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SARGENT'S STANDARD SERIES.- No. 2.
INTRODUCTORY EXERCISES IN ARTICULATION ; AN EXPLANATORY
INDEX ; READING LESSONS, &c.
AUTHOR OF THE STANDARD SPEAKERS, READERS, SPELLERS, ETC.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by
EPES SARGENT, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
D A large majority of the pieces in this collection, being original, are protected by the copyright.
UNDER the modern improved plan of instruction in reading, regard is had to the learner's ability to spell the words he uscs, and to understand the lesson he reads. With a view to facilitating the spelling process, many of the Elementary Readers in present use have, over every exercise in reading, a number of words selected from it, and arranged in columns, as in a Speller. The learner's inference is, that those words, and those only, are to he studied; whereas no good reason can be given why all the words in the exercise should not be learned. Many of our most juilicious teachers, perceiving the inconsistency of the system, have objected to it as superfluous ar.d confusing. It has also been abandoned in the more recent Elementary Readers from the London and Edinburgh press.
A much better practice is it for the pupil to prepare himself to spell all the words in his exercise; or in a portion of it, if the whole be too hard a task. To assist him in this, a number of the more difficult words in the early exercises of the present volume have been divided into their component syllables. The principles of syllabication may be found laid down on page 25.
Unquestionably, the best means of attaining accuracy in spelling is by writing from dictation. “The ordinary, and perhaps the only and shortest way of learning spelling,” says Mr. Smart,“ is by the eye, in the same manner that we learn pronunciation by the car.” People who write much are generally correct spellers. In the early stages of instruction, the ordinary mode of spelling may be more conveniently practised; but the writing mode may be applied with advantage even in the instruction of the very young. *
A plan adopted in the Edinburgh elementary schools is this : The teacher writes on the black-board the successive letters forming a word, the pupil telling the teacher what letters to put down. When the word is finished, the teacher asks the class, “Is this word correct?” All are cager to give opinions, but no one is allowed to speak except one selected. Should he fail, a second is applied to; and, so on, till the word is made right. Many advantages attend this plan. “It impresses the intimate connection
* See thin subject illustrated in Sargent's Standard Spellers.
between form and sound; gives a correct, extensive, and permanent knowledge of spelling, and has a powerful effect on the gencral intellect, inducing a habit of prompt and accurate perceptio!. If well managed, it may afford valuable instruction, in a most amusing form, to fifty or a hundred boys at once; indeed, to as many as can see the writing on the board. This is a practice extensively pursued in Germany, Holland, and Switzerland, and a lopted with great success in the High School of Glasgow, and other large seminaries."
With regard to the interrogative system applied to the meaning of words in reading-lessons, the extent to which it may be protiiably carried will depend on the capacity of pupils, and the nature of their other studies. The fallacy of appending a string of questions to every reading-lesson has been commented on by the authors of a recent work on education in the following terms :
“ To all such set-down questions we most decidedly object. When questions are printed, the pupils learn the answers, and nothing more; whereas every word in the lesson may form the basis of a dozen questions at least, exclusive of the collateral explanations which may be suggested.
In explaining to a child the meaning of his reading-lesson, the method pursued in the best European seminaries is both elliptical and erplanatory. A lesson is first read, each member of the class reading a single paragraph, or more, according to the teacher’s direction. The books are th:en laid aside, and the teacher commences the task of probing the pupil's meinory, by reading sentence after sentence froin the exercise, omitting one or more words, or, it may be, half-words, which are to be supplied by the children. The latter are also called upon, singly or collectively, to explain meanings, and give any collateral information on the subject that they may possess. In this species of colloquy, care must be taken not to overwork the young mind. Only very simple ideas are to be roused, and such inatters alluded to as may be supposed to interest and encourage the dawning faculties.
Coine, let us walk out into the fields. The sun shines in the sky. As an example of the interrogative system, we present the following, applied to the foregoing sentences. The language in Roman letters is supposed to be by the teacher; that in Italics, by the pupil: —
“Now, children, put by your hooks, and I will see if you remember what you have been reading. Come, let us walk ... out. What do you mean by out? It is out of the house (or, perhaps, cries another), out at the door. Just so; we go out. Now, what are we going to walk into ? The fields. Very good; the fields. Can any of you spell fields? Yes, I can spell it, — f-i-e-l-d-s. Right; now, see if you can spell it, James. [James, perhaps, fails in the attempt; but another does it, and so the teacher proceeds.) Well, we have walked out into the fields. Do any of you
know what the fields are like? Large. Yes, they are large ; but what is their color ? Green. Can you tell me what green is like ?
The leares on that tree are green. The blinds on that house are green. Very well answered. Now, do you know what grows in the fields ? Grass. What is the use of grass ? Cows eut it. And so do many other animals. Do cows give us anything? They gire us milk. Is grass always green, think you?
Yes. Did you ever see grass any other color? No. But suppose, during a lot summer, the sun should shine very bright for a long time, and there should be no rain, what color do you think the grass would be? Brown. Then grass is not always green? No. It sometimes is ... brown Now, tell me what it is that shines in the ... sky. The sun. Does the sun always shine ? No, it does not shine at night. Now I must tell you what becomes of the sun at night. Here the teacher gives a slight explanation of the sun shining continually at one place or other, so as to correct the childish supposition that it goes to bed, or sinks into the sea, at night.]
* By this method of omitting words, of cross-questioning, and easy conversational explanation of difficulties, it is impossible that a child can learn his lessons merely by rote. His young faculties are excited to listen, to comprehend, and to answer. He cons over and reads his lesson, not with the bald design of repeating it, or drawling monotonously over the words, but of acquiring information, and exhibiting his little store of knowledge among his schoolfellows. One very material advantage in this improved method of instruction is the cultivation of the art of speaking. The teacher should speak in the best English, and take care that the answers are equally correct in style, grammar, and clear articulation."
It is not recommended that the attempt should be made to level every sentence and word in a reading-lesson to the immediate and entire comprehension of the child. This would be impracticable. “What blockheads,” says Robert Southey,
those wise persons who think it necessary that a child should comprehend everything it reads !” There is truth in the remark, though exaggeration in the form of it; but it is also true that the more a child comprehends what he reads, the better he will read it.
Increasing attention has been paid, of late years, to the subject of articulation, in our elementary schools. It is undoubtedly important that right habits in this respect should be imparted at the earliest possible age. Vicious modes of articulation and pronunciation, acquired even before the child has learned to read, are difficult to reform. As the simplest and most effectual process for regulating the reader's articulation, I have placed the drilling exercises by themselves, in the introductory portion of the present volume. This arrangement has, I think, many advantages over the common but immethodical practice of placing over every reading-lesson a number of exercises in vowel and consonant combina