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“When the last day came, our twenty minutes in the hall were ample time for the recitation of one hundred and three quotations, taken from all sources, from the Commemoration Ode’ to “The Courtin.'
Every teacher who is interested in leading pupils to the love of what is good in our literature, of what is powerful in its influence for good on life and character, should procure and read this little book which Mr. Roe has given us in the “Riverside Literature Series,” under the title of “American Authors and their Birthdays.” It is splendidly suggestive. It tells us that “the old dread of rhetorical day has disappeared from Worcester,” as it will disappear from all schools and all classes where right inethods are pursued by earnest teachers.
Let no teacher despair because books cannot be procured. We printed the whole of Whittier's “Snow Bound” with the hektograph this fall, rather than have our pupils miss reading it. A teacher armed with a cyclostyle, or an Edison mimeograph, can multiply reading slips at will, and prepare extra songs, examination papers, pictures for language work and other class helps in any and all grades.
We have imperfectly, but possibly suggestively, considered the question, “ What shall the child read?” Let us now briefly consider how he shall read, together with some of the principles which ought to guide us in teaching him.
The teacher who will take a first-class educational paper and really study those parts of it devoted to reading, trying all suggestions and plans by the touch-stone of common sense, cannot fail to receive help. For my part, I owe the conquest of one class to an elucational journal. The class was not interested in reading, was unruly, turbulent, ugly. I went home at noon almost sick from the anticipation of their next lesson, which came the first hour after dinner, for I felt that, while I could control them, I had not their confidence,-their sympathy- and that I had reached the limit of my expedients. One of my educational papers came in the noon mail. I found in it a simple device which had not occurred to me. I went to my class, introduced it with right good will, had the class with me within five minutes, and they have been with me ever since.
Take a good educational paper,-more than one, if you can. Study the methods described until you know that you yourself are reading better, and you will find your classes steadily improving and enjoying their reading more and more.
Attend to the child's habits in class. See that he does not lounge in his seat, or slouch when he stands and walks. Have him hold his neck erect, and lift his book to correspond with that position. Have him practice looking from the page to your face while reading. Have him try to see how much he can give verbatim from a single glance at the page. Erectness of the neck will bring many good habits in its train. Insist upon this position as a requisite of success.
Attend to the position of the torso. Have you ever noticed what children do when told to sit or stand up straight? They usually throw the weight of the upper body backward beyond the center of gravity, and in this ruinously weak position try to stand and walk. No habit is more common with either children or adults. But the effect upon the voice and upon the whole nervous system is disastrous.
“I wonder why I get hoarse so quickly,” said a teacher whose duty it was
to read a passage from the Bible at morning exercises. She was told to bring the back-bone into its proper relation with the rest of the physical framework, and in a short time her hoarseness was a thing of the past, her voice began to grow full and clear, and the words which she uttered could be heard at the farthest limit of her large sehool-room.
Such matters, however, should not be considered the especial province of the teacher of reading. All teachers should attend to them. No teacher need allow pupils to fall into lounging or slouching ways, or to mutter or mumble while speaking, or to use the voice ineffectively. Mis-pronunciations corrected in the reading class will be apt to be repeated if not followed up through other classes. A pupil, moreover, may as easily hang his head and send his voice into his book when reciting arithmetic or grammar as when doing work in his reading class.
Much time might be spent in the discussion of ways and means in reading. The practice of elementary sounds, drill in physical exercises arranged especially for the development of graceful bearing., devices for persuading the pupil to read after the manner of right talking, the principles which underlie the subject of emphasis, these and kindred themes might well be made the subjects of careful thought. Time permits only the brief consideration of a
. few points.
Lead pupils to notice the contrast of ideas so prevalent in speech, and set them to searching the reader through for similar expressions. They may with profit spend several days at a time in the work. “All impressions of emphasis are derived from the idea of contrast," says Delsarte, so this is really the foundation principle. “If you had lost the penknife and Tom Link had found it." “If I had not picked it up somebody else would.” “ It is not what we read, but what we remember that makes us learned.'
Lead pupils to notice that the modification of an idea once emphasized renders that idea unemphatic,-just as new people moving into a neighborhood attract more notice for awhile than the old residents. Napoleon was a great man. Yes, he was a very great man.”
“A thousand cups of gold,
In Judah deemed divine;
The godless heathen's wine. Ideas which the mind has recognized or is able to foresee, seem to be always unemphatic, as in the examples given in the preceding section.
The violation of this principle is one of the commonest faults of reading. People usually emphasize too much, not too little. They keep on calling attention, for instance, to ideas contained in nouns, no matter how many times adjective elements or a new environment may change their complexion. Try this in reading Longfellow's poem, “The Reaper and the Flowers.” Read just as well as you can, but emphasize the word “flowers," “flowerets," and blossoms,” whenever you come to them. You will find “the freighted lines depolarized, and discharged of all that they most contain.” Whatever is absolutely new, is emphatic.
"And had he not high honor?
The hill-side for his pall;
With stars for tapers tall ;
And the dark rock pines, like tossing plumes,
Over his bier to wave;
To lay him in the grave.”
These three principles of emphasis go hand in hand, and an intelligent attempt to apply them cannot fail to improve the reading.
Pupils can easily understand that, in reading poetry, we are called upon to notice what Sidney Lanier calls "stopped” and “continued ” lines.
“A stopped line,” says he, “is a line of poetry at the end of which we may pause without marring the sense.”
A continued line is one at the end of which we should not make a percep
Read the following lines with a pause at the end of each, and then read them continuing the first, fifth, seventh, ninth and eleventh lines:
“All too soon these feet must hide
It is worthy of note, also, that of two words which rhyme, only one should be made emphatic. “ If we desire variety let us study the principle of relation, so that our objects may not kill each other in expression."
“ Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime;
Foot-prints on the sands of time."
We can make our lives sublime;
Foot-prints on the sands of time.” This principle of reading if applied mechanically only, at once relieves the stanza of dullness.
But now, lest we neglect a matter which often puzzles earnest teachers, let us consider whether a teacher should ever read in order that the pupil may imitate. I believe that he should. The imitative faculty is strong in childhood, and it is strong for a purpose. It is a faculty which can be utilized in the reading class. After a thorough course in such imitative reading as may be practiced from short sentences, responsive expressions like “ Class?" “What, sir?” uttered with every variety of intonation, and elementary sounds used in the same way, the class will read in easier style, and with better emphasis and inflection.
In dealing with selections and paragraphs, the teacher should be careful to set “patterns” only so far as to stimulate the mind of the pupil to greater activity, or to show him what he can do if he will try. These patterns need be set in hard places only. As a general thing they will not be needed in ordinary work if there has been plenty of drill on short sentences, sounds, contrasts, etc. But it will be well for the teacher to read to the class occassionally, and, especially in supplementary reading, to read as a member of the class—taking up dull passages here and there—or places where fine examples of expressive reading can be given. The frequent doing of this will prevent pupils from “studying ahead” and preparing their lessons after they come into the class room.
As to the management of the reading-class, it should be conducted very much as one would conduct a reading-circle in his own parlor. There should be the same politeness, the same freedom, the same consideration for the dull and the timid members. These should be especially brought out and encouraged, and shown how to improve. The work should be frequently varied. If a search for contrasts has been the task for a week or two, let the class take up a story from the supplementary reading. If similes and personifications have formed the drill for a while, let them change to some good poem for the practice of expressive reading. If short sentence drill has formed part of the lesson for some time, turn their attention to exercises in pronunciation. Escellent ones may be adopted from Dr. Abernethy’s “Academy Orthoepist. Some of his devices are extraordinarily good. But it should be remembered, however, that all studies in the reading-class, whatever be their character, are only means to an end; and that the end is the enabling of the pupils, the majority at least, all if possible, to meet most of our standard authors, gaze at them face to face and commune with them soul to soul."
There is one other consideration which should not be neglected, and that is what the Rev. Wm. R. Alger calls “ The Place and Power of Personality in Expression,” The “personality,” says this gentlemap in a lecture on the subject, “consists in the unity of (1) the sum of a man's bodily proportions, (2) the sum of his spiritual powers, (3) the sum of his accumulated experiences and accomplishments, or the wealth which he holds in store for communication. These three sums, fused into the unity of his personality, determine the style of each man's performance, and gives to it its weight, its value, and its charm.” It is this factor which makes one pupil a better reader than another; which makes one pupil more appreciative than another; which en. ables one, after stumbling along in a careless, vexatious way for a long while, to transform himself gradually into an earnest and intelligent, if not an entirely skillful, reader.
A pupil who loafs about street corners, smoking the stub-ends of forgotten cigars, sneaking now and then into some saloon to revel in the conversation he will hear there, can scarcely be persuaded to throw himself heartily into a passage of reading which deals with lofty thought and noble feeling. If he can be, there are chords in his nature which respond to the touch of beauty, of goodness and of love, and he can be weaned away from his lower self.
How may one's style be most speedily beautified and improved? First," says Mr. Alger," by opening the soul to broader influxes of love, of wisdom and of power. Secondly, by improving the harmonic force and freedom with which the manifestation of these play through one's organism. In other words, he who would be an artistic master of expression, must first enrich the contents of his being, and next improve his skill in manifesting them through the bodily environment."
Then it becomes the duty of every teacher who would make of his pupils more appreciative and more expressive readers, to leave no way untried by which the value of the personality of each may be increased. Let him remember that when he has opened the channels by which love flows through the child's nature, the soul can be aroused to faith and the sight of truth. And Mr. Alger says that the sort of expression which can never fail to make the “wild blood start in its mystic springs' comes from the terrible fearlessness and straight-onward power of a soul possessed with faith in God, love for man, and the sight of truth.” Awaken the pupil's love for“ worthy objects.” and his salvation is achieved.
“ A noble youth sat silent in despair;
Empty seemed heaven, and the world all bare;
One word alone, but that the master-word,
Into large splendor swelled the luminous sign,
SUPERINTENDENT E. L. BRIGGS, Grand Haven, said:
The problem of the reading class is one with which every earnest teacher in the common schools has to struggle.
Unfortunately few make for themselves a satisfactory solution, and no one seems able to give to the world one that can be accepted as final. That the problem is having a careful consideration is manifest from the unrest everywhere apparent in methods of instruction and materials employed.
This is shown in the large supply of supplementary text-books in reading furnished in many schools; in the special attention to elocutionary drill given in others. It is seen in the furnishing of free reading material to all pupils that a great variety may be