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Life-long Learning

The Life-Long Learners Notebook

In another blog I mentioned “The Life Long Learners Notebook.” Many years ago I attended a workshop given by George Betts.* This is one part of his approach for teaching children to become “autonomous learners.”

(The following directions are my paraphrasing of Betts’ original instructions.)

General Description: The Life-Long Learners Notebook has several sections in which to record observations, discoveries, your thoughts and feelings, and a wide-range of information that captures your many interests and experiences. The phrase “life-long” means this notebook with its collection of ideas can be a resource throughout your life. It can be a springboard for deeper research, a collection of ideas and information, a place for reflection, or simply a way to remember people or places or things that have made an impression with you.

Because this is your notebook, to be used as you wish, you can follow the suggestions as given or adapt them to suit your needs. The only rule is to date each entry.

1. Favorite Words – with or without definitions. List any word you like--for its meaning, for its delicious sound when pronounced (like “chartreuse”), or for the way it rolls around your mouth. These can be in English or any language.

I created a notebook in which I have listed some of the many words for specific colors, e.g. purple can be amethyst, pansy, magenta, aubergine, lilac, mulberry, heather, orchid, Byzantium, thistle, etcetcetc. I used this list extensively when describing the clan of winged horses in volume 2 of the Key Trilogy: The Power Awakens.

2. Favorite Books and Poems – Include the title and the author of books you have read and enjoyed. Include a brief description of the story or poem, if you like, or something that you learned from reading it, characters you liked or who made an impression on you.

Some of my favorite authors and books:

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein

Beloved, Toni Morrison

House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende

Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anya

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon

Daniel Martin, John Fowles

Watership Down, Douglas Adams

The Skull Mantra, Eliot Pattison (he has two series which are great!)

All of Louise Penny’s mysteries, starting with Still Life

The Dark Is Rising (novel and series), Susan B. Cooper

Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling

Flora and Ulysses, Kate DiCamillo

The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate

The Ogress and the Orphans, Kelly Barnhill

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, Adam Gidwitz

The House on the Cerulean Sea, T.J. Klune

3. My Stories and Poems – for instance, “The Chronicles of Allabah” (a story written by two of my favorite girls, my great nieces Leila and Sadie); “Quincy …..” by Elspeth; book titles of Onnee’s)

4. Favorite Music – This can be specific songs, or types of music, or specific performers, or even a copy of a piece of music you have learned to play and loved. Include your favorite musical instruments and your own compositions.

On my list: The Roe Family Singers

The Red Clay Ramblers

Doc Watson

Sandra Boynton’s album “Blue Moo” with such great songs as

“Philadelphia Chickens” performed by Kevin Bacon

“Blue Moo” - Steve Lawrence

“Gorilla Song” - Sha Na Na

“Speed Turtle” - Brian Wilson

“Rabbit Tango” - Patti LaPone

“Your Personal Penguin” - Davy Jones

“One Shoe Blues” - B.B. King

5. Favorite Artists – Artists, styles of art, specific pieces, favorite media you like to use, your goals as an artist, what you want to learn.

On my list: Frida Kahlo; Beatrix Potter; Georgia O’Keefe; Ansel Adams; Stieglitz; Judy Chicago; Diego Rivera; Dale Chihuly; Joseph Tracy; Jana McConnell Nieman

6. Important People in my Life – You can simply list them by name, or add details about who they are and why they are important. Some include names of those with whom they’ve had negative interactions, especially if these experiences had a significant effect on you. You could note something that you have done with this person that you enjoyed. Add pictures of this person if you have them. Include the date of the picture and the ages of the people, if known, as well as their names.

7. Places I’d Like to Visit Someday – Add pictures and articles about these places, if you like. Tell something about why you’d like to visit this place. Cut out pictures from magazines and newspapers. Keep track of sources for information you find about these places. (In 2011 I wrote how much I wanted to visit Ireland but probably was too old—in 2015 I made a trip to Anam Cara: An Artists Retreat outside Eyries, County Cork, Ireland!!)

8. People I’d Like to Meet Someday; Subjects I’d Like to Know More About – Let your imagination soar! You can include people who are no longer alive, who are characters in books, or who simply sound intriguing to you. Topics or subjects you’d like to know more about can, of course, be anything.

9. Hopes and Dreams – What do you hope will happen in your life? What do you dream about becoming or doing? What are your wishes for your own life or for the lives of others? This section can be about specific occupations, or general activities or things you most want to be in your life--careers, education, personal dreams, family, adventures, etc.

10. Favorite Quotes, Funny Things People Say or Do - Some like to write down the funny things their friends or family say, or that you have said. In this section you can include those sayings or conversations which have made you laugh, or which have made you think more seriously about something. The quotes can be from your own conversations, or those you overhear, or found in books or heard in movies. Some record the unique sayings they hear their parents or relatives use. For example, “She’s as independent as a hog on ice.”

11. Miscellaneous – In this section include anything you wish to remember that doesn’t fit any of the other categories.

I added these sections: --Things I Know Are True At This Moment

--Gratitude List

A few ideas children and I have brainstormed:

--my favorite animal(s)

--dogs or cats (or animal) I want as a pet/have had as a pet

--people I like, a lot

--games I love; kids in my neighborhood

--chores I dislike

--what I do when I feel bored

--if I had a million dollars, I would . . .

--rules, spoken and unspoken, in my life

--embarrassing moments

--what annoys me

--what I do when I’m feeling anxious or afraid; who comforts me the most

--school would be perfect if I could learn about/do . . . . . .

--favorite teachers

--holidays I love (or hate) and why

--I used to be afraid of . . . .


The list is endless!

George Betts: Past President, NAGC Board of Directors; Professor Emeritus, University of Northern Colorado

Dr. George Betts was Professor Emeritus at the University of Northern Colorado. He was the founder and former director of the Center for the Education and Study of the Gifted, Talented, and Creative, as well as the founder and former director of the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). Dr. Betts was an internationally acclaimed speaker and consultant who specialized in assisting schools, districts, states, and national organizations to implement and refine programs for gifted and talented learners. He developed the Autonomous Learner Model (ALM) for the facilitation of lifelong learners. The ALM is implemented throughout the world.

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