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Letter Writing

Rea McCain


Dear Santa Claus When It Should Begin

Thank you for the Christmas present. I like it very much.

JOHN Writing may serve two purposes: it may record thoughts or it may convey them to others. For most of us the first The form taken is the simplest possible, yet it embraces is negligible. Here and there may be found a diary, all the essentials of a letter. It shows to whom and by treasured but never shown. Most of us write little for whom it is written and it conveys a message. Convenience our own amusement. All of us write more or less often to and fashion dictate some additional frills. but they are friends. The little child tries hard to speak because he unnecessary to the thought. It is better these little folks wants another to understand. Letter writing (or speaking should understand the purpose of letter writing than that to another by marks) should begin as soon as the necessary they should master the latest fad in the placing of date or marks can be formed. Letter writing of a sort should find address. a place in the first grade.

The chosen letter is placed upon the board and is first

a reading lesson. Then it is carefully copied, with no Why Placed Here

change except in the signature and in the toy for which The reason for this is two-fold. If the child sees an Santa is asked. Any teacher can take the time to give immediate use for his scrawls he will try the harder to do the individual help needed for these slight variations. his best. Again, if he has written letters from the first they Don't mourn that the letter is so short. The characters will seem a natural occupation. The man who writes but scrawled by the children will fill a page far larger than the seldom feels it an arduous struggle. That must be an note paper used by their elders. important event which is worth putting in a yearly letter. One important point about these letters is that each has We want our children to write easily, which cannot be a definite purpose. The invitations are to be delivered without frequency; we want them to write interestingly, and, we hope, accepted. The greetings can be sent. which cannot be if they are handicapped by the use of an The thought for a sick friend, as well as the acknowledgunfamiliar medium. Frequency again.

ment of a gift, cannot begin too early. Possibilities in First Grade

Valentines NJ. The mechanical difficulty in writing makes it impossible The valentines adorned with hearts or drawings need b for small children to write long or freely. It is, therefore, some short message. They are much simpler than the better that occasions be chosen for which short messages Christmas letter. "Be my Valentine,” “To my Valenare suitable and where the same wording may be used by tine,” or 'I love you,” will be quite satisfactory to the all the children.

mother or to the little friend to whom it may happen to be

sent. Sometimes rather startling results are obtained. Suitable Occasions

One little boy was working on his at home. He wanted 1. Christmas and Valentine Day suggest themselves as most

“poetry,” by which he meant two lines, for he saw those suitable. Thanksgiving Day programs could be used as

in the store windows had more ambitious messages than i a chance to write invitations were it not that the children the form given them at school. His brother in the second need a little more time in school before beginning upon

grade undertook to help him. The valentine they proudly this work.

produced had on it:

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the least possible punctuation, is accepted on good authority, Contrast Helen Keller's letter with the following, which and is probably as satisfactory as any of the half dozen is taken from a child's story book: which might be adopted.

ALASKA The conclusion offers a slightly more difficult problem.

My dear Clyde

Would you like to come and visit us? You would have a fine time. “Your little friend” is frequently chosen. It is suitable

I could take you riding on my sled made of walrus bones. My dogs for children, but “Your friend" from an older person hints

go very fast over the sparkling snow. Our house is an odd looking at illeracy. "Yours truly” is fit for nothing but business mound of stone. It has two openings in it, a door and a window. letters and is now being discarded by some firms. “Sin

I know things are different in your country. Will you write me a

letter and tell me how you live? Come and see me. cerely yours” is unobjectionable in almost any case. The

Your Alaska friend, child of ability may be encouraged to select different

JOHN endings as he reads various letters, but for a stock phrase, "Sincerely yours” is perhaps the best.

The purpose of this letter is to give information about

Alaska. It is excellent in that it gives a feeling of actuality The Model

to read about the country in so personal a form as a letter. The advice that the child select endings from the letters The execution is faulty. The letter is a made one. No he reads suggest that he be given some as models. The boy would say, "Our house is an odd-looking mound of use of models in any kind of writing was for a time violently

stone." If he had lived there all his life he would think opposed. The reason for this objection is not very clear.

the structure the natural form for a house to take. He The child learns to speak by imitation. The French child would not say, "It has two openings in it, a door and a mimics the adult Frenchman, the Russian child, the adult window;" he would write “I hear your house has ever so Russian. All of the untaught activities of life are acquired many doors and windows. Why do you leave so many through imitation. If we're made that way why not do

holes in it?" what we can with this power?

I quote this letter to emphasize the preliminary steps

which are necessary before children attempt to write Kind of Model

descriptions. The expository form is easier. The child The real evil has been in the choice of letters shown.

has gone through the process himself. It is probable that Business letters, brief communications, always. Small

the difficulties he has encountered have impressed themwonder that the man of little general culture usually begins

selves deeply enough to make their telling fairly simple. “Your letter received."

In composition books Exposition follows Description.

This certainly should not be the order with little children Show the child a well written letter. This by Helen Keller might be taken.

if the difficulty of the operations determine the placing.

Description is difficult because to the child (as to the Sorth Boston, Mass., March 1, 1890

adult) the unusual is the conspicuous, and the child's Dear St. Nicholas

experience is so limited that it is impossible for him to It gives me great pleasure to send you my signature because I want estimate rightly the important familiar and the unimportant the boys and girls who read St. Nicholas to know how blind children

novel. write. I suppose some of them wonder how we keep the lines so straight, so I will try to tell them how it is done. We have a grooved

Only after the most careful analysis in the class should board which we put between the pages when we wish to write. These description be attempted. grooves are the same as lines and when we have pressed the paper We want opportunities for the writing of real letters into them with the blunt end of our pencil it is very easy to keep the

which are actually sent. Here is one which Ann Mary words even. The small letters are made in the grooves while the long ones extend above and below them. We guide the pencil with the Livingstone wrote to Hans Christian Andersen: right hand and feel with the finger of the left hand to see that we shape and space the letters correctly. It is very difficult at first to

ULNA COTTAGE, HAMILTON, SCOTLAND, 1st Jan., 1869 form them correctly, but if we keep on trying it gradually becomes Dear Hans Andersen easier, and after a great deal of practice we can write to our friends.

I do like your fairy tales so much that I would like to go and see Then we are very, very happy. Some time they may visit a school

you, but I cannot do that, so I thought I would write to you. When for the blind. If they do I am sure they will wish to see the pupils

papa comes from Africa, I will ask him to take me to see you. My write.

favorite stories in one book are, "The Goloshes of Fortune," "The Your little friend,

Snow Queen,” and some others. My papa's name is Dr. Livingstone. HELEN KELLER

I will say good-bye to you and a Happy New Year. I am your.

affectionate little friend, Go over this with the children. What is she telling in

ANN MARY LIVINGSTONE the first sentence? Why she wrote. What is the next sentence? What is she writing about? What comes next? Why cannot our pupils write to the author of a favorite The things she used. What does the next division explain? book or a popular tale in St. Nicholas. Let the best be How she used those materials. When she has told all sent (they'll surely try for the honor) and, if no answer about what she used and how she did it, what does she is requested or expected, there can certainly be no objection tell us? What happens after awhile?

on the score of good taste. These questions are rough and incomplete, but they

There is still another type of letter: suggest the method by which the child can be led to analyze

March 26, 1911 the content. Put a hasty outline on the board.


Dear Sir: Eleven weeks and two days ago I heard you did not Why written

know I was living. I am. I live in the Yourkburg Female Orphan About what

Asylum, and have been living here for nine years and four months Material used

and almost a week. If you had known I was living all these years

and had not made yourself acquainted with me, I would not now write Manner of using

to you, but I heard, by accident, you did not know I had been born, Result

so I am writing to tell you I was. It happened in Natchez, Miss.

I know that much, but little more except my father was an actor. Then put away the letter. If books or mimeographed I worship his memory. My mother was named Mary Alden, and you copies are obtainable it is well to have used this for a are her brother. If you would like to know more, and will write and reading lesson; if not, the teacher must have read the ask me, I think you will learn something of interest. Not about me, letter to the children.

but there are other people in this world.

Respectfully, Discuss what school activities might furnish material

MARY CARY for a similar letter. One class wanted to explain how they kept the rows in the garden straight. How they laced This brings in the hint of a story. It is, of course, a their booklets together would serve equally well.

manufactured letter, written as part of a story, but we

A Hygiene Lesson

can use it with our children to suggest that we all like "something doing.” This reminds me of a bit of psychology. No, it is not from a text-book. It is in a story, where the cleverest bits of psychology are found.

One of the first tasks in composition assigned to Rebecca was the writing of a letter. She suggested that:

Florence A. Howell
Hygienic Condition of Room

1 Ventilation
2 Use of available light
3 Cleanliness of room
4 Cleanliness of pupils
Posture of pupils

At seats

b While reciting Aim To awaken in the child the beauty

of life and to create the desire to attain a healthy body and mind.

P A letter from Rebecca Randall to her sister Hannah at Sunnybrook Farm, or to her aunt Jane at the brick house, Riverboro, is so dull and stupid, if it is a real letter; but if I could make believe I was a different girl altogether, and write to somebody who woula be sure to understand everything I said, I could make it nicer.”

"Very well; I think that's a delightful plan," said Miss Maxwell, "and whom will you suppose yourself to be?”

"I like heiresses very much,” replied Rebecca contemplatively. “Of course I never saw one, but interesting things are always happening to heiresses, especially to the golden-haired kind. My heiress wouldn't be vain and haughty like the wicked sisters in Cinderella; she would be noble and generous. She would give up a grand school in Boston because she wanted to come out here where her father lived when he was a boy long before he made his fortune. The father is dead now, and she has a guardian, the best and kindest man in the world; he is rather old, of course, and sometimes very quiet and grave, but sometimes, when he is happy, he is full of fun, and then Evelyn is not afraid of him."



To have children feel the reverence of life, so that each child will value life at the highest, and learn how, to have a healthy body.


Tell the story, “The Chestnut Boys,” Helen Louise Towne, in "In the Child's World," page 50.

Let the children have this freedom which Rebecca wishes. “Suppose you are a little boy or girl in a certain favorite story. Write a letter telling what happened at some definite time and place." The results are almost uniformly good. In higher grades some amusing compositions have resulted. A composition class had for the first assignment the writing of a letter to refuse a position which had been offered for the fall. The following day they were told to date the next letter six months later and explain to a friend why they wished they had taken the position which they had refused. One girl, who had declined a position as teacher, giving as the reason that she was to be married that summer, was much embarrassed by the sequel.


Memory gem, “The Little Plant,” Kate L. Brown.

In the heart of a seed

Buried deep, so deep,
A dear little plant

Lay fast asleep. Wake!” said the sunshine,

“And creep to the light." “Wake!” said the voice

Of the raindrops bright. The little plant heard,

And rose to see What the wonderful

Outside world might be.

Consciousness of Power

The freedom from all self-consciousness which results from imagining one's self another gives an independence which should impart life and animation to the letter. Say to the pupil, “This is interesting.” The lesson has been assigned solely to make the chance for this remark. So long as all his letters are dull the child does not feel any particular shame at his failure. It's the nature of the beast. What's the use of bothering when letters are just naturally dry reading? But when once a letter has been interesting, he knows the medium of expression has not been at fault. He can do well, therefore he should be blamed for failure.

The Final Aim

To produce satisfactory bits of fiction is not enough. If any part of the English course is practical this should be. Read to the entire class some letter which they will enjoy. “Did anything happen to you which you thought about when you heard this?" "What is it?" Never was there a class from which some response could not be elicited. There should be plenty of active class discussion.

Our writers tend to collect at literary centers because there is a quickening effect in the contact with other minds. Even if the letter has aroused no memories in the child his classmates' experiences will. In some of them he may have had a part.

Use of Material - Plant

Q. What did this little plant come from?

Ans. Seed. (Have a number of seeds and nuts, so that all children will know a seed.)

Q. What is in every seed?
Ans. Life. (Nature's Treasure Boxes.)

Q. What is in every cocoon? What is in every bud? What is in every egg? What is in the milkweed pod?

Ans. Life. (Have children give experiences. Refer to seeds.)

Q. What do we do with them?
Ans. Plant them.
Q. Who cares for them under the soil?
Ans. God.
Q. What does He send to the sleeping plant?
Ans. Rain and sunshine.
Q. Rain and good soil make what?
Ans. Dirt soup for the plant.
Q. What happens to the sleeping plant now?
Ans. It creeps to light.
Q. Now who cares for it?
Ans. The gardener.

Q. What does he give the plant so that it will grow to be a fine plant?

Ans. Air, water, food.
Q. What kind?
Ans. Pure.
Q. Who cares for the little baby?
Ans. Mother.

(Continued on page 129)

Various Aspects of Letter Writing

There is a formal side to the work, there are a few matters of usage to be learned and practiced, but the real end and aim of the matter is to train in selection and expression of the personal data, thoughts, or experiences, which may be interesting to others.

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Studies in Art Appreciation V

C. Edward Newell
Supervisor of Art and Handwork, Springfield, Mass.

A Primary School in Brittany — Jean Geoffroy

Suggestive Method of Study

scholars. He visits the school often and is a close friend Whom do you see in the picture? What do some of the of all the pupils. He often gives them flowers, cakes, and children hold in their hands? Do you see a woman in candy, for he is a rich and generous man, though very shy the picture? What has she in her hand? What is she and quiet with people whom he does not know.

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doing? Where are these children? Why do you think In this part of Brittany the children still wear the queer
so? Does the teacher seem to be talking? To whom is bonnets or caps, wide collars, and wooden shoes. The
she talking? Who is just learning to read? Why do you children are almost invariably dressed in blue — the dull
think so? Where is her finger? Why does she lean against light blue so much worn by the French peasantry. Thick
the teacher? Who teaches you to read? Where is the woolen kings, knit by frugal mothers, cover the feet,
teacher looking? Which is the oldest girl in the reading and must be welcome protection for the tender feet against
class? What is she doing? Which little girl is not inter- the wooden sabots (sa bo'). Many of the children have
ested in the lesson? Where is she looking? Do you, like come a long way to school, for the houses are scattered.
the little girl in the picture, ever come to words in your The country has many hills and little rapid streams. It
reading that you do not know? Who is looking over was in the great oak forests of this country that the Druid
another's shoulder? Which child looks as if she knew the priests used to live and hold their mysterious meetings of
hard word? Who will read next in turn? Why does this weird ceremony and magic.
child twist her apron? What are the two little children The little girl leaning against the teacher is just learning
next to the teacher doing? Can they read? Why are they to read and points to each word as she pronounces it.
not in the class? Do you think they may be visitors? She seems to have come to a word she does not know.
Who'may be their older sisters? How are these little tots The little girl holding her apron so tightly will read next
dressed? What are all of the other girls wearing on their and she wants to tell her at least she looks as if she
heads? Do girls wear such caps in this country? The knew, and so does the little girl looking at the book over
teacher has a broad collar. Where do you find other the child's shoulder. The little girl looking out of the
collars? What kind of shoes do these children wear? window does not seem to be thinking of the story or of
Whom do you see in another part of the room? What are reading. What would happen should the teacher suddenly
these scholars doing? Are the desks like yours? How is call upon her? The tallest girl may be reading to herself
this school different from yours? Are there many windows from a more advanced book, for in country schools pupils
in the room? Is the room like this schoolroom? What often read from different books. Sometimes all read in
can you see on the wall? Where do you think this school turn from the same book.

The two little children sitting beside the teacher are

too young to wear the queer bonnets, or to sit on the high The Story of the Picture

benches. They are content to sit close to the teacher, as In a little village of Brittany, France, there is just such little visitors, and watch and listen to the older ones. a school as the one we see in this picture. We know this is What fun it would be to visit a school such as this, and quite true because the artist who painted the picture lives to go with these children to their homes across the narrow near it and has painted many pictures of the school and

(Continued on page 133)

may be?

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