there are so many ways to do things, and it’s all about preference. So yes. If you will not be using printed notebooking pages, you can definitely use a composition book or even a spiral notebook for this purpose.

If you are using actual notebooking pages, however, the best thing I’ve found is to use a 3-prong folder. They’re colorful, inexpensive, and they take up very little space – which is important because it makes it much more feasible to use a separate folder for each read-aloud.

Alternatively, you could also use a 3-ring binder and separate each read-aloud with a divider, but I would recommend in this case that you use sheet protectors to keep your pages from tearing.

 That’s all there is to it! And just think –  years from now when your children are grown, you will have a lovely set of read-aloud notebooks as a memento to share with them. 

You couldn’t ask for a better homeschooling souvenir. 🙂

What about you? Do you notebook with your read-alouds? How do you do it? Leave a comment!







Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

10 thoughts on “How to Use Notebooking with Read-Alouds in Your Homeschool”

  1. Stumbled onto your blog from Instagram and now I am so excited to start notebooking! Thank you so much for sharing. We also love Harry Potter and are reading it as a family. Thank you for your well made magic points.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish we had come across notebooking years ago. It’s such a lovely way to learn for the kids. I’m so glad this helped, and thank you for your agreement about Harry Potter. The issue always comes up in my YouTube comments.


  2. Hi Shelley, I love your posts about notebooking. I wanted to let you know a tip that it took me many years to figure out. I put my blank notebook pages (mostly generic with lines for writing and boxes for pictures) in page protectors. I keep a binder with my pages next to the printer. Kids can copy the pages right through the plastic page protector. No need to wrestle pages out of the protectors and then back in when done copying. That changed everything with my kids and made it easier for them to get their own pages. Before, that I had to make copies for them every time and I would often be delayed while they waited for me to get to it.


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