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loaded, and will go off on the least provocation. But few questions are asked, and those few are but in such a manner as to insure an
The greater part of the hour allotted to the recitation, is consumed by the Teacher in telling his class what he knows of the subject
and very agreeably he does it too. The pupils of course knew, when the lesson was assigned, that they would not be called on to recite it, that the Teacher would take the onerous task off their minds; and justice compells me to add, that he is none the less popular for it. Observe the countenances of the different members of the class. How pleased and interested they look! Surely, you think, this man is doing a good work. Be not deceived; be is unwittingly stultifying those naturally fine intellects. There is no mental culture there. Examine the class. You will find they can tell you nothing, not even of the lecture they have just heard. The intellect may have been very pleasantly titillated, but no deep furrows have been plowed in the minds' fallow, and no seeds of knowledge have been dropped therein. I grant that useful crumbs of information may accidentally be picked up in this way, but any mental discipline acquired worth the having, never.
My ideas of a good recitation are somewhat different from this. I call that a good recitation which is given with clearness and fluency, and not in too many words; for the pupil should be early taught to avoid that error too grievously common, of spreading a little thought over a great surface. And further, I like to see a Teacher a good listener, rather than a showy talker-one who says but little himself, but has the faculty of making his pupils talk, and talk well.
In their dislike for memoriter recitation, even those who have not become entirely enamored with the lecturing method, but yet incline to the belief that good mental discipline requires some little study on the part of the pupil himself, fall into a very grave error.
Instead of following the text book, the pupil is allowed to give definitions in his own words. Every thinking mind must perceive, that if the latter course is pursued, the inevitable result will be a laxness and indefiniteness, fatal to any after just conceptions of the subject. No mere boy, and but few men, can give exact and logical definitions. A definition should be cumbered with no useless words, but be given in the least possible number, that will convey the exact idea. Can this be done from a boy's own limited resources of thought alone? We are accustomed to say, “if my pupil gives me the idea, I don't care for the words”. if the idea and the words could be separated ! Have you ever noticed how extremely limited the vocabulary of children is- even of those in
the highest classes of our public schools? And can it be supposed, that with their small stock in trade of words, such children can get up a definition in mathematics, grammar or any other science, that a Teacher ought to receive? Such an idea is simply absurd. Judging from the frequent failures, definitions must be very difficult for even our best authors, those who have spent years of careful study on their respective branches.
The pupil then should commit the definitions to memory. I care not whether they be found in the text book, or formed by the Teacher. But after the best form bas been determind upon, that is what should be taken, suffering nothing to be added nor subtracted.
But it is urged, that if “ book definitions are required, we are in danger of obtaining mere words without ideas, thus lumbering the brain with useless furniture. Why this should be the case, if the Teacher is a competent one, inore by this method than any of the looser ones, I am at loss to know.
It was the remark of a distinguished Teacher, who followed the memoriter method most rigidly, that there were two things to be got in a lesson, the letter and the spirit; and that it was always his aim to bave pupils get both, and although he could not always be sure of the latter, he could of the former; and he thought that much better than a failure in both. How often a failure does take place in both under our improved fast methods, is a question for each Teacher's own experience.
But it may be inquired whether the lecture method is always objectionable. My reply woulà be, “certainly not always.” I have no doubt there is a point in a mental culture, where it may be most properly applied; but just as surely that point is not reached in our primary or grammar schools. Before this method is used, the student should have received that kind and amount of mental drill, that will enable him to arrange his facts systematically, and to reason upon them logically.
I regard the German system of education, however fashionable it may be with some of the advocates of unlimited freedom on this subject, to denounce it as a cunningly devised scheme of tyrants, to fetter the minds of their subjects as they have the bodies, as the only one worthy the name of system. Other nations, our own among them, have methods but not systems. In the German system, the different parts all fit beautifully into each other, each school doing its own work, and that alone; there is no lapping back, but from the beginning there is a steady onward progress. The primary school does its work up to a certain point; there the gymnasium takes up the pupil and gives him that thoroughly mental drill necessary to fit him for the University, which stands at the apex of the system. This, with its libraries, and its lecturers whose fame is bounded only by the circumference of civilization, has no parallel in other countries. There is dropped into a soil thoroughly prepared, the seeds of a knowledge mighty for the quickening of thought.
With us then, as in Germany, would I confine the lecturing method to the final stage of a youth's education. Engrafting this on a solid basis, we should induce in our young men such a freedom and power of thought, and such an originality and perseverance of investigation, as would give them a proud place among the most profound scholars of the world.
The above thoughts were suggested by reading in the May number of the Journal a short extract on the subject of Rote Recitations. I think I see such evidences of haste to be learned, in all our methods of instruction, that I deem it both a duty and a privilege to utter a word of warning, and to give my voice in favor of sound instruction. If we cannot keep the flash method of doing things, out of any other department of life, let us as sober and earnest men try at least to exclude it from our educational training.
TEACHING ELEMENTARY SOUNDS.
BY CHARLES S. ROYCE.
I was much pleased to see an article, in the May number of the Journal, upon this subject. Of the importance of this branch of instruction, it seems to me, there can be but one opinion. But I cannot say with Primus, that “there are few schools in which it is not daily, and we might say hourly, practiced,” if by that he means to say that the giving of this kind of instruction is practiced. That we are practicing upon the elementary sounds of our language during almost every waking hour, from our cradles to our graves, is true, and that, during all that time, we fail to enunciate as we should, is also true; but, in traveling over our state for the last four years, have found that, in a majority of the schools which I have visited, they fail to give any instruction in this important branch of education; and, where some little instruction
is given, I bave found that “the method pursued” gives little “valuable exercise.”
For six or seven years, I have pursued a method differing from the "one method," of which Primus speaks.
This method I will explain, after saying, that I am by no means vain enough to suppose that it is perfect, and, that at times I resort to the method spoken of by Primus.
When I commence with children or with adults, I do so without a chart, and with no other aid than a black-board and a piece of crayon. I define an elementary sound for them thus: “An elementary sound is a sound used in speech, which cannot be decomposed, or separated into component parts."
I now write monosyllables for analysis, in order that they may ascertain how many elementary sounds there are in each ; thus see, saw, owe, ache, awe, etc. In ascertaining the number of elementary sounds they must remember that those sounds only are elementary, which cannot be separated into component parts; and they will ascertain that sometimes an entire word may be composed of one elementary sound.
After this preparation, I take another step. I inform them that all sounds used in speech are either voiced or whispered; that a voiced sound is one that is produced with a vibration of the vocal chord ; and, that a whispered souno is one that is produced without such vibration. Again we commence the analysis of easy words; and the pupils determine, not only how many elementary sounds there are in a word, but whether they are voiced or whispered.
When they can easily distinguish a voiced sound from a whispered one, we again advance. They are now told, that, whether voiced or whispered, sounds are either obstructed or unobstructed by the articulatory organs; which are now named to them. Again we commence the analysis of words; and they are called upon to determine the nature of each sound thus far.
At our next step, they are informed, that, if sounds are obstructed they are obstructed at the lips, teeth, gums, bard palate, or soft palate. Again we analyze words, and they determine all these points.
Now, I inform them that these sounds may be obstructed by such a contact of the organs of articulation, as will, for a moment, stop the passage of the sound, or by such a contact as will permit its continu
The former I call a perfect contact of the organs; and the latter, a partial contact of them. All these things are now to be determined by the analysis of words.
But, if we determine that a given sound is unobstructed, then, if it
is voiced, we determine whether it is a simple sound, or a sound in which one simple sound glides into another. The latter, for want of a better term, I call a compound sound.
If simple, they are asked to determine whether they are long or short; and if compound, whether they are open or close. We recognize no subdivisions of the unobstructed, whispered sounds.
Of course, this work must be the work of many weeks with children ; and, with the class of pupils that we find in our Normal Schools, I have found it profitable to spend an hour a day for four or five weeks in going over the ground that I have endeavored to mark out here. And, during most of this time, I have no use for any other chart, than the one we make on the black-board; and this I wish to have effaced at the close of every lesson, and reconstructed, by a pupil, at the commencement of the next.
While questioning pupils in this way, there will be times, when they will not agree, as to the nature of a given sound. In such cases, I would, by all means, avoid deciding for them; but, after giving them an opportunity to express their opinions, first orally, and afterwards by the uplifted hand; I would analyze other words, selecting such as will give them new light, and, then give them another opportunity to express their opinions. At other times, I would have them repeat the sound, both by itself and in connection with other sounds. If they cannot now decide upon its nature, with tolerable unanimity, we may leave it until to-morrow.
Thus, it will be seen, that while they are exercising their vocal organs in the enunciation of the elemenatry sounds, they are also exercising their intellect in determining the manner in which those sounds are produced, and the resultant nature of the sounds. In doing this, I do not unfrequently require them to repeat a sound fifty, and sometimes a hundred times; but, since they are endeavoring to determine the manner in which the sound is produced, this is not wearisome to them.
Again, I would say that I by no means discard the concert exercise upon charts. It is good in its place. In addition to this, we should call for the enunciation of difficult combinations of sounds. And all these exercises should be combined with orthographic parsing. This labor should be performed with a feeling that we, as Teachers, are responsible for the slovenly manner in which our language is pronounced.
I give my address, (Hudson, Erie county, O.,) in order that Primus, or others desiring do so, may communicate with me.