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In treating of each of these branches, my instructions will be rendered more plain and intelligible by applying them to the appropriate books prepared for the National Society, under the direction of my invaluable friend and fellow-labourer Mr. JOHNSON, in which each of these divisions is kept separate.
The economy of the Madras school arises not only from the tuilion by monitors, but also from the use of small and cheap books, and still more from the perfect instruction in these books, by which one page is made to go as far as half a dozen or a dozen in the common way of reading in some schools. Short books are also preferred, because they enable the scholar more readily to see the stages of his journey, and mark his own progress and the master to provide more effectually, that none of the books be ever parted with, till the entire contents are perfectly familiar to the scholar, by which means he will go through the subsequent books with a precision and despatch, not otherwise attainable.
Of the alphabet, and writing on sand.
"Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground.” John, VIII. 6.
For writing on sand, smooth and level (trays or) boards, about three feet long, ten inches wide, with ledges on every side of an inch deep (inside measurements) placed on a convenient bench or form, may each of them serve for three children. A little dry sand is put into them, so that with a shake it will become level, and spread itself thinly over the surface.
This class requires an expert and able teacher, who may be assisted by boys who last learnt the alphabet, and who will thereby perfect themselves in the fundamental elements of their future studies. The teacher traces in the sand with his forefinger a capital letter, of which there is a copy before him. The scholar traces the impression again and again, the teacher guiding his finger at first, if necessary; the sand is then smoothed with a
shake. Next the scholar, looking at the letter before him, tries to copy it, and is assisted as before, and directed till he can do it with facility and precision. The copy is then withdrawn, and the scholar must now form it from memory.
In like manner a second letter is taught. He then returns to the former, and makes alternately the one and the other, till he can form both with readiness and exactness. This done, he proceeds to a third, and so on, never taking in hand a subsequent letter till he is familiar with all that precede it.
To facilitate the difficult task of teaching the alphabet to very young children, various devices have been conjoined with writing on sand. The letters of the alphabet have been arranged according to the simplicity of their form*. But it may suffice to begin with some of the letters of simplest form, as in the National Society Central school book, No. 1, and then to proceed regularly through the alphabet.
The same process is followed in regard to the small letters; particular attention is shewn to the letters b, d, p, and q, which the pupil is taught to distinguish, by telling him that each is formed of an o, and a straight line; that the o in b and p is on the right, and in d and q on the left, or by such other device, as will readily occur to the earnest teacher.
In like manner, the double letters, the digits, and numbers are taught by writing them on sand.
To regulate and check the first and most difficult branch of the scholar's instruction there should be required the task of one letter, for every quarter or half an hour, with the same allowance of a quarter or half an hour for the revisal of all the letters which went before the last letter learut: but on no account should a new letter be taken in hand, till the preceding ones are completely mastered; and the progress of each class
* Kendal schools, by Dr. BRIGGS, 1799, see Reports of Society for bettering the Condition of the Poor. Vol. III.
(though it consists, if any such there be, of a single scholar) should be registered daily. When these directions are neglected, the scholar often spends more time in learning the alphabet than is necessary for teaching him to read the bible. In no part of his studies, is he so entirely dependent on his teacher, as in learning the alphabet, and no part of his studies is so often neglected. Independently of the natural difficulty of operations entirely new, where each lesson differs completely from every other, there is often the habit of attention to be acquired at the same time. Hence one of the great advantages of the use of sand, which combines amusement with utility.
In teaching the alphabet, and digits, a single leaf book (the horn book of our ancestors), the first leaf of the first book of the National Society is used.
When familiar. with these, and able without the sinallest hesitation to tell the letters and digits in any book, and write them on sand, he proceeds to monosyllables.
Of Monosyllables, previous Spelling, &c.
Being able to write in sand any monosyllable, the scholar has made a very great progress in reading and spelling. And when he now takes small books into his hands, he has little more to do than to practise what he had already learnt.
The most effectual mode of teaching monosyllables, is in sand, as the alphabet was taught in which case, no book is wanted but the single leaf, which the teacher holds in his hand; but whether this way, or a book be preferred, the lessons of monosyllables begin with the easiest, and proceed gradually to the most difficult, as in the eleven last leaves of the National Society's book, No. 1. When the monosyllables are taught in sand, the utmost economy and precision are attained; and the chief difficulty of learning to read, or spell, overcome before a book is put into the hands of the scholar.
Otherwise after teaching in sand the monosyllables of two letters, this branch of tuition begins anew by first spelling the word on book, and then pronouncing or reading it, by combining the separate sounds, into one articulation. But the practice of the Madras School does not stop here. As soon as the lesson is thus said forwards and backwards, backwards and forwards (beginning with any child indiscriminately, and each in succession saying a single syllable or word) till the teacher says "shut books;" the scholars are called upon to spell the words off book, beginning always with the hardest word in the lesson. The scholar spells the syllables on book thus, b-a ba, off book ba b-a.
It is proper to observe, that whenever I use the word spell by itself, I always mean spelling off book, after the lesson has been said and the book is shut. When on the other hand, I speak of spelling (in the spelling book), previously to the reading of the word, as usually practised throughout long spelling books, &c. and termed simply spelling, as when it is said, "the scholar is in spelling," this I always denominate previous spelling, or spelling on book.
Here the utmost pains must be taken that every word, as he proceeds, be made perfectly familiar to the scholar, considering always that as four or six lessons are at this stage said every hour, it is only necessary that these lessons be well learnt, and, how short soever they be, his progress will be rapid beyond example; but if the lessons, even in the first perusal, are passed over, as often happens in the general run of schools, in a slovenly and careless manner, a load of toil and tedium is laid up; C and the scholar, conscious of his imperfect and slow progress, and puzzled and embarrassed by every les1 son, every where feels dissatisfied with the irksomeness
of his daily tasks, and alike disgusted with his master, e his school, and his book. Let it also be considered, e that this is not only the ground-work, but also the main e part of the future edifice, that the whole of the art of
reading in the Madras School is reduced to its first elements-letters and their combination into single syllables; and that, in teaching and learning these constituent parts, all the labour of the master, and difficulty of the scholar consist. It is not enough, then, that he go through the monosyllabic spelling-book a first time in a perfect manner. The impression of a first perusal, however strong and correct at the time, wears off, and to be rendered permanent it must be renewed by revision as often as shall be found necessary.
For this reason let the first leaf of the monosyllablesthe third and fourth pages of the leaf book be perused for a first time, spelling every word on, and off book perfectly; and a second time in the same manner, for the sake of recovering what may be forgotten; but it will be found unnecessary on the second perusa! to require the scholar to spell every word off book, but only those which he may be supposed to have forgotten; much less need it be required on a third perusal (if, after all, a third perusal should be found necessary) to spell any but the hardest words.
It is not however, till the scholar (by which it will be noticed, I mean every boy and girl qualified to remain in his or her respective class) can on examination of the master or superintendent, spell readily on and off book every word, that he goes through this leaf once more, reading the word without previous spelling, thus, ba; continuing to be exercised, as before, in spelling off book, if he cannot yet readily spell every word in this leaf. In executing these directions each leaf or card is considered as a detached book, and the above rules are applied to each in succession.
If the master has seen to the perfect instruction in the first perusal, and a just attention has been paid to the foregoing directions, very little time will be required for the subsequent perusals, of which in that case a second or third will in general suffice.
I must request every reader to pause while I repeat,