The practise of keeping a Commonplace Book can be traced through the ages from the birth of writing and the creation of scrolls and books. Today the art of commonplacing continues through apps, blogs, photo records, and the good ol' paper and pen notebook. It's a fascinating history and the trail shows that keeping a Commonplace Book is not something just for academically inclined students. It is a practise for all of life and for every lifestyle. I think this universiality of the art of commonplacing is a key reason why it so valuable as part of a home education life and a valuable practise for our teens to develop as a daily habit - for life and learning. May I also say commonplacing is invaluable for parents as well. It's never too late to try something new.
In its simplest form a Commonplace Book is a place to record quotes from your literature readings that inspire, challenge, or ignite something within you that you want to meditate upon and remember. After keeping such a book for a couple of years you will be able to reflect back upon your quotes and notes and you will remember what was happening in your life at the time, why that quote mattered, what you learned from the idea and how you put this into practise. You can reflect on the question of whether that quote would have the same impact on you today? This process is a very natural part of your personal learning journey.
Three Steps to Commonplacing with Teens
As part of a teen's life of learning, keeping a Commonplace Book is a natural and simple record of what they have read, what they are thinking about, what they find interesting, and what matters to them. If the habit of copywriting has been encouraged in a teen's childhood then the art of commonplacing is a natural development from copywriting. Alternatively if a teen is new to this way of learning at home, diving straight into commonplacing is a gentle introduction to active reading, questioning, and thinking about ideas, concepts, and information. It's about them and what they are connecting with.
A next step to developing the art of commonplacing is thinking about quotes from literature that illustrate a theme, perspective, or question the teen is exploring. This is something that works especially well when studying works of literature and delving deeper as a teen thinks and discusses questions and themes they come across. Here a teen would record a quote they believe fits with the theme or question and make a note explaining how the quote connects to the theme or question.
A commonplace declamation expands on the idea of connecting quotes from literature that illustrate a theme, perspective, or question. A commonplace declamation is a useful practise for quotes referred to in a discussion of a work of literature or an essay based upon a topic from the work of literature. A commonplace declamation begins with explaining the context of the quote (what is happening in the story leading up to the chosen quote), a copy of the quote and its reference page/chapter, and finishing with a defence of why that quote illustrates the topic and the point of view the student is exploring/defending.
A Guide: A Project
Something I am currently working on is this Art of Commonplace guidebook. Drawing from my experiences of commonplacing with teens and using commonplacing as part of our portfolio samples for the HEU, this guide will give an overview of commonplacing, how commonplacing is an excellent companion to learning, commonplacing notebook pages to get you started, and tips for using excerpts from the Commonplace Book as HEU work samples for highschool.
This is my gift to you.
Contact me to receive this Art of Commonplace guidebook as a free pdf.
Available from July 1st 2017.