Volume XXVIII January 1920 Number 1
Hang Up Your Thermometer
Ida E. Roger Grade Supervisor, Mt, Vernon, N. Y.
Part I was here
Question I. What opportunities are we offering for skilful training in “correctors and precision in the use of the mother tongue”?
This question contains the first criterion Mr. Butler names. Our interpretation of this question must be discussed under four headings: i.e., the work commonly labelled reading, spelling, language, and writing.
- Reading: From the first, habits are established which influence the Manner of reading later done. Reading matter which makes a strong child appeal is chosen and the child led by desire and interest to get the thought. This is the chief aim. Yet ability to master words must become automatic if reading is to proceed with ease and independence. Undivided attention to this need is given during a special phonic period and other specific drill upon grasping the words of a phrase or clause is also added. Experiments have proven that correct motor eye-habits increase the speed in reading and the ability to grasp the idea. The slow reader (we are shown by efficiency tests) finds interpretation of thought harder because he is “impeded by the mechanical processes of the reading act.” His eye is not trained to group one sweep of related words, and his pausing upon each word makes the rate slow and the thought many times ununited.
Modern methods of reading make much of this drill to grasp ideas “in their Combined Form in the thought.” The reading systems have definite standards for accomplishment. In addition, we are stressing silent reading combined with rate of reading. This accomplishes alertness, concentration, and thought getting. • We are joining forces with the public library in instructing students in the use of that institution and are following up much of this independent reading by a use of the material gained. Vocabulary results from this source are infinite, and a natural step beyond that of the younger children who listen intently to and adopt phrases from the rhymes of Mother Goose.
As the children thus increase in ability to comprehend and use the expressions met, they themselves discover the joy of continually broadening life’s outlook, and so find that reading, in truth, may become a real adventure. This situation is one which is significant.
The language course of study at the close of the sixth grade should show provision for the attainment of the requirements presented by the National Joint Committee on English (representing the Commission on the Re organization of Secondary Education of the National Education Association and the National Council of Teachers of English). This report was published by the Bureau of Education at Washington, and recommends (page 128) “after a wide consultation of principals and teachers in the elementary schools,” standards to be completed in the first six grades of school. These standards are stated as follows: “At the end of the sixth grade pupils should be able:
“1 To express clearly and consecutively, either in speech or in writing, ideas which are familiar and firmly grasped; ”
2 To avoid gross grammatical errors; ”
3 To compose and mail a letter; ”
4 To spell their own written vocabulary; ”
5 To read silently, and after one reading to reproduce the substance of a simple short story, news item, or lesson; ”
6 To read aloud readily and intelligently simple news items, a lesson from text-books, or literature of such difficulty as ‘The Ride of Paul Revere,’ or Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol ‘ ; ”
7 To quote accurately and understandingly several short poems, such as Bennet’s ‘The Flag Goes By’ and Emerson’s ‘ The Mountain and the Squirrel.’
“Criticism listed on page 124 of this Federal Report may also be used as one of our objectives.” Especially notice able in all parts of the country is the neglect of the training of the voice in distinct enunciation, clear articulation, and agreeable tones.”
It is true that we have succeeded in conquering large numbers of cases of mumbling; we have also been pleased with the increase in poise and in conviction of tone which has grown out of stressing oral composition. We should also show growth in pupil effort to cultivate a tone and an enunciation which are both a business and a social asset. The child’s attention can be more closely turned to this element as soon as he has laid the basis required for one who must learn “to stand upon his feet and think aloud.” This basis is the use of complete clear-cut sentences related to the central thought, in place of the monosyllabic answer first proposed by the timid or careless child. This growth in oral expression is the type of English work to receive the largest emphasis during the time spent in Grades I-VI. (It is, of course, understood that the term oral expression indicates ability to express thought and is not used in the sense which suggests elocutionary emphasis.) Our training for written language work should be connected with many of the oral language problems, small units of carefully thought out messages (rather than long sheets of careless vaporizing) being the task set before the pupil who must learn the importance of pruning a story and of looking at words closely instead of “throwing them on with a shovel.” Large written problems should therefore be divided into several units until the time when the pupil has formed the habits of accuracy and precision. During the period’s work with each small unit, the student will have three aims ever present —
(1) clearness and conciseness,
(3) variety of expression.
These principles will in many cases be emphasized by such questions as: 1 Does this sentence seem a puzzle or awkward?
a Because of its wording?
b Because of its length?
2 Does each sentence ” fit ” (really follow with a smooth ness not apparent when omissions of certain detail cause a gap in thought or needless repetitions postpone progress in thought)?
3 Does the language show an effort on the part of the writer to adopt interesting phrases or other vocabulary?
And lastly, in considering this phase of Dr. Butler’s statement, may we ask what we are offering the child in the line of assistance in taking the initiative in daily conversation? Are we helping the child to lasting interests which become a basis for definite contribution on his part — whether it be when he is called upon to write an interesting letter or, as one of a social group (at his own table or outside of his home walls), to take part in a discussion where his ability to express thought is either a stimulation to others or a possible indication of a future bore?
(c) Spelling Such standard spelling studies as the Ayers list (and “a foundation vocabulary,” as Dr. Ayers terms the 1000 words compiling the list). “The Jones’ Spelling Demons” should also be known to our teachers.
(d) Writing Arm or muscular movement, generally used throughout the country to accomplish ease, speed, and legibility in writing, is the habit established in the cases of the majority of children leaving the elementary grades. Preliminary work is accomplished by blackboard practice that the teacher may keep in touch with each child, that incorrect body and finger movements may not develop while the pupil is puzzling over the letter forms, and that a chance for corrections during a single period may occur. Application of special problems to stress so as to anticipate errors found in written work has hi many rooms been worked out ; lists of words based upon forms sometimes not differentiated have resulted:
To give practice in showing a distinct difference between a or o when united to w or u. Distribution to each grade of short lists of words suggested by the 1917 Committee on Economy of Time (appointed by the National Council of Teachers of English) is recommended. Such work is the outcome of the direct report of the sub-committee on Mechanics of Writing, and in consideration of the matter of Economy of Time, it is urged by this committee that some of the formal writing periods profit “by recent investigations of spelling conditions” and place emphasis upon certain common words “known to be commonly misspelled everywhere.” Drill in penmanship period will then not be based upon such generally unused words as vat or slab or taboo or spawn, but will give practice upon desired letters through choosing for repeated emphasis those commonly needed words which include the letter chosen for penmanship drill upon a given day. This correlation with the spelling and language work will motivate in a new way the penmanship work. The National Sub-committee on Mechanics of Writing ask for penmanship practice upon the following number of troublesome words: