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facility, and should be carried on in connection with the work already indicated.
The teacher may assume certain conditions, and require the letters of the whole class to answer those conditions, as follows: “ Willie has been very sick but is now getting well. He is sitting up in bed playing with his little sister Mary who brings him a large number of playthings to amuse him. His mother sits near by sewing while his father is reading his paper by the fireside. Willie wants sister Mary to write to his cousin Jo, in Boston, and to tell all about his dangerous illness; also to ask Jo to come and spend a few days with him.”
First, write Mary's letter.
The number of such letters that may be written will be limited only by the teacher's skill in assuming conditions. In the more advanced classes, business letters should also be written, the teacher dictating the conditions and requiring, on the part of the pupils, strict adherence to them and at the same time a reasonable degree of brevity.
An oral exercise, during which the pupils state what they intend to write, and criticize the statements of other pupils, will be found exceedingly valuable.
Having decided upon the subjects to be treated in some letter, they can be written upon the blackboard by the teacher. One pupil may suggest the “school” as one subject; another the “last vacation ; " still another, the "prospect of promotion ; ” and so on until a sufficient list has been secured. These can then be arranged in some methodical order and numbered. This arrangement of subjects preparatory to a written exercise is also useful in teaching pupils how to divide a composition into paragraphs, as each subject will furnish material for one paragraph.
Another excellent exercise in connection with letterwriting is found in making “briefs” of letters already written. For this purpose some pupils will copy upon the board a letter furnished by the teacher. The class then will be required to make a short abstract of it, and this abstract should be of such a nature that the letter itself can be fully answered without other assistance. Such exercises furnish excellent preparation for the business of the counting-room.
This exercise may be varied by placing upon the board an abstract of some letter. Then let the pupils write out the letter from the abstract. These productions should be compared with the original letter. Such an exercise is very profitable, and frequently very amusing.
Time will not permit any further consideration of the subject of letter-writing, but it is commended to the attention of teachers as one of the most important branches of language teaching.
As soon as pupils commence the study of geography the work may be combined with that of language train
Scholars should not only be questioned upon the lessons studied, but they should be required to tell what they know about any subject in their own language and without questions. We learn to talk by talking, but the talking should be done in a succession of sentences uninterrupted by suggestions from a teacher. The construction of one sentence is comparatively easy, but to persistently follow a line of thought and at the same time clothe the ideas in fitting words is no easy matter. To secure this end is the real object of all our language
training. For this purpose we must be sure, in the first place, that the pupil has a clear idea to express. His lesson must be carefully learned and thoroughly understood, or it cannot be made the subject of a language exercise. Confused ideas will lead to confused expression. Much of the poor speaking that we hear from the platform is due partly to the confusion of ideas, and partly to a lack of knowledge of words or a lack of skill in choosing them. The teacher's language work, then, is two-fold. First, she must impart her instruction so clearly and systematically that the pupil will get clear and distinct ideas of the work in hand; and second, she must train the pupil to express those ideas correctly and readily.
While studying geography, the pupil learns of the productions, climate, and drainage of some country. The teacher will question her class until she is sure that the pupils understand clearly the subject of the lesson. At this point the exercise in language may be said to begin. Now the teacher requires each pupil to tell all he knows of the productions, climate, or drainage. No more questions are to be asked, no more suggestions are to be made. The pupil is thrown on his own resources, and must stand or fall without assistance from teacher or classmates. The ordeal may at first be a severe one, but once passed, the pupil's confidence in himself is established and his future progress exceedingly rapid.
History, also, in the higher grades, furnishes abundant material for language training. The lesson is learned by the pupil as in geography. His knowledge is tested by the teacher until it is quite certain that his ideas are clear and distinct. Then he is required to make a complete statement of his knowledge, clothing his ideas in the best language possible to him. Soon it will be found that the pupil is not only gaining the power to use language with considerable ease, but what is almost if not quite as important and valuable to him, he is gaining the power to read a chapter in geography or history and at once gather the ideas of the author.
The pupil will also soon gain such confidence in his ability to tell what he knows, that in studying, his mind will be given exclusively to gaining ideas. No thought whatever will be given to the language of the author, nor will his mind be embarrassed in the slightest degree by any idea that this language must be reproduced in recitation.
A teacher who has never tried the experiment would expect the progress of pupils so trained to be exceedingly rapid. Those teachers who have tried it know that the results of such training have exceeded their most sanguine expectations..
Recitations, when the pupil is thrown on his own resources without assistance from his teacher, are called topical. The two subjects mentioned, — viz., geography and history, — are especially adapted to this kind of recitation; but it must not be forgotten that the topics are to be carefully studied by the pupils and their knowledge thoroughly tested by the teacher before the language exercise begins, or else there is danger of a confusion of ideas, which in turn will lead to an unfortunate selection of language.
INFORMATION LESSONS. We must now turn our attention to language lessons of another kind; viz., such as are founded upon information lessons given by the teacher. Such information lessons, or elementary science lessons, are now included in
every well constructed course of study. The subjects are selected from the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, and include a study of fruits and flowers, various kinds of woods, as well as minerals and metals. Later in the course, biographical sketches and descriptions of natural scenery and works of art may be taken up. All of these subjects furnish excellent material for language work ; and that I may be clearly understood, I will give the outline of an “information lesson ” selected from a large number prepared and used by some of the Boston Grammar school teachers.
The following information about “Cotton ” was gleaned from various books, by the teacher, and given to the class (5th) in a series of familiar “ talks.”
1. Introduction: Materials for clothing are cotton, wool, linen, and silk. Wool and silk are animal products. Cotton and linen are vegetable. Cotton is most important, being cultivated to a greater extent and manufactured at a cheaper rate, and therefore most commonly used.
2. Where produced :
In hot countries and the warm parts of temperate countries. Was cultivated in China and India many hundred years B. C. Also grows in South America, Africa (along banks of Nile), and the countries of Southern Europe; but the greatest cotton region in the world is our own Southern States, where the supply is so great that we manufacture but one-fourth and send the remainder to other countries. (Would have all these places pointed out on the map.)
3. Description of plant :