DIY Literacy – Demonstration Notebooks

Since I have a bit of time off, I wanted to tackle a project on my list.  I’m sure many of you have heard of Demonstration Notebooks.  They are a great tool for conferring with students during Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop!  My small groups and individual time is much more efficient as a result.

A great place to get started is:

DIY Literacy by Kate and Magge Roberts.  diyliteracy

Below I’ve posted some examples I’ve made (the source was indicated when I knew it, but will add if I discover more).

Oftentimes I adapted one to make it my own, which I encourage you to do so you can feel like the examples you use are ones you are familiar with when speaking to your students, but more importantly you will have done the same work they have.  This is powerful!

I’ll continue to add more via my Instagram highlights: @lauralitlab

The idea of the demonstration notebook as quoted from Kate and Magge is “a collection of interactive lessons that the teacher can use to demonstrate repeatedly with kids, whether individually in conferences or in small groups across the day, unit, or year. ” (Roberts & Roberts, 2016, pg. 14) . You can learn more about this resource here.

The pages in your notebook are based on what you see your students needing the most.

  • They can be repertoire charts (list of strategies needed for a skill)
  • process charts (to break down a strategy into steps)
  • or even a micro progression of skills (shows different levels for a particular skill).  (Mraz & Martinelli, 2012, 2014).

One place for some great examples I’ve relied on are:

  • TCRWP (Teacher’s College) Writing and Reading Pathways books.  (Roberts & Roberts, 2016, pg. 13)
  • Jennifer Serravallo’s Reading and Writing Strategies books.











Here are some examples I created below.

Notebook Entry #1: “Zooming on a Small Moment”

Genre: Narrative Writing

Purpose:  To help them see the progression of moving from a “watermelon” idea to a small moment.

Mentor Text Ideas:  Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad DayRoller Coaster, Snowy Day, A Moment in Time, Shortcut, Blackout 

Notes:  I used this idea quite a bit in 2nd grade, but do have a few students in 3rd that can use the refresher.  This is based on an anchor chart I had created (I’m sure with inspiration from many places).  I just adapted to include my own example and one from a mentor text Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

How to Use:  You could use either in a small group or individual meeting.  The sticky notes below are used with the students to have them try out the strategy.

Notebook Entry #2:  Starting a New Paragraph 

Genre:  Narrative

Notes: This example shows the students attempts before you use the new strategy.  The colored marker (as explained in DIY Literacy) shows the strategy tips.  The bottom section has a place for the students to try it out.  This example of where to start a new paragraph is one that I am using this year for third grade (and I’m sure 4th graders could use the review).

To Try:  Have them mark the spots for new paragraphs with pencil slashes in the text above.   You can erase later!  😉  OR have them do the work in their own writing. IMG_7495

Notebook Entry #3:  Show Don’t Tell

Genre:  Narrative

Mentor Texts:  Come on Rain, Knuffle Bunny, The Raft, The Ghost Eye Tree, Lailah’s Lunchbox

Notes:  This strategy is a common one, but one that students need a little time applying to their writing.  There are a ton of great drama games that are perfect for this!  Start SMALL with one sentence after they have read a mentor text and practiced with you.  Here’s a great minilesson on this strategy from The Two Writing Teachers.



Notebook Entry #4:  Writing to Change Your World

Genre:  Persuasive

Mentor Texts:  All Different Now:  Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom, One Green Apple, Because of Winn Dixie, The Invisible Boy

You can use a news article written from a child’s perspective OR look for topics that affect them and range from: Homework, Recess, Identity to Immigration, Race, Gender, LGBTQ+, Religion, Foster Care, Adoption, Animals, Environment, Poverty, Healthcare, etc.   Use a passage from a longer read-aloud that you are working through.  My 3rd graders had a lot to say about Because of Winn Dixie and One Green Apple.

Notes:  Help students create a heart map (Georgia Heard) based on things they want to see changed in their world.  This can give them agency, but also empower them to know that their words have an impact. Have them flesh out flash drafts each day to address these issues to get them in the practice of writing about these topics.  Then choose one to take through the writing process.

Just look at the generation coming up and how powerful their words have been in such a short time.  *If you haven’t some of these speeches from Emma Gonzalez or Naomi Wadler, then STOP now and go watch.


Notice that my notebook isn’t “perfect”.  It’s for my students and I to use as we confer together and it works for me.  Yours may look different.  I enjoy drawing and creating, but I try to reign it in when working on my notebook.  🙂 As long as it works for you!  Enjoy creating!


Roberts & Roberts (2016)  DIY Literacy, Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann

Martinelli, M. & Mraz, K. (2012) Smarter Charts K-2:  Optimizing an Instructional Staple to Create Independent Readers and Writers, Portsmouth, NH, Heinemmann

Martinelli, M. & Mraz, K. (2014) Smarter Charts for Math, Science, and Social Studies: Making Learning Visible in Content Areas,