Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

proof or argument to convince every reasonable mind of the utility and correctness of the “objective method.”

In order to correct the present artificial, hot-house, cramming method of teaching, and to secure a philosophical and natural method, we need, in the first place, differently constructed and differently equipped school-houses.

In the second place, what is now some times called the play-room should be constructed with reference to physical and industrial training.

In the third place, we need a different kind of school-books, adapted to a natural and a more reasonable method of teaching.

In the fourth place, we need the best trained, and most practically experienced teachers in our most elementary schools. All our teachers should have a different kind of normal training from any now given in any of our normal schools.

The improvements alluded to, we believe, will sooner or later be exemplified.

A. Bronson Alcott said: We are met at the outset of our professional lives with this question: Why do not our children have the same interest in the lessons which we give them in the school-room that they do in the objects in the museums? Forty years ago, he said, I tried what could be done in the City of Boston with children, taking my pick from the Boston families. I made the room pleasant by hanging portraits on the walls, and other objects of interest were introduced. I had the support of the most cultivated people in the city. I said, the children themselves are the text-books, and if I can draw a smile, and can make the school attractive, I have succeeded. I said, Christianty, art, beauty, all are in the soul of the child, and the art of the teacher consists in drawing it out. I had many years of the most delightful experience, and if I have learned any thing, I learned it from the children, they were my professors.

At the end of four years the little ones went home, and they talked to their fathers and mothers about all sorts of things that children had not been accustomed to talk about. They asked papa and mamma, and the teacher, and the minister, questions that they could not answer; and they spoke most beautiful English without having been drilled very largely in what we call grammar. They spoke English because English was spoken at home, and, I trust, in the school-room. In addition to myself, the teachers were MARGARET FULLER and ELIZABETH PEABODY, who has introduced, and is introducing, the Kindergarten into this country.

Hon. D. N. Camp, of New Britain, Conn., said: I have been very much interested in the paper presented, and the suggestions that have followed. The question for us to consider is, How can we correct the mistakes of two thousand years? If all is wrong, what can we do to set it right? The only thing that I would suggest is that the child itself should be the teacher. I came to this city by way of that beautiful city of cottages at Martha's Vineyard, and it may be called a city of colleges. There are several hundred children there now, and they are learning faster perhaps than at any time while they have attended school. They are up early in the morning, and they are interested in the objects around them, and they are learning, studying from these objects, and they are studying character. I think we shall do well to sit at the feet of such professors, as they are called, and at the feet of the Great Teacher, and remember that on the one side is the child, with all its possibilities, and on the other side is all the material for meeting these possibilities, and the learning to bring them together. The nearer we come to God's plan, whether we call it the plan of the school or of the family, the nearer we shall come to the complete standard of education which shall open up to us all the “good time coming."

David Beatty, Esq., of Troy, N. Y., inquired if there were not many leading educators who have been remarkably successful teachers, who were not in any sense accustomed to the use of object lessons. Are there not teachers of this class, to whom you look with almost unbounded respect, so far as their success is concerned, who have turned out pupils second to none?

Mr. Richards. I have found very few such teachers.

Mr. Beatty referred to Mrs. Emma WILLARD, whom he considered a leading educator in more respects than one, and whose leading characteristic was just the thing condemned by Mr. RiCHARDS. She was a leading educator, and had a right to put a high estimate upon her powers as shown by the results of her training. I have attended examinations of the Troy Female Seminary, at which the young ladies recited page after page of French Grammar, History, Sir William Hamilton's works, and works of the like nature, with such accuracy that, in following the text, one could scarcely find the slightest variation. And yet I have not the slightest sympathy with the memorizing system. Nevertheless, there is a leading educator, who, with a sublime faith in her own system, tried and carried it forward to a successful termination. The degree of faith which one has in the method pursued by him has much to do with the success of that method. A gentleman in Northern New York has talked up the object system. His faith in it is something wonderful; and his great success is fully as much due to that faith as to the real merits of the system itself. No successful teacher, however, ignores the distinctive characteristics of objective teaching; it is simply a question of system, of quantity, of extent.

Mr. Richards. Every one who knows how the young ladies in Mrs. Willard's school were trained day after day outside of the school-room knows that they received object-lessons. She was an objective teacher, practically, and daily, especially in the latter part of her life. Discarding the idea that young ladies were to die of consumption, she taught them to open a window on the north side of the house and to breathe the pure air. That was her object teaching. She was one of nature's teachers in her practical teaching. And that was what gave her power, and character to her young ladies as teachers.

Mr. Beatty. But she always did carry out the idea of memorizing. And some of the professors on Troy Hill, witnessing one of the remarkable performances of her seminary, required all the work in the preparatory department of their school to be upon that plan; and they had some of the worst-conditioned and most badly-prepared boys I ever heard of.

M. Alcott. Mrs. WILLARD always taught her scholars to get the ideas which the words represented. I think this should always be done, so that the moment an object is presented to a child, or that he has a sensation, he shall have the very word that the object or thought expresses, and the vocabulary should

ren.

correspond to the object or sensation expressed. The first thing for a teacher to learn when going into a school is the extent of the vocabulary of the child

The trouble is we give so many names for things we do not know. Mr. Clarke, of Maine, said that none should forget they were born children. It is important to learn that it is a child whom we are seeking to teach. The A B C is the first thing to be taught; and then, when he has learned the multiplication-table, let him learn more; do not try to make him an old man while he is a child. God Almighty made us all men and women in an infant form and let all teachers remember, in whatever condition we find the child, it is a child we are teaching, not a man or a woman.

Prof. M. A. NewELL, Principal of State Normal School, Baltimore, Md., then read the following paper:


ENGLISH GRAMMAR IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS.

By“ English grammar in elementary schools,” I mean so much of the practical and theoretical knowledge of the English language as can be taught to children from seven to fourteen years of age by such teachers as are found in the average common schools of the country. Such instruction in grammar as may be given in colleges, academies and high schools will not here be taken into account, my object being to consider the means of teaching English in the common schools and by the ordinary teachers.

It is hardly necessary to repeat what has been asserted by so many intelligent observers and is conceded by all competent judges, that, so far as this class of pupils is concerned, the traditional methods of teaching" grammar" have totally failed. Some things pupils no doubt learn by the “gerund-grinding” process to which they are subjected; but the “art of speaking and writing the English language with propriety” is not one of their acquisitions. Nay, it not unfrequently happens that their command of language is in the inverse ratio of their power to analyze and parse sentences. To say the least, there is no necessary connection between a knowledge of technical grammar and an ability to use language for the practical purposes of life.

Now, if the school-drill in penmanship did not make the pupils better business writers, if their lessons in arithmetic did not make them better accountants, if their practice in elocution did not make them better readers, we would infer without hesitation either that the subjects did not properly belong to common-school studies, or that the methods of presenting them were not suited to the age and intellectual capacity of the learners. But it is abundantly evident that the study of formal grammar, as it is usually taught in common schools, does not make, or help to make, a young person a correct speaker or a graceful writer; and we are therefore compelled to admit that teachers have made a mistake either in the subject or their mode of teaching it.

It would be useless to recommend any change to those teachers who are perfecty satisfied with the current methods of teaching English grammar, who cause their scholars to learn the definitions that they may be able to parse, and then teach them to parse that they may have practice on the definitions; who are content with laying what they think is a good foundation without caring to inquire whether any thing is ever to be built thereon or not. If there be any such teachers, let them consult their own consciousness and say whether their own knowledge of English grammar has given them the power to speak and write the English language correctly. Has not its influence been almost entirely negative, enabling them to avoid a few blunders, but giving them no positive power? So far from being helped to express their ideas by means of what they know of grammar, have they not felt that their sensitiveness about grammatical propriety has been an actual check and hindrance to them, while many of those who have no such scruples use their native language both fluently and correctly? Had John BUNYAN been taught to parse, in all probability the Pilgrim's Progress never would have been written. Had SHAKESPEARE spent five years in analyzing and “diağraming" sentences, his plays would have been as polished and as cold, as faultless and as lifeless, as those of RACINE.

Let such teachers also bear in mind that English grammar as a cominonschool study is an invention of the present century, and almost of the present generation; that all the old masters of our literature were absolutely ignorant of grammatical formulas and rules.

They struck with Nature's hammer,

Not caring for the clish-ma-clack

They keep about their grammar!” Let them remember that among modern writers of distinction not one in fifty ever studied English grammar as such, and not one in a hundred could parse one of his own sentences. Let them reflect that while the writings of secondrate authors yield themselves easily to the tricks of the grammarian, and can be parsed, analyzed and “diagramed” without difficulty, we find it almost impossible to confine the expressions of idiomatic writers of the first class within the straight-jacket of grammatical formulas. Finally let them ask themselves whether it be possible, in the nature of the things, to learn the right use of a living language by means of such a thing as a “Grammar." You might just as well think to solve the mystery of life by the dissection of a dead body; you might as reasonably expect to learn to dance by studying anatomical plates and the laws of mechanics; you might as well hope to become a practical musician by reading "TYNDALL on Sound” or a painter by studying the “Theory of Colors” as attempt to acquire a practical knowledge of the English language by the study of LINDLEY MURRAY or Good Blown.

The fact is that Grammar (so far as common schools are concerned) is an art and not a science. The science of grammar is as far beyond the ken of a schoolboy as is the “Principia of Newton” or the “Philosophy of the Unconditioned.” And, being an art, it must be learned in the beginning, as all other arts are learned, by the practice of it, not by theorizing about it. We learn to draw by drawing, we learn to paint by painting, we learn to dance by dancing, and we must learn “the art of speaking and writing the English language" by writing and speaking it, not by parsing and analyzing it. Let me not be misunderstood. There comes a time when the artist who wishes to rise above mediocrity must study the theory of his art; and the more extensive and profound his theoretic knowledge, the greater will be his practical skill. But to the young artist in language this time does not come in the elementary school; and any attempt to invert the order of Nature by basing practice on theory, in stead of evolving theory out of practice, must result, as it has resulted, in a lamentable failure.

It remains now briefly to indicate, without attempting to elaborate or define, a method of teaching English which is not only based on sound philosophical principles, but has received the sanction of the foremost of practical educators.

In the first place, we must discard the text-book. Not only is there none in existence suitable to the purpose, but none can possibly be written. The elements of an art must be acquired by imitation and practice, not by memorizing definitions and conforming to formal rules. It is possible that a hand-book for the teacher's use might be prepared; but to a teacher of average ability such a help would be superfluous, and to those of lower grade it would be useless.

The learning of English begins in the cradle. It ceases only with life. That part which is learned in school should begin the first day the child goes to school, and it should never be interrupted.

1. In the first year a pupil should learn how to use correctly the words which he already knows. This involves two things: 1st, correct pronunciation; 2d, correct grammatical forms and combinations. Correct pronunciation will be taught, (a) by correcting all errors in pronunciation as soon as they are heard; (b) by daily drill in elementary sounds; (c) by daily practice in repeating sentences after the teacher's dictation. In this way and at this stage we may get rid of many vulgarisms and provincialisms in pronunciation which, at a later stage, would be uncontrollable. Correct grammatical forms and combinations will be taught by causing the pupil to substitute the right for the wrong expression whenever the latter is used. The ungrammatical forms in ordinary daily use among school-boys and school-girls do not number more than a score; but if they amount to a hundred, they must disappear before the discipline of daily correction, administered steadily for several successive years.

2. In the second year, besides continuing the work of the first year, pupils may begin to learn the forms of written language. The exercise most suitable for this purpose is simply the copying of the lessons of the reading-book on a slate, or blackboard, or paper. From this they will learn spelling, punctuation, the use of capitals, and the form of the sentence and paragraph. They will also acquire a considerable number of new words and forms of expression; for the language of even the simplest books differs in some degree from the vernacular of school-children.

3. In the third year children may begin to learn how to convert spoken language into written language. The appropriate exercise for this purpose is writing, from dictation, first, words; then, phrases; and lastly, sentences and paragraphs.

4. In the fourth year the learner may begin to study words, so as to learn their power and to discriminate between words of similar signification. The exercises of the preceding years being kept up in the advanced Readers, so far as is practicable, pupils may be required at this stage to change some words in their reading-lessons into other words of like meaning. As no two words in English are precise equivalents, attention should be called to the difference between the original word and the word substituted for it. This exercise may

« AnteriorContinuar »