Commonplace book project begins

Posted: November 6, 2016 in Uncategorized
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So, I’ve been thinking about commonplace books this school year. Ever since I saw Ann Hamilton’s exhibit habitus at the Philadelphia Fabric Workshop museum, I have been thinking about how this on going habit of collection and reflection. I wrote about it earlier and found others are writing about commonplace books this as well. An art colleague uses Pinterest with her class for their visual commonplace books. She finds it helps students hone in on what they might want to do for their independent projects.

Ann Hamilton's deconstructed commonplace book in her exhibit, habitus, at The Fabric Workshop. Photo by me.

Ann Hamilton’s deconstructed commonplace book in her exhibit, habitus, at The Fabric Workshop. Photo by me.

Well, we are about to begin our commonplace books. I have also been investigating hyperdocs, after the amazing @TeacherDebra featured this tool in her weekly round up recently. As I wrote before, I am trying to get students into a habit of noticing what they notice. Seniors, really any age readers, have their own interests, yet I worry that they have forgotten that they have their own interests around reading if teachers are always directing discussion. While I recognize my role in promoting a discussion that does more than recap plot, I am becoming more and more aware that students must play a more vital role in molding and shaping that discussion. If we are reading even quasi-good books, there is plenty to talk about. The question is not so much what has to be discussed, but what discussion the readers can generate.

As we read our big book of the semester, my goal is to do two things:

  1. to encourage and structure ways for students to notice what stands out for them as they read and to comment on this as they read.
  2. to empower and push students to be responsible for having a discussion that is of interest to them and one requires thinking beyond the plot.

I think these two goals go hand in hand. It will probably also mean some quiet and maybe awkward moments in class. Silence is not bad; I can wait.

We have read the first few chapter of our new book. I had several things I wanted to get out there at the beginning, so I set up a bit with our first discussion. Over the weekend I asked students to look at the hyperdoc below to get acquainted with commonplace books and our project. (I have talked about this in class before, so it’s not out of left field.)

I also asked that they respond to an online question asking what they wanted to talk about in regards to the reading. Could be a passage or an idea. I will see how this goes. I may alternate days between passages and big ideas, because I suspect big ideas will be what students suggest more frequently, and we do need to do some close, slow looking.

I am trying to be very clear with my class about these goals. It’s nothing secret. So far, when I have asked, they have stepped up.


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