A New Way to Listen - Commonplacing for the Little People

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,
Cheney twirling.


  1. First, that rasberry cake looks wonderful!

    I commonplace books (and keeping other notebooks as well...art ideas, personal writing, gratitude lists, reviews of books read). Such a fun habit to have, and even more fun when you see young people enjoy it too.

    I also want to tell you I went to the post office today to pick up a package waiting for me. It was Janet Marsh's Nature Diary. I found a used copy online. I opened the box right at the post office and starting browsing the book as I walked home! Love it! Thank you for that recommendation.

  2. That cake is wonderful! You can substitute any summer berries that are in season. I need to find the link and share it.

    So glad you like the book, too! I love the thought of you looking through it at the post office.

    From joy to joy,

  3. I'm so glad you talked about younger children having a commonplace book too. My oldest (12yo) started one a few years ago. I enjoy when she shares some of her entries with me. It is so fun to see her selections these last few years.

    If you find that link please do share!

    1. Here's the recipe for the raspberry buttermilk cake: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Raspberry-Buttermilk-Cake-353616

  4. I love this! I think this might be a great way to keep my children listening during our read aloud times. I read your past entries about Commonplace books, too. Thank you for an inspiring post.

  5. I have been hearing a lot lately in regards to CM educating, "But what do you actually DO?" This is GREAT for all the new-to-CM'ers out there. My Mothers Diary is my all in one spot for my 5 yo's common place entries like this for now.

    The cake looks wonderful! Love the photos.

  6. though i don't think i'd push too hard with this here with my littlest people (though i totally see the merit, logistics is all)... i think a co-op is the perfect place to introduce the idea (yes, i am jealous). you've done well.

    i do completely agree that occasionally storing up the littles' thoughts in one pretty place will help them to see how easy and delightful the habit of commonplacing will be if not now, later! and certainly if they catch the fancy to dedicate time to it in early years... what a treasure will be theirs!

    and i also LOVE the idea of everyone who is willing sharing their entries... this i do want to try to remember and implement in our weekly tea times where we sip and dip into 'ourselves'.

    i also love how i can hear your voice in my mind as i read your posts. ;)

  7. I need to dust off my commonplace book! I really enjoyed it when I did it...I think that my Annie (8) would enjoy it as well...thanks for the ideas and thoughts! :)