Dispatch from Italy – The quaderno

Published on 18th March, 2010 in Author Blog by Lindsay Clandfield

Last week I was in northern Italy for a book tour that took me to Turin, Dolo (just outside Venice) and Bergamo. Aside from giving and attending workshops on speaking skills, culture and blended learning I also had the opportunity to meet several teachers and sit in on some classes. Actually this time I gave some classes. As well as wanting to experience first hand an Italian high school class from the teacher’s perspective I had an ulterior motive. I wanted to find out a bit more about the quaderno, an Italian school tradition I had come across a few years ago.

Quaderno stands for notebook, and every Italian student has a special quaderno for their homework. It begins at six years old and in elementary school. Teachers assign homework, which students write in the quaderno. This is done at the end of the class. The teacher can use the quaderno also to send messages to parents, and parents can always see what homework their children have. Some teachers ask students to get their parents to sign the quaderno so they (the parents) know what work is being assigned, when tests are etc.

This kind of thing seems to me very useful and doesn’t happen as a matter of course everywhere. My nine year old son in Spain comes home and just tells us if he has homework or not. Sometimes we get calls from other parents asking what the homework was (as their son or daughter has forgotten). A quaderno would solve this.

By high school the students don’t always need to have the quaderno signed by parents but they are still using one. Does this solve the problem of “they just don’t do homework?” No, laughed a teacher when I asked. Not doing homework is as much a problem in Italy as anywhere else. But to my mind, it helps solve certain problems I’ve had as a teacher: that I’ve forgotten myself to assign homework, or forgotten that I’ve assigned it, or had students tell me they didn’t realise there was homework because I had barked out the homework assignment in the last thirty seconds of class as everyone was putting away their books.

I know that students have notebooks everywhere. I know that the quaderno is perhaps not a huge innovation, but it caught my eye as a useful time and work management tool, especially as I am someone who feels they get much more done if they write it down in lists and get organised.

Do you have something like this in your educational context? Please post a comment and share your thoughts.


  • I saw this this English Learner Notebook http://enleno.com/ while at TESOL Spain last week, a very simple idea for helping learners. Had a nice look and feel and in this technology-enhanced world it’s great to promote organized notes, still a very important learner skill. However, having brought up two kids here in Italy I’m not sure that I agree with all the uses s!

    Valentina Dodge on 18 March, 2010
  • I had one of these at school, too… in the UK, twenty years ago. It was pretty handy…

    Darren Elliott on 19 March, 2010
  • Here in Belgium every child starts school at age 6 with a ‘journal de classe’ (school agenda), they use one right through to the end of secondary. They are often provided by the school and therefore all have exactly the same format. Homework, study and any messages to and from school and home are noted in it. I think it’s an excellent way of keep the ‘team’ of student, parent and teacher communicating together.

    Deborah Tate-Smith on 19 March, 2010
  • Thanks for the comments. I also had notebooks at school in Canada, but not as “institutionalized” as the quaderno, or the journal de classe. I guess that is why I found this interesting to note.

    Lindsay Clandfield on 19 March, 2010
  • Sorry only just realised that my comment was cut… Let me finish, what I meant is I’m not sure I agree with the secondary school uses of “quaderni” in Italy.
    Often used to simply copy from the board or re-write from text book. It would make more sense to use a workbook for some of the “quaderno” task. Personalising a quaderno with mind map or study notes or hightlights doesn’t seem to be encouraged that much and dependins on the learner. Notebooks are very importan in promoting “reinforcemnetn” but

    Valentina Dodge on 23 March, 2010