Composition books are an excellent tool for young learners. They easily fit in student desks and can be used for all subject areas. Over the years, I have learned many fun composition book tips and tricks.
What Is A Composition Notebook?
A composition notebook, sometimes called a composition book, is an empty notebook designed for use by students. It has lined pages and a stitched binding. The pages are not perforated, and the notebook has no special features like pockets or included stickers. The notebooks have board covers, which means it’s made of thick paper. Sometimes they can bend, and both others will almost seem to crack if bent.
Perhaps the most critical element of the composition notebook, at least the most recognizable, is the black and white “marble” print on the covers.
Composition notebooks are normally very affordable. They are the sort of notebooks a school would buy in bulk and give to students with their back-to-school kit, alongside workbooks and other necessary items for the school year.
Composition notebooks almost always used white pages with blue lines. They are rarely blank, grid, or dot grid. The notebooks are commonly sold in wide rule but can be found in college rule, which makes sense since the typical user is a student in grade school.
These notebooks have been made for so long and by so many companies that almost any element can vary from what’s described above. After all, it’s 2021, so people have tweaked the formula and come up with high-end and ironic takes on the composition book. You can find them with any color marble print, flexible covers, and some even have graph paper inside.
Who Designed the Composition Notebook?
The black and white marbled notebook, which we recognize as a composition notebook, is generally credited to Roaring Spring, a paper product company based in Pennsylvania. They first started making their composition notebook. The company was founded in 1865 in Roaring Spring, PA, and they even call their notebook “The Original.”
The best part? Roaring Spring still sells a composition book.
The history of a notebook everyone knows and loves, from 19th century Europe to a contemporary minimal redesign. As our computers constantly evolve with each update and upgrade, there’s something comforting about how paper notebooks don’t. A 200-year-old notebook is similar to a brand-new one.
With its classic black and white marbled cover, the composition book is the perfect example of timeless notebook design. It is used in books and movies to signal that secrets, mysteries and revelations lie within the pages. It’s the rebellious teenage cousin of the Moleskine. They’re not meant for briefcases but for the scribblings of artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Pentagram, a London design studio, is also a fan. Partner Michael Beirut says he’s been using composition books since 1982. And Pentagram graphic designer Aron Fay is so obsessed with bi-chromatic books that he decided to redesign them.
Fay’s contemporary composition book reimagines the simple cover with a super minimal, 21st-century look. “These notebooks haven’t changed all that much since they came into being centuries ago,” Fay says of the composition book, adding, “They have a 180+ year history of being produced using the most economical manufacturing methods available.”
What Size Are Composition Notebooks?
These notebooks are almost always the same size but don’t adhere to standard paper and notebook sizes. This size is 7.5 inches wide by 9.75 inches tall (190 mm x 250 mm).
For example, the popular Oxford composition notebook is 7.5 x 9.75 inches. That’s about a B5 notebook size, but not quite the same — it’s a little bit less wide. The Mead is the same size as the Amazon Basics notebook.
What Paper Do They Use?
Composition notebooks are typically very affordable, so it should not be surprising that they use very cheap paper. This paper is usually white with blue lines, meaning it is “ruled.” The paper is normally hard, coarse, highly absorbent (so it could be better fountain pen paper), and very light. The paper is commonly made in a 54 gsm weight.
7 Tips For Using Composition Books in the Classroom
Cut the composition book in half
Often young learners only need part of the notebook page, so if you cut them in half, you get more bang for your buck. I am lucky to have a dad who will cut my notebook in half. If you do not know someone who can do that, you can bring them to a copy store, and they can do it for you for a small fee. I keep these small notebooks at our reading table for reading responses, word work, and guided writing activities.
Tabs can be useful if you use the notebook for multiple subjects. For example, if you are using your composition book for math and word work, tabs can help keep the subjects separated. An easy way to make tabs is to fold a small rectangular piece of cardstock and staple it to a page.
You can also use tabs to separate subjects within subjects. For example, if you had a writing notebook, you could have a tab for narrative, informational and persuasive writing.
When working with a notebook, sometimes it can take effort to find the page you left off on. One way to help with that is to use a bookmark. Regular paper bookmarks can easily be lost. A ribbon bookmark is a great solution to this problem.
The way that I do this is to tape a ribbon to the back of the notebook. Using duct tape works best because it is sturdy and holds the ribbon. You can find many fun duct tape designs that make it appealing to young learners.
Tape on the Sides
Students who use multiple composition notebooks can easily mix up which notebook is which. Putting different colored tape on the notebook’s spine can help your students easily know which notebook to grab.
Pockets are great when you have loose papers or mini-books to add to your notebook. Adding a pocket page is something that your students can do:
- Take a page and fold the top right corner backward, diagonally.
- Glue the edges of the backside of the paper you just folded.
- Press the glue side to the next page, behind the folded page.
Let it dry, and then the pocket page is ready to use.
Cut the Inside Pages
Cutting the inside pages is a trick I learned from my son’s second-grade teacher. She had cut diagonally the top right corner of the notebook pages. The pages were cut to different sizes, as shown in the picture below.
I drew lines to see where the pages were cut, but you can see the cut pages without the lines.
Make them Interactive
If you can make the composition books interactive, you will have more buy-in from your students because they are actively engaged in making their notebooks. You can read more about how we use interactive notebooks in our classroom here.
Students of all levels must have composition notebooks, although these books only sometimes need to take the form of tedious composition notebooks. Use creative new approaches to achieve maximum workplace and classroom effectiveness. Choose a composition book appropriate for the kind of work that will be done in class.