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SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS.
As the present is an age of experiment, as well as improvement in the modes of teaching, the author ventures to suggest the introduction, into our American schools, of a part of the explanatory system of instruction, so successfully practised in the Edinburgh Sessional School under the direction of Mr. Wood.* And he cannot better explain this system, in its application to the exercise of reading, than by presenting an extract from Mr. Wood's valuable work.
Before entering upon the consideration of the reading department, it may be proper to premise some general observations, on that method of EXPLANATION, which has been so highly approved of in the Sessional School. Its object is threefold : first, To render more easy and pleasing the acquisition of the mechanical art of reading ; secondly, To turn to advantage the particular instruction contained in every individual passage which is read; and, above all, thirdly, To give the pupil, by means of a minute analysis of each passage, a general command of his own language.
• It is of great importance to the proper understanding of the method, that all these objects should be kept distinctly in view. With regard to the first, no one, who has not witnessed the scheme in operation, can well imagine the animation and energy which it inspires. It is the constant remark of almost every stranger who visits the Sessional School, that its pupils have not at all the ordinary appearance of school-boys, doomed to an unwilling task, but rather the happy faces of children at their sports. This distinction is chiefly to be attributed to that part of the system of which we are here treating; by which, in place of harassing the pupil, with a mere mechanical routine of sounds and technicali. ties, his attention is excited, his curiosity is gratified, and his fancy is amused.
In the second place, when proper books are put into the hands of the scholars, every article, which they read, may be made the means, not only of forming in their youthful minds the invaluable habit of attention, but also of communicating to them, along with facility in the art of reading, much information, which is both adapted to their present age, and may be of use to them the rest of their lives. How different is the result, where the mechanical art is made the exclusive object of the master's and the pupil's attention! How many fine passages have been read in the most pompous manner, without rousing a single sentiment in the mind of the performer! How many, in which they have left be. hind them only the most erroneous and absurd impressions and associations!
*See the 'Account of the Edinburgh Sessional School,' published by Munroe & Francis, Boston.
But, in the last place, they little know the full value of the explanatory method, who think'it unnecessary, in any case, to carry it beyond what is absolutely essential to enable the pupil to understand the meaning of the individual passage before him at the time. As well, indeed, might it be maintained, that, in parsing, the only object in view should be the elucidation of the particular sentence parsed; or that, in reading Cæsar's Commentaries in a grammar school, the pupil's sole attention should be directed to the manner in which the Gallic war was conduct. ed. A very little reflection, however, should be sufficient to show, how erroneous such a practice would be in either case. The passages gone over in school must of course be very few and limited, and the direct in. formation communicated through them extremely scanty. The skill of the instructor must therefore be exhibited, not merely in enabling the pupil to understand these few passages, but in making every lesson bear upon the proper object of his labors, the giving a general knowledge and full command of the language, which it is his province to teach, together with as much other useful information, as the passage may suggest and circumstances will admit. As in parsing, accordingly, no good teacher would be satisfied with examining his pupil upon the syntactic construction of the passage before him as it stands, and making him repeat the rules of that construction, but would also, at the same time, call upon him to notice the variations, which must necessarily be made in certain hypothetical circumstances; so also in the department, of which we are now treating, he will not consider it enough, that the child may have, from the context or otherwise, formed a general notion of the meaning of a whole passage, but will also, with a view to future exigences, direct his attention to the full force and signification of the particular terms employed, and likewise, in some cases at least, to their roots, derivatives, and compounds. Thus, for example, if in any lesson the scholar read of one having.“ done an unprecedented act," it might be quite sufficient for understanding the meaning of that single passage, to tell him that “ no other person had ever done the like;" but this would by no means fully accomplish the object we have in view. The child would thus receive no clear notion of the word unprecedented, and would therefore, in all probability, on the very next occasion of its recurrence, or of the recurrence of other words from the same root, be as much at a loss as before. But direct his attention to the threefold composition of this word, the un, the pre, and the cede. Ask him the meaning of the syllable un in composition, and tell him to point out to you (or if necessary, point out to him) any other words, in which it has this signification of not, (such as uncommon, uncivil) and, if there be leisure, any other syllables which have in composition a similar effect, such as in, with all its modifications of ig, il, im, ir, also dis, and non, with examples. Next investigate the meaning of the syllable pre in composition, and illustrate it with examples, (such as previous, premature.) Then examine in like manner the meaning of the syllable cede, and having shown that in composition it generally signifies to go, demand the signification of its various compounds precede, proceed, succeed, accede, recede, exceed, intercede. The pupil will in this manner acquire not only a much more distinct and lasting impression of the signification of the word in question, but a key also to a vast variety of other words in the language. This too he will do far more pleasingly and satisfactorily in the manner which is here recommended, than by being enjoined to commit them to memory from a vocabulary at home as a task. It is very true that it would not be possible to go over every word of a lesson with the same minuteness, as
that we have now instanced. A certain portion of time should therefore be set apart for this examination : and, after those explanations have been given, which are necessary to the right understanding of the passage, such minuter investigations only may be gone into as time will admit. It is no more essential, that every word should be gone over in
than that every word should always be syntactically parsed. A single sentence well done may prove of the greatest service to the scholar in his future studies.'
In applying this system of instruction to the First-Class Reader, I would recommend that the pupils have the reading exercise for the day, previously assigned to them, in order that there may be an opportunity for them carefully to study the same, in reference to the examination that is to follow. In reading the book the first time, the examination should be general, rather than otherwise; let the pupils be questioned in regard to the general sense of the piece, and the meaning of prominent words in it. Explanation and illustration should be given by the teacher; such as the meaning of any passage, its allusions, figures, &c. may require. Care should be taken that the scholars do not forget these explanations; this may be prevented by recurring to them at subsequent examinations. In order to show the nature of this first examination, a specimen is subjoined.
In going through the volume the second time, a more particular examination should be instituted. Not only the same kind of questions, which have already been put, are to be repeated, but the pupils should be examined with reference to the analysis of words, their inflections and analogies; and also with reference to the rhetorical features of the composition, and the topics of general information suggested by the text.
Of this second examination, a specimen, such as our limits would allow, is also subjoined. Its nature and character, the extent to which it may be carried, and the interest, which it
may be made to impart to the exercise, will at once be felt and appreciated by every intelligent teacher.
We will take for an example of the following examinations, an extract from the writing of the Rev. Sidney Smith.
APPEAL IN BEHALF OF THE BLIND.
The author of the book of Ecclesiastes has told us, 'that the light is sweet; that it is a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun.' The sense of sight is, indeed, the highest bodily privilege, the purest physical pleasure, which man has derived from his Creator : - to see that wandering fire, after he has finished his journey through the nations,
coming back to us in the eastern heavens; the mountains painted with light; the floating splendor of the sea; the earth waking from deep slumber; the day flowing down the sides of the hills, till it reaches the secret valleys; the little insect recalled to life ; the bird trying her wings; man going forth to his labor; each created being moving, thinking, acting, contriving, according to the scheme and compass of its nature; by force, by cunning, by reason, by necessity. -Is it possible to joy in this animated scene, and feel no pity for the sons of darkness ? for the eyes that will never taste the sweet light? for the poor, clouded in everlasting gloom ?
If you ask me why they are miserable and dejected; I turn you to the plentiful valleys; to the fields, bringing forth their increase ; to the freshness and flowers of the earth; to the endless variety of its colors; to the grace, the symmetry, the shape of all it cherishes, and all it bears. These you have forgotten, because you have always enjoyed them; but these are the means by which God Almighty makes man what he is ; cheerful, lively, erect; full of enterprise, mutable, glancing from heaven to earth; prone to labor and to act.
This is the reason why the blind are miserable and dejected -because their soul is mutilated, and dismembered of its best sense; because they are a laughter, and a ruin, and the boys of the streets mock at their stumbling feet.
Therefore I implore you, by the son of David, have mercy on the blind. If there is not pity for all sorrows, turn the full and perfect man to meet the inclemency of fate. Let not those who have never tasted the pleasures of existence, be assailed by any of its sorrows. that are never gladdened with light, should never stream with tears.
First examination on the foregoing extract. What is the title of the piece? Who is the author? What sacred writer does he quote? What is the quotation? What is the bighest bodily privilege? What is meant by the word 'bodily?' What is here meant by the word
physical?' What pleasures are higher and purer than bodily or physical ones? What other senses have we, besides that of sight? Whose gift are they? What is the 'wandering fire,' mentioned in the text? Why is it spoken of as 'coming back to us in the eastern heavens?' What are the effects of its rising, so beautifully described in the text? What wakes the insects and the birds, and sends man forth to his labor? What are the effects of its return, on other created beings? Do these effects of light, prove the truth of the sacred writer's assertion quoted above? What feeling should our enjoyment of the morning light, excite towards the blind? What beautiful objects of sight are spoken of? Why do we forget their beauty and value? What is the effect of the beauties of nature on man? Why are the blind sad and dejected? Why are the blind peculiarly entitled to our compassion?
Second examination on the foregoing extract. What is the meaning of the word ' author? What is the equivalent word applied to a female? What is the meaning of 'highest?' Of purest?' What is the effect of adding the syllable est, to a word expressing a quality? Give some examples. What is expressed by the word physical?' To what class of words do most of those which end in al belong? When the termination al is added to a noun, into what is it changed? Define • Creator.' From what verb is it derived? What is the meaning of the word 'wandering?' From what is it derived ?. What is the effect of -adding the termination ing to a verb? Give examples. What does the termination ing generally express? Ans. -Continued action. What is the meaning of 'finished ?' From what is it derived? What are some of the other derivatives of the same word. What does the termination ed generally express? Give examples. What is meant by the word 'nations?' What adjective is formed from nation? How? Define 'eastern.' From what is it derived? What other adjectives are derived from the same word? What is the meaning of the word 'heavens in this connection? What other meaning has it? What adjective is derived from the word mountain? What is meant by the mountains painted with light?' Is this a literal or a figurative expression? What other instances occur immediately afterwards of the same figure? What is the 'floating splendor of the sea?' What is meant by the earth waking from her deep slumber?' Point out the words, in this part of the piece, used metaphorically. Why is the day represented as 'flowing down the sides of the hills?' What is 'painted' derived from? Name other derivatives of the same word.
From what is the word 'waking' derived ? What other words have the same derivation? Give some of the derivations of the word 'deep! Of 'slumber,' of
day.' How do 'hills' differ from mountains ? What is the diminutive for ‘hill?' What are 'valleys?' Why is the term 'secret' applied to them? What is the meaning of recalled? What does the first part of the word recalled' signify? Can you give any other examples of that syllable having the same signification (as remit, revert &c.) What does the latter part of recalled' signify? Give examples; (as miscalled uncalled.) What is the meaning of “life? What are some of the derivatives and kin