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PROVIDENCE, MAY, 1852.
HINTS TO TEACHERS. [From Mr. Barnard's Report of the Exercises of the Institute held at
Wolcottville, Ct., Sept. 30, 1850.]
[Continued from page 234.] In support of this last and most important injunction, the following are alleged as facts, and every teacher is competent to decide whether they are facts or mere fancy, viz. :-Large classes often spell well with the tongue, but miserably with the pen. Scholars often write beautifully in their copybooks, but abominably when called upon to write a letter, &c. Scholars can often spell a spelling-book straight through, who cannot use one in ten of the words they spell. Classes will often recite well, who yet cannot write out the very words they repeated a moment before. Boys frequently read a lesson fluently, and yet cannot tell a single idea that is conveyed by their lesson. A teacher may, very often, by reading from a scholar's book, adding never a word, explain a dark puzzle, which the learner never dreamed was elucidated in the book, &c.
Are any or all of the above assertions facts? If they are, they assuredly point clearly the road to improved teaching.
By "reading is generally meant, the mere learning to articulate, inflect, &c. Of these exercises mention will be made under the head devoted to their consideration.
Let it be borne in mind that we are not aiming to set forth labor-saving methods; so far as teacher's labor is in question, we are fourfolding it in intensity, even while we shorten it in duration. Young children have a shamefully dull time of it, learning to read; and our hope and aim is to suggest alleviations of this stupid slavery to the alphabet and spelling-book, which renders our little boys and girls such living testimony against our professional skill. But to return to “Reading."
In actual life we read for our own information; we read for the sake of catching the sentiment we read. Hence,
1. It is far more important (and far more difficult) to teach classes to read understandingly, than it is to render them skillful pronouncers of words. "I had rather speak five words with my understanding * *** than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue,” says the teacher Paul. Yet nine-tenths of the children in this state, merely to gratify a longing after big leather covered reading books, do stammeringly read “ten thousand words in an unknown tongue," and too many teachers never dream of asking “understandest thou what thou readest ?"
2. Every word of every reading lesson should be thoroughly understood, ere the lesson is connectedly read.
3. For young classes, the teacher ought carefully to explain and familiarly paraphrase every reading lesson, and (as an exercise in writing and spelling,) require an accurate transcription of, at least, a paragraph or two, as the regular preparation for the recitation.
4. More advanced classes should make this paraphrase for themselves, and write it out fairly, learning to use their dictionary as the companion of all their studies.
5. The mechanical training of the vocal organs should not be based upon the reading lesson, but should stand by itself as a mechanical exercise.
6. All the lessons of school should be treated as reading lessons, and be carefully read aloud by the class ere they be giv
for recitation. It must be borne in mind that we define reading, as a branch of school training, thus: Reading is the art of understanding the thoughts of others when they address the eye, either in script or print. Vocal excellence is quite a different attainment.
Our schools too often teach the voice to read, and let the understanding go uncultivated, in this exercise.
1st (contin.) LANGUAGE. “ English Grammar.” There is usually a prejudice existing in the minds of parents and children against the thorough pursuit of this department of language. The prejudice is well founded if the siudy be pursued by the book, and accomplished in the same way that tables of weight and measure are mastered. Equal folly is it to attempt to teach a child the “art of speaking and reading and writing" his vernacular language, by the use of a grammar one hour a day, if he listens to and uses faulty forms of speech all the rest of his time.
1. Having learned by use one language fluently, and then
studied the laws of its formation and construction, we are then able, in leerning a second language, to derive aid from its grammar. In our schools, where as yet, the English language is imperfectly used, it is of but little value to the learner to know, that “a verb must agree with its subject in number and person,” or that “I, my or mine, me,” are three persons of the first personal pronoun; of little value, that is, in the matter of learning to speak and write correctly the language. We use language in unconsciousness of its laws. We use it just as we breathe, without pausing to ask what muscles shall act and what rest inactive. Hence :
2. The study of English Grammar should never be allowed to outstrip the child's ability to use the language correctly, but should be pursued, as an exercise teaching the child to classify familiar words, pointing out their syntax, and ascertaining their precise power and office in a sentence. For,
3. English grammar affords the simplest and most truly progressive exercises in generalization and abstract thought, that can be devised for childhood. This is the true value of the study. As ordinarily pursued, it is valueless.*
A book usually makes a scholar deem the lesson one to be merely memorized ; a memorized lesson from a grammar is invariably useless, nay, injurious. Hence:
4. A teacher should have half a dozen grammars for his own use, but should teach his classes, particularly his younger classes, orally, or by black-board ; and the class should study grammar from the reading book, and from original sentences, using slate and pencil for every lesson.
Parsing, when confined to an oral exercise, is rarely studied by a class before the recitation hour. It usually degenerates into a mere repetition of certain gibberish, learned by constant exercise, and repeated by rote. Hence:
5. Exercises in parsing should be continually varied, so as to exclude any mechanical habit.
Written forms of synoptic parsing should be required frequently; and the phraseology of recitation should vary from week to week.t
*See Smith's, Green's, Wells' and Webb's Grammar; seeking not for specimens of critical skill, but for exercises of simple beuuty for young classes.
+ Synoptic Parsing is used for the sake of condensing much matter into small space, in many grammars. As an important aid in study, or as lightening a teacher's labor in school, we do not often find it. A specimen is subjoined of written parsing, as applied to nouns and verbs. A glance from a practiced teacher will detect errors in exercises thus arranged, while hours of labor without this con In the study of a language, there are two main divisions.-(1.) Its logical force or meaning, and, (2.) its grammatical laws or mechanical construction. We have alluded to exercises in paraphrase, as important preparation for a reading lesson. This exercise takes hold of the logical department. As a final and test exercise, by which to prove the attainment of a class in the technical or mechanical mastery of language-the following is offered:
6. Grammatical paraphrase is an exercise perhaps the most compendious and difficult that can be devised for this branch of study. By it is meant, the production of two sentences or paragraphs, whose sense shall be diverse, but whose syntax and grammatical quality-i. e. whose parsing shall be absolutely identical. A short specimen is subjoined.
Sentence. “Wit is to life, what bells are to horses, not expected to draw the load, but only to jingle while the horses draw."
Paraphrase. Rest is for labor, what ebb-tides are for floods, never intended to rule the ocean, nor even to last till the waves return. This paraphrase is faulty intentionally, in the words "ebb-tides,” (compound) “ bells,” (simple); “ horses,” (com. gend.) “Hoods,” (neut. gend.); “last," (neuter) “jingle," (active); "waves." " " horses;" “ return," (regular); - draw,” (irregular.) A perfect paraphrase of this sentence is possible, except of the words in italic, which have no grammatical equivalents in our language; let teachers test the difficulty of this exercise by trying this sentence. 7. An appetite, a motive for this study must be sought for, from the love which all minds have, to do original thinking. Experimentally it has been found the most intensely fascinating
densation on the part of the scholar, will hardly suffice to correct seven or eight exercises.
EXERCISE. Sentence.--Little children, love one another. Syntax, Children love. Syntax.
Children love or Pt. of Sp. Noun.
Pr. of Sp.
Verb. [love ye. Class. Common.
Class by form. Regular. Gender. Common.
Class by mean'g. Transitive. Number. Plural.
Active. Person. Second.
Imperative. Case. Nom. or Indpstt.
Present. Rule illustrated. “The subject of Person.
Second. a finite verb is always in the Number. Plural. Noin. Case," or, “ The name of Agreement.
Children or ye. a person or thing addressed,” Rule illustrated. “A finite vert must &c.
agree with the meaning of its subject in number and person."
study which can be offered to a learner. That English grammar is usually interesting or useful in our schools as they are, cannot be truly affirmed. The fault is not in the study, but in the incapacity of the teacher. 1st. [contin.] LANGUAGE. “ Analysis and [synthesis] Com
position." The inquiring teacher will find so much practical matter upon these two points in “Green's Analysis,” and “Parker's Exercises in Englsh Composition,” two very cheap and accescessible school books, that little more in detail needs to be said here.
One exceedingly comprehensive and valuable exercise should be mentioned.
Each evening, let from two to six words be announced to all the school that can write. Let these words be important and useful ones; they should be, if possible, radicals, and not mere derivative words. Every scholar that can, should prepare a written exercise at home, embracing the following points. 1. Spelling. 2. Notation of the orthoepy. 3. Definition. 4. Part of speech. 5. Illustration by an original sentence; of the meaning and use of each one of the six words. 6. Syntax of each sentence.*
The teacher should from time to time limit and vary the subjects upon which the school shall compose his true sentence; one day Geography, next History, next Grammar, &c.
In preparing this exercise, and in the various recitations based upon it, more profitable study may be secured than by any
other one study that can be devised. For advanced classes may be added to the above requirements—7. Analysis of each sentence. 8. Derivative words based upon the words given. 9. Synonymes and Paraphrase. 10. Metre and prosody, &c.
We take leave of this subject, LANGUAGE, only requesting of
every teacher to think out some course of instruction which shall consist with our fundamental principles, and still make this department as relatively important in school, as it must evidently become in life. Men are oftener thought-tied than tongue-tied ; slower of mind than of speech; blind in their
*Example of this exercise. Man-u-script, (n. and adj.) Definition. A piece of writing; any thing written by hand ; adj. Written by hand.
Illustration (as a noun.) In the Patent Office at Washington, may still be seen the original manuscript of the famous Declaration of Independence.