« AnteriorContinuar »
TEACHING GEOGRAPHY BY THE TOPICAL METHOD.* By Chas. F. KING, SUB-MASTER, LEWIS School, Boston.
Sixty years ago, a young professor almost unknown to fame, announced that he would give, in the University of Berlin, a series of lectures upon Universal Geography. So little interest was manifested in the subject, and in the young man, that he had at first not a single hearer. Such a change, however, took place during the next three years that the largest hall obtainable could not contain his admiring listeners. This professor was Ritter, the greatest of modern geographers. One of his pupils at this time was Arnold Guyot who has done for this country in part at least what Ritter did for Germany. If to these two names be added those of Humboldt and Keith Johnson, then the names of the four most eminent geographers of modern times will have been pronounced. In order to learn correct methods of teaching this subject, we cannot do better than to study the writings and lives of these men. The“ Life of Ritter,” by Gage, a small book of two hundred and fifty pages, is strongly recommended.
The teaching of geography will be greatly improved by remembering the following principles : –
Geography is a noble study, worthy of much time and
* Only an abstract of this lecture is furnished, as the author expects to publish a book on the subject. - ED.
thought. A great difference should always, in this study, be maintained by the teacher between the more important and the less important. The more important is not statistics and locality but nature and humanity. Pupils should be led in geography as well as in other studies, from the known to the unknown; from home to foreign countries. A wise teacher will make a large use of the eyes, the pen, pencil, and blank-book. A hill should not be described in words when a picture will tell the children more in a shorter time; nor a picture shown when a real hill stands beside the school-house. Pupils should be taught to observe nature. The teacher cannot teach well without careful preparation. The teacher must be free from the text-book. Freedom from the text-book is best obtained by teaching topically.
Teaching topically requires a list of topics. [A printed list of topics with a list of three hundred books on geography were distributed to the audience before the lecture commenced.] The list of topics the speaker said is open to criticism. Some teachers would doubtless prefer a different arrangement of the topics; others would differ about the sub-divisions; all teachers in the lower classes would prefer a shorter and less comprehensive list.
Each teacher can take this list, compare it with Guyot's more philosophical one, and then prepare a list such as is best suited to his tastes and circumstances. The topical method can be used in all the classes, even the lowest. This has been proved by the successful experiments of numerous teachers in Boston and elsewhere.
Scholars are interested in the idea of working with the teacher to make a better geography than the text-book, hence the necessity of each one having a good blank-book in which to write out the collected facts; also a list of topics to be followed in studying each grand division or section of a country. I do not believe in the study of every separate state in the Union, or of every separate country in a grand division, because there is not time for it, and because each state or section is not sufficiently sui
The teacher's desk should be well supplied with various geographies, reference books, encyclopædias, gazetteers, and books of travel. A list of the books of travel to be found in the nearest public library with the library numbers, should be written on the blackboard or in some way placed before the scholars, who should be urged to obtain these books, read them, and report to the class as time and opportunity will allow.
Guyot's books will be found very useful in the study of position, etc. The comparative size of a country should receive more attention than the absolute size. The size of the different grand divisions can be readily comprehended by the pupils when the countries are drawn upon the same scale on one large sheet of manilla paper.
The prime object of map-drawing is to aid the memory, and that is best accomplished by the pupils making a progressive map, that is, by filling up a map as they proceed in the study of the country under consideration. As soon as the class have considered position, shape, etc., let them draw upon suitable paper, the outlines of the country; after the surface has been studied, the mountains should be added to this outline, and then the rivers, natural divisions, capitals, towns, the names of all of these important places being written or printed as they are drawn; and finally the productions, vegetation and animals, written or printed in their appropriate places.
Simple outline maps for the teacher are very useful, especially at the beginning of the study of a country, such maps as can be quickly drawn upon the board by the aid of paper stencils, invented, made and sold by Edward Shepard, Newark, N. J., or by the aid of transfer maps, suggested by Prof. Adams, Worcester Normal School, Mass. Better than either of these methods, are outline maps painted in oil upon a cloth black-board, which cloth black-board can be seen at the rooms of the Boston School Supply Co., 15 Bromfield Street. Apgar's method of map-drawing as 'explained in Warren's and Swinton's geographies, is the best because the simplest, and requiring the least amount of memorizing.
Surface is a very important subject because so many other topics are closely connected with it. The moldingboard is an important help in the lower classes; physical maps and profiles for the upper classes. Very great assistance in teaching surface is obtained from the use of Sonnenschein and Allen's Relief Atlas, which contains thirty-one embossed or raised maps of different countries. It is remarkable how much help is given to a pupil by once looking upon any one of these maps. Physical geographies such as Guyot's, Geikie's, Maury's and Johnston's; Glimpses of the Earth by Blackiston, Earth and Man by Guyot, The Earth by Reclus, Hayden's and Wheeler's reports, are some of the books to be consulted in studying this subject of surface for North America.
If the pupils thoroughly understand surface, drainage, the next topic, will be quickly and easily comprehended. The slope determines the drainage; the drainage is the indication of the slope. In North America for instance, there are three water-partings, viz. :— The Rocky Mountains, the Appalachians, and the Height of Land. The
climax of these water-sheds is found in or near the South Pass. By observing the course of the rivers from this central elevation, the pupils can learn for themselves the different river systems. The tedium of learning the names and localities of the mountains and rivers is greatly relieved by taking them in some particular order.
Climate deserves much more careful attention than it generally receives in the ordinary common school geography. The principal facts systematically arranged in some such way as is given in Swinton's geography; should be placed upon the board by the teacher, and copied by the pupils in their blank-books, for study and reference, but these bare facts need to be made interesting and enjoyable to the scholars by stories, anecdotes, personal reminiscences, and facts only obtained in books of travel, collected and contributed for the benefit of the class by teacher and pupil.
So little attention has been given in most geographies to life, the most interesting and important topic in the whole list, that the teacher needs to give the class especial help when they take up this subject. Miss Hall's “Our World,” No. 2, can now be consulted with profit. The teacher will find good attention given by his class if he relates in familiar language the accounts of his travels among the people and places under consideration. Objects from the different countries brought by the pupils will greatly increase the interest. The teacher will do well to read suitable selections from,“ Seven Little Sisters," Scribner's or Johonnot's geographical readers, newspaper scrap-books, books of travel, etc. Whenever selections are read the pupils should be required to reproduce them in compositions or talks. A much better way is for the pupils to read to the teacher and the class from the books