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Keeping a Space for the Analog Notebook by Michelle Haseltine

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Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020-21 school year is filled with uncertainties and unknowns.

Teachers are scrambling to make successful learning environments for their students, and, as always, they are rising to the occasion.

In my research to prepare for my own online teaching, I discovered something that troubles me: an overwhelming focus on the digital notebook.

I’ve seen post after post and tweet after tweet with fancy templates to create digital notebooks that students can use in school - whether virtual or in-person.

Although taking our classes online is a real challenge, I urge you to be thoughtful about asking your students to only keep digital notebooks. Analyze your reasoning for why you’d like to implement the digital notebook and how it will help your students and their learning.

Let me pause here and express my deep love for digital writing. It’s powerful, it can reach a wide audience, and it’s faster than notebooking by hand.

Digital writing is different though. What I write in a digital space is nothing like what I write in the pages of my notebook.

My plea is simple: continue with both kinds of writing.

My fear is that in the craziness of school going digital, analog notebooks will be tossed to the side and forgotten.

Don't forget paper notebooks quote image

I implore teachers to continue to use an analog notebook with their students.

What is an analog notebook?

It is a paper notebook in which a writer writes regularly about their thoughts, dreams, daily happenings, and life’s happenings.

It’s a collection of pages where writers express themselves. A place to:

  • Collect, think, reflect, risk, escape, and grow.

  • Be messy, try new things, struggle through uncertainty, and celebrate successes

  • Find comfort.

  • Get what’s inside of your head OUT of your head.

The notebook is not only a powerful writer’s tool. It’s a powerful learning tool.

The analog notebook may be a challenge to manage in our COVID teaching lives, but it’s too valuable to let go.

Here are some of the most important reasons why I will continue to notebook with my students this year:

  • Notebooking is a time to process our ideas and thoughts, to express and grow our creativity, and to just try out new things! It’s a safe place where we can be messy, and in that mess, the creativity oozes out and helps us grow as writers.

  • There are many social-emotional benefits to keeping a notebook. Ask any writer about the benefits of notebook keeping. Writing rants, doodling through a lecture, writing a letter, or making lists -- all of these notebook pages give the notebooker a feeling of accomplishment or freedom.

  • We need time away from screens! Time spent with my notebook and a pen feels calmer to me and I know it will feel calmer for students and even for parents.

  • Use it as an opportunity for family learning. You could invite more family members to notebook alongside your student just like when families read together!

  • Notebooking is a place to think and figure things out ON the page. It allows notebookers to go deeper into their thinking and to be reflective in a safe place where there’s no audience.

  • The writer can take real risks and be messy and get things wrong and continue to work it out until the answer becomes clear. Invite students to share one page or one entry a week and allow it to be a time of celebration.

  • Notebooks allow focus without distractions. Working on a device means that distractions are available everywhere. Notebooks are a page and a pen. The freedom to just be in the notebook takes practice, but it builds writing stamina and focused attention.

  • It’s fun. We can really let go and be ourselves on a notebook page and that can be so much fun!

I urge you to go to your analog notebook right now and figure out what you really think about continuing this practice with your students.

Today is a perfect day to begin!


Michelle Haseltine is a middle school teacher in Virginia. She is the founder of the #100DaysofNotebooking Facebook Group, as well as one of the co-moderators of the #TeachWrite Slow Chat on Facebook. Michelle has been an avid notebooker all her life and is currently writing in her 87th notebook. You can learn more from Michelle at

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