Bookwork Expectations

I believe it is really important to encourage your students to have neat bookwork in order to foster pride and respect for learning and their belongings. It also eliminates students wasting time using different coloured pens for headings and liquid paper for their mistakes, which I have often seen.

Clear bookwork expectations should be provided at the beginning of the year to each student. Once discussed as a class, the students should receive the bookwork expectations and glue them on the inside cover of each book.

The bookwork expectations may include;

  1. Your book should be covered with clear contact, with your book cover coloured in neatly on the front of your book.
  2. You need to keep your book neat and tidy throughout the year with no graffiti on the outside or inside of the covers.
  3. Margins need to be on every page in red pen. Always use a ruler.
  4. Use a blue pen for writing (pencil for Maths).
  5. Underline in red pen. Always use a ruler.
  6. Write the heading and date every time you start new work.
  7.  Rule off previous work if it does not take up an entire page. Use all pages and try to complete all work.
  8. Corrections should be made with a single straight line drawn through the mistake. E.g. whent.
  9. All worksheets should be cut neatly and glued into books – there should be no corners or edges sticking out.

You may also include space for the student to sign an agreement on the bottom of each sheet, therefore making a personal promise to adhere to the expectations.

Do you value neat bookwork from your students?

Have you implemented bookwork expectations in your class?

What other strategies do you use?

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8 thoughts on “Bookwork Expectations

  1. As an alternative view, I always had a terrible relationship with bookwork and found that rules and expectations interfered with my learning because it focused my teacher’s feedback on surface features rather than deeper features.

    I never managed to rule straight lines, my ideas were literally all over the place, crossings out, moving things around and don’t get me started on my handwriting. I could give you neat work but it would but it came at the expense of ideas and learning.

    Will bookwork become a thing of the past as devices move into schools?


    1. Thank you for sharing your view, however I tend to disagree at this point in time.

      Bookwork shouldn’t be the most important thing and the teacher definitely shouldn’t focus their feedback solely on bookwork, however I do think it should be encouraged.

      Throughout prac I have seen students spend half their lesson decorating their headings or swapping pens constantly for different colours. Simple expectations such as using blue pen helps to reduce time wasting.

      Crossing things out and moving them around is fine and understandable, I was merely suggesting a way to encourage our students to be as neat as they can where appropriate. The expectations I am referring to simply target margins, appropriate pens, the date, headings, correcting mistakes, gluing in worksheets and saving paper. The layout of the work and the way the student expresses their ideas is up to them.

      In classes where bookwork expectations are set, the students spend more time learning than choosing a different colour pen.

      I have yet to see bookwork expectations come at the expense of learning.

      Perhaps bookwork will become a thing of the past eventually, but until then I think encouraging neat bookwork can be beneficial.


  2. I didn’t want to comment at first…because I don’t find my teaching practice in any of the rules mentioned above.
    I like kids to focus on reading, thinking and writing not on tangential things such as neatness, lines and what else your list includes…
    I let and even encourage them to doodle, never scold them for folded pages or whatever mistakes they make.
    Of course, it is my opinion and I don’t claim to be the best – just a different approach.


    1. I think this blog post has been misinterpreted. I definitely agree that the focus should be on reading thinking and writing and students shouldn’t be scolded for mistakes made. I am simply suggesting students be encouraged to take care of their books in quick easy steps in order to foster care and pride in their learning.


  3. I find your requirement to have books covered in contact interesting. As a parent I am very aware of the cost not only in financial terms but also in time spent covering books. If you have several children, this can add up. It does make the books last a little longer but the difference is not great and it also means that they are no longer suitable for recycling once the school year is finished. As for the neatness expectation – fine for all the kids who get a kick out of “pretty” books. Not so great for those whose thinking and way of working is a bit more chaotic. I am the mother of boys, neither of whom are neat and tidy workers yet they still manage to excel academically. Yes, pride in presentation has its place but to my mind it is far less important than curiosity, understanding and engagement in learning.


    1. Thanks for your comment. I think the expectations may change due to the school you are working in, I’ve grown up in schools that require books to be covered and it has worked really well.

      See my previous comments stating that I definitely agree that curiosity, understanding and engagement in learning is far more important than bookwork and encouraging neatness.

      I think teachers should find a balance in fostering care and pride in bookwork and learning while not impacting on their learning, curiosity etc.



  4. I totally agree with the expectations that you have listed here. I believe that for younger (primary school aged) children who have not yet developed their own strategies for organising their work – that guidance is necessary! I have been teaching for many years and I have tried many different approaches to this. What I have found is that by giving students no expectations, work is often incomprehensible to both themselves and the teacher and mistakes are frequent. Of course, bookwork expectations for individual learners differ, depending on the needs of each child! A focus on expectations only needs to be done for the first few weeks at the beginning of each year and then most students get the hang of it! When students produce work that they are proud of – it develops confidence and promotes high self esteem! I totally agree that the bookwork expectations outlined above are totally seperate from the content of the work being produced by the students.


    1. Hi Jenny,

      Thanks for you comment. I’m glad to hear setting expectations at the beginning of the year worked for you and your class. I think it is great that it fostered confidence and high self esteem! Well done. Thank you for pointing out that encourgaing pride in bookwork is seperate from the content of work being produced by the students – I’m glad my point was understood.



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