|Just a delicious new recipe Marit made – a summer raspberry cake.|
Are you looking to get your kids started with commonplacing this fall? Last year I implemented an idea for my children to start this habit and it worked so well, I want to share it with you. Perhaps you can find some ideas here to help your children start and in the process teach them a new way to listen to both what they hear and what they read. (If you are unfamiliar with keeping a commonplace book, please read this post – “Silva Rerum – Commonplacing as a Habit” or this one – “Occupy Notebooks – Join the Revolution“.)
From Cheney’s (dd8) commonplace book –
No tiddle taddle nor pibble babble. – Henry V 4.1
Yes, nightingales answer daws! – Twelfth Night 3.4.38
Each bird sat singing to his mate
soft cooing notes among the trees. – from “Paradise” by Christina Rossetti
It is generally thought that Charlotte Mason had her students keep a commonplace book beginning around age 13. But there are a few mentions of younger children doing something along the lines of a commonplace book. There’s this – “A certain sense of possession and delight may be added to this exercise if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favourite verse in one poem and another. This is better than to write a favourite poem, an exercise which stales on the little people before it is finished. But a book of their own, made up of their own chosen verses, should give them pleasure.” 1.238 And then there’s this – “In the reading of the Bible, of poetry, of the best prose, the culling of mottoes is a delightful and most stimulating occupation…” 3.135
While neither of these quotes is referring specifically to a commonplace book, it does show that she thought younger children were capable of choosing and writing favorite passages. Since I formally have my children start a commonplace book at around 13, I was excited to read that perhaps a form of commonplacing, even if Mom transcribed, could take place before then.
From LizzieBee’s (dd10) commonplace book –
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire. – from “Barefoot Boy” by John Greenleaf Whittier
Poetry is a type-font designed for an alphabet of fun, hate, love, death. – Carl Sandburg
The very first thing I did was keep a commonplace book myself. Be an example – right? Then, because I teach Shakespeare and poetry in our TBG Community, I thought maybe that if a bunch of kids were doing it, it might be even more attractive to the children. I was right.
The older students (including the teachers) either already had commonplace books or would choose one on their own. For all the others, the youngest being 6, I bought sturdy, attractive matching notebooks from the craft store.
Shakespeare begins our meetings. After my short lesson, I brought out the notebooks. “We are going to begin commonplace books. This book will be your very own to record your favorite poems, passages, lines or even just words from Act 1 which you will be reading this week. I want you to pick something that tickles your brain or something that you don’t want to forget – something that means something special to YOU! When we come together for our next meeting, we will begin our time with each of us sharing our entries. So try and listen closely. If nothings strikes you, don’t make an entry. I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!”
Then for poetry, I basically did the same thing. They needed to choose something from the poet they were reading during the next few weeks at home.
From LeMoyne’s (ds13) commonplace book –
Dost thou think because thou are virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale? – Twelfth Night 2.3.114
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad. – from “Remember” by Christina Rossetti
This has become a favorite part of our meetings. We begin our Shakespeare time by sharing our entries and the same with poetry. It makes a great review/recap/refresher, too. Rarely does a student not have something to share – and it is just fine if they don’t. What a delight to see the individual entries and how they reflect the personality of that student! Or the pleasure on their faces when, out of all the reading, someone else liked the same passage!
Normally, the commonplace book is a personal thing and does not necessarily need to be shared. I would be sensitive to that with my students. But this exercise has helped the younger students delight in the habit, listen eagerly for the part that touches them, and willingly share with others. I know that my children and also those in other families have now read and heard things outside of school time and said, “Ohhh, I want to put that in my commonplace book!”
While these students are already adept at narrating and listening attentively, this has brought a whole new layer to their listening and learning. A new way to listen.
From joy to joy,