Digital Notebooks: How Do I Grade Them?

Digital notebooks are amazing tools, especially now with the Slip In Slide add-on which allows you to incorporate different tools like anchor charts. This same add-on can allow teachers to also slip in checklists and scoring guides as well.

One of the biggest questions I’ve received since sharing more about digital notebooks and using the Slip In Slide add-on is, how do we grade digital notebooks?

First, let’s revisit the purpose of the reader’s and writer’s notebooks.


The notebook, whether it’s digital or an old-school composition book, is a playground for student thinking and writing. As they are exposed to strategies, they decide what they will practice using their independent reading or writing. Depending on where they are in a novel or writing piece or how comfortable they feel with any given strategy, for example, will determine their work. What they focus on each day is just as much a choice as what they are reading or writing.

Anchor charts provide options

Because the notebook is a playground, they will messy and even a bit chaotic.

Formative Assessment

Since the reader’s and writer’s notebooks are used daily, they are a continuous record of growth and provide valuable information for teachers in order to meet the goals of individuals, small groups, large groups, and to differentiate based on those needs.

Individual Differentiation

Teachers can look at notebooks and notice patterns with an individual notebook and provide specific strategies within conferring. What does this student need next?

Small Group Differentiation

Teachers can look at notebooks and notice patterns that will separate students into small groups in order to provide specific strategies and meet each group where they are. What does this group need next?

Large Group

Teachers may also see something across the board that is an indication that the class might benefit from scaffolding or additional modeling before moving on.

Summative Assessment

When it comes to the reader’s and writer’s notebook, it is important to note that if you are trying to grade every single entry they write every single day, then you are grading formative assessments that are not meant to be summative. Not to mention, you have got to be super overwhelmed with such a task! And if you are able to easily grade everything they write every single day, then they are not writing enough. However, every few days or so, teachers should provide options for a summative assessment. An entire writing piece (for example, the entire personal narrative) does not have to be read and scored. Students can choose what they want to showcase for a grade based on the work that they have been doing using the current anchor charts.

Choice, Checklists, and Scoring Guides

Whenever something is going to be graded, students should continue to choose the work they want to showcase. Remember, the notebook is a playground and not all entries will be worthy of being showcased, and we want students to feel comfortable to take risks and be okay with stumbling through their practice until they grow.

Students should know in advance what specifically a teacher is looking for when grading. Checklist and scoring guides are a part of preparing students. Teachers can Slip In Slides using the add-on for checklists too!

Teach Students to Determine What Is Graded

In the classroom, it was simple. We would give the kids a certain post it and have them mark the entry that was to be graded. Or take an entry of their choosing to write the “long write”. In the digital world, you could add a star to the page you slide in with the checklist and scoring guide (see image above). Students can copy and paste that star onto the page they want scored (see image below).

Another way to get students more involved in the grading is to have them highlight each part you are looking for (determined in the scoring guide) in a a different color. If they are unable to highlight a part, that’s an indication that it is missing. Or if they highlight something that does not match the expectation, that is a teaching point.

The teacher would have the scoring guide to copy and paste into the identified page and would use it to score. See the example below.

Finally, and this part is crucial, feedback can be added to support the student and to provide a record or expectations for the future.

Looks like a lot of work, right? Actually think about the feedback you provide. How often is it the same comment over and over? You can do the work on the front end and have a page of common comments already prepared (see below). You can even color code them to what students highlighted to keep yourself focused. When you copy and paste a prepared comment in, you can customize it if you choose. Notice how the comments added to the notebook page above were customized to provide a bit more feedback compared to the generic one created in advance below.

This work continues to allow for choice and puts the ownership on the student. It also provides specific feedback that would need to be applied in the future.

Student chooses this page to showcase the work on elaboration
Teacher pastes in scoring guide and feedback

If you have any questions, feel free to email. Common questions determine future posts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s