Charles Alexander McMurry.

Special method in primary reading and oral work with stories online

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Online LibraryCharles Alexander McMurrySpecial method in primary reading and oral work with stories → online text (page 10 of 12)
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A leaf is broken.
Another ! Another !
All gone ! All gone !
No beautiful leaves.
I wish I had bright green leaves.



In the morning. Oh, my pretty green leaves!
No one will steal them.
Nothing will break them.
I shall not need to keep still.
I will dance.
Dance! dance! dance!


Goat, do not come here.

These are my leaves.

I want them.

They are pretty.

Oh, oh, oh !

All my pretty leaves are gone.

What shall I do ?

I wish I had my needles.


Oh, mother, mother, see !

I have my old leaves.

I like them.

They are best of all.

No one will steal them.

Nothing will break them.

Nothing will eat them.

I can keep them.

My dear old leaves !

(Ill) Nature Study as a Basis for the Reading.
The subjects in which the pupils are most interested
are made the basis for the reading lessons.


Sometimes there is a guessing game like the fol-
lowing : The teacher, holding a flower in her closed
hand, writes :

Guess what I have.
It is a flower.
It is white.
// has a yellow centre.
(The children answer a daisy.) Or
Guess what I have.
It is a leaf.
It is yellow.
It is long.
It is narrow.

(The children answer the willow.)
After the pupils have made a careful study of a
few birds or flowers, the reading lesson describes
one of these, and the pupils are expected to name
it from the description. If a child gives the wrong
name, one of those who know better points out the
line or lines barring out this object, and reads to the
one making the mistake as proof of his error.
I live in the woods.
I am not a bird.
I am not a flower.
I am not a tree.
I run up trees.
I eat nuts.
I have a bushy tail.
What is my name ? (Squirrel.)


I am a little bird.

My back is brown.

My breast is white.

My bill is curved.

I go up a tree trunk.

I fly to another tree.

I like insects.

What is my name ? (The brown creeper^)

This is a big bird.

It is blue.

It has black bands on its tail and wings.

It has a crest.

Its bill is black.

It scolds.

What is its name ? (The blue jay.)

The children sometimes play a game like the fol-
lowing : All but one personify red-headed wood-
peckers. The one questions from the board. If a
red-headed woodpecker fails to answer the question
put to him, he takes the place of the interlocutor.
It is an honor to be able to answer all the questions


What color is your head ?

What color is your throat ?
What color is your breast ?
What colors on your wings ?
What color is your bill ?
What do you do ?
Where do you make your nest ?


To a set of questions like the following, the chil-
dren give the answers, after reading the questions
silently :

What bird did you first see this spring ?

What have you seen a robin do ?

What flower did you see first ?

What yellow flowers have you seen this spring ?

What white flowers ?

What blue flowers ?

What bird builds a nest in a tree trunk ?

What bird builds a nest on the ground ?


I saw two robins on the ground.

One was a mamma robin.

The other was a baby robin.

The baby robin was as big as its mother.

Its breast was spotted.

Its mother gave it an earthworm.

At first it dropped it, but its mother picked it up
and gave it to her baby again.

This time it got a better hold. By several gulps
it swallowed the worm.

The mother looked proud of her baby. (This is
the teacher's experience which she tells the children
from the board. Sometimes she writes the observa-
tions which one of the children have made.)

As no two teachers will have the same material


for Nature Study, the reading material will not be
multiplied here.

Gradually, as the pupils can stand it, the sentences
are lengthened a little as necessary, and massed
into paragraphs.

The use of the " Mother Goose Rhymes" as a means
of enlivening the first year reading lessons is also
treated as follows by Mrs. Lida McMurry. (Taken
from School and Home Education for October, 1902.)

Many of the children on entering school are well
versed in Nursery Rhymes. They enjoy repeating
them. Other children may not know them so well,
but soon learn them from their classmates. Teachers
and pupils may have a happy time together with
Mother Goose, and at the same time the pupils are
learning to read without realizing that what they are
doing is something that they are not accustomed to.

I will suggest a few ways in which these rhymes
may be made the basis for reading lessons :

Take this rhyme

I. Dance, Thumbkin, dance,

Dance, ye merrymen, every one ;
For Thumbkin he can dance alone,
Thumbkin he can dance alone.

The second, third, fourth, and fifth stanzas are like
the first, only Foreman, Longman, Ringman, and
Littleman are in turn substituted for Thumbkin.

The children first learn to act out each stanza as


they recite it together. The thumb is held up and
moved about as if dancing, as the first line is given.
All the fingers dance as the second line is recited.
The thumb dances alone as the third and fourth lines
are repeated.

The teacher then repeats the stanza alone, and the
children's fingers accompany her.

Later, when the children have learned to act out
the story well, as the teacher repeats it, the teacher
writes the first line at the board, and, pointing to it,
asks the children to do what the board directs. They
cannot tell what it is, so the teacher says, " The
board is talking to Thumbkin" writing the name on
the board as she says it. "What do you think it
wants Thumbkin to do ? " pointing to Dance in the
line on the board. The next line is written on the
board. The children quite likely will guess rightly
what it says, because of its setting. If not, the
teacher will help them as at first. In the same way
they connect the third and fourth lines with the oral
expression of the same, and act them out accordingly.
That the children respond readily to the directions as
written is no proof, at first, that they know even most
of the words in the lines. The teacher's test is a part
of the play. To-day, instead of writing the first line,
she writes the second. Many get caught. They will
be more alert another time. As they can never tell
which line will appear first, they learn to discriminate
by giving closer attention to the form of the words.


Sometimes the teacher writes the six names
Thumbkin, Foreman, etc., and Merrymen, on the
board. She points to the name or names of the one,
or ones, that should dance. The children do not like
to make mistakes in responding with the fingers.

Sometimes the teacher points to a name on the
board, as Foreman, and writes "dance alone," or
" dance every one." The alert children see that the
latter does not apply.

The words are not drilled upon. The game, with
variations sometimes, is played quite frequently, but
never so long at a time that the children weary
of it. Three or four plays or games are given at
a single recitation. The interests of the children
are studied, and rhymes which they do not enjoy
as reading material are dropped, and others sub-
stituted. The rhymes should often be repeated,
just as they occur in "Mother Goose," that the
children may not forget them.

2. Eye winker.

Tom tinker.
Mouth eater.
Chin chopper.
Chin chopper.

The children point to the parts of the face as they
are named. They first learn to give the rhyme with
its accompanying motion orally, then they respond to
it as written on the board (Tom tinker is the other


eye). When they do this readily the directions are
written out of their order. This tests the children's
ability to distinguish one form from another. No
child likes to give the wrong motion in response to a
direction, e.g., point to his mouth when Eye winker
is called for.

3. The children, we will suppose, know a number
of rhymes, as, e.g.,

A diller, a dollar, a ten o'clock scholar.
A little boy went into a barn.
Baa, baa, black sheep.
Rain, rain, go away, etc.

The teacher writes the first line of one of these
rhymes on the board and asks a child to give the
rhyme. He cannot at first. Later he will learn to
recognize it ; so with all the rhymes he knows. When
he can give any rhyme called for in response to the
first line as written at the board, another line (not
the first) is written, and the child asked to give the
rhyme of which it is a part.

4. Is John Smith within ?
Yes, that he is.

Can he set a shoe ?

Ay, marry, two.

Here a nail and there a nail,

Tick, tack, too.

After the children have learned the above rhyme,
acting it out, by imitating the voices of the two


speakers, and by driving the nails, the two ques-
tions are asked at the board, and the children
respond orally. Sometimes the second question,
slightly altered, is asked first, e.g., "Can John
Smith set a shoe?" Sometimes "Who is within?"
appears on the board.

5. Old Mother Hubbard.

There are many stanzas to this poem, a few of
which the teacher will wish to omit, as those refer-
ring to the visits to the ale-house and the tavern.
The pupils become perfectly familiar with the jingle,
so they can with ease give it orally, then the teacher
writes the first line of a stanza at the board and point-
ing to it asks a pupil to give the remainder of the
stanza. The mistake is ludicrous if the wrong lines
follow the first, and the pupils wish to avoid such
a mistake.

6. There were two birds sat on a stone,

Fa, la, la, la, lal, de.
One flew away and then there was one,

Fa, la, la, la, lal, de.
The other flew after and then there was none,

Fa, la, la, la, lal, de.
And so the poor stone was left all alone,

Fa, la, la, la, lal, de.

The children act out this rhyme at first as they say
it, later, silently, as they see what is called for at the


Any number may be substituted for two in the
first line, but when they come to the third line the
number substituted for one should be such that only
one will remain, e.g., There were eight birds sat on
a stone, Seven flew away, etc. The children are
sometimes caught by the wrong number being told
to fly. The children should not fly until they are
sure that it is all right.

7. What are your eyes for ?

What are your ears for ?
What is your nose for ?
What is your tongue for ?
What is your mouth for ?
What is your hand for ? 3
What are your fingers for ?
What are your teeth for ?
What is your brain for ?
What is your heart for ?

These questions are read silently by the children,
then answered orally in complete sentences, one child
only answering at one time. The answers are so
absurd when wrong that each child is careful to
know what is asked.

These are only a few of the ways in which " Mother
Goose" may be used as reading material. Each
teacher will think out for herself ways in which these
rhymes may be profitably and happily employed.



THE problem of primary reading is one of the most
complex and difficult in the whole range of school
instruction. A large proportion of the finest skill
and sympathy of teachers has been expended in
efforts to find the appropriate and natural method of
teaching children to read. All sorts of methods and
devices have been employed, from the most formal
and mechanical to the most spirited and realistic.

The first requisite to good reading is something
worth reading, something valuable and interesting to
the children, and adapted to their minds. We must
take it for granted in this discussion that the best
literature and the best stories have been selected, and
what the teacher has to do is, first, to appreciate
these masterpieces for herself, and second, to bring
the children in the reading lessons to appreciate
and enjoy them. In the primary grades we are not
so richly supplied with available materials from good
literature as in intermediate and grammar grades.
This is due not to difficulty in thought, but to the
unfamiliar written and printed forms. The great
problem in primary reading is to master these strange
forms as quickly as possible, and find entrance to the



story-land of books. For several years, however, pri-
mary teachers have been selecting and adapting
the best stories, and some of the leading publishers
have brought out in choice school-book form books
which are well adapted to the reading of primary

We should like to assume one other advantage.
If the children have been treated orally to " Robinson
Crusoe " in the second grade, they will appreciate and
read the story much better in the third grade. If
some of Grimm's stories are told in first grade, they
can be read with ease in the second grade. The
teacher's oral presentation of the stories is the right
way to bring them close to the life and interest of
children. In the first grade, as shown in the chapter
on oral lessons, it is the only way, because the chil-
dren cannot yet read. But even if they could read, the
oral treatment is much better. The oral presentation
is more lively, natural, and realistic. The teacher
can adapt the story and the language to the im-
mediate needs of the class as no author can. She
can question, or suggest lines of thought, or call up
ideas from the children's experience. The oral man-
ner is the true way to let the children delve into the
rich culture-content of stories and to awaken a taste
for their beauty and truth. We could well wish that
before children read mythical stories in fourth grade,
they had been stirred up to enjoy them by oral narra-
tion and discussion in the preceding year. In the


same way, if the reading bears on interesting science
topics previously studied, it will be a distinct advan-
tage to the reading lesson. Children like to read
about things that have previously excited their inter-
est, whether in story or science. The difficulties of
formal reading will also be partly overcome by famili-
arity with the harder names and words. Our con-
clusion is that reading lessons, alone, cannot provide
all the conditions favorable to good reading. Some
of these can be well supplied by other studies or by
preliminary lessons which pave the way for the read-
ing proper. This matter has been so fully discussed
in the earlier chapters on oral work that it requires
no further treatment here.


Let it be supposed that a class of first-grade chil-
dren has learned to tell a certain story orally. It has
interested them and stirred up their thought.

Let them next learn to read the same story in
a very simple form. This will lead to a series of
elementary reading lessons in connection with the
story, and the aim should be strictly that of master-
ing the early difficulties of reading. The teacher
recalls the story, and asks for a statement from its
beginning. If the sentence furnished by the child is
simple and suitable, the teacher writes it on the black-
board in plain large script. Each child reads it


through and points out the words. Let there be a
lively drill upon the sentence till the picture of each
word becomes clear and distinct. During the first
lesson, two or three short sentences can be handled
with success. As new words are learned, they should
be mixed up on the board with those learned before,
and a quick and varied drill on the words in sentences
or in columns be employed to establish the forms in
memory. 1 Speed, variety in device, and watchfulness
to keep all busy and attentive are necessary to secure
good results.

After a few lessons one or two of the simpler
words may be taken for phonetic analysis. The
simple sounds are associated with the letters that
represent them. These familiar letters are later met
and identified in new words, and, as soon as a
number of sounds with their symbols have been
learned, new words can be constructed and pro-
nounced from these known elements.

The self-activity of the children in recognizing the
elementary sounds, already met, in new words as fast
as they come up, is one of the chief merits of this
early study of words. They thus early learn the
power of self-help and of confident reliance upon
themselves in acquiring and using knowledge. The
chief difficulty is in telling which sound to use, as a
letter often has several sounds (as a, e, s, c, etc.). But

1 First-class primary teachers claim that drills are unnecessary if the
teacher is skilful in recombining the old words in new sentences.


the children are capable of testing the known sounds
of a letter upon a new word, and in most cases, of
deciding which to use. The thoughtless habit of
pronouncing every new word for a child, without
effort on his part, checks and spoils his interest and
self-activity. It does not seem necessary to use an
extensive system of diacritical markings to guide him
in these efforts to discriminate sounds. It is better
to use the marks as little as possible and learn to
interpret words as they usually appear in print.
Experience has shown decisively that a lively and
vigorous self-activity is manifested by such early
efforts in learning to read. It is one of the most
encouraging signs in education to see little children
in their first efforts to master the formal art of read-
ing, showing this spirited self-reliant energy.

In the same way, they recognize old words in
sentences and new or changed combinations of old
forms, and begin to read new sentences which com-
bine old words in new relations.

In short, the sentence, word, and phonic methods
are all used in fitting alternation, while originality and
variety of device are necessary in the best exercise of
teaching power.

The processes of learning to read by such board-
script work are partly analytic and partly synthetic.
Children begin with sentences, analyze them into
words, and some of the words into their simple
sounds. But when these sounds begin to grow


familiar, they are identified again in other words,
thus combining them into new forms. In the same
way, words once learned by the analytic study of
sentences are recognized again in new sentences, and
thus interpreted in new relations.

The short sentences, derived from a familiar story,
when ranged together supply a brief, simple outline
of the story. If now this series of sentences be
written on the board or printed on slips of paper,
the whole story may be reviewed by the class from
day to day till the word and, sentence forms are well
mastered. For making these printed slips, some
teachers use a small printing-press, or a typewriter.
Eventually several stories may be collected and
sewed together, so as to form a little reading-book
which is the result of the constructive work of
teacher and pupils.

The reading lessons just described are entirely
separate from the oral treatment and reproduction of
the stories ; yet the thought and interest awakened
in the oral work are helpful in keeping up a lively
effort in the reading class. The thought material in
a good story is itself a mental stimulus, and produces
a wakefulness which is favorable to imprinting the
forms as well as the content of thought. Expression,
also, that is, natural and vivid rendering of the
thought, is always aimed at in reading, and springs
spontaneously from interesting thought studies.

Many teachers use the materials furnished by oral


lessons in natural science as a similar introduction to
reading in first grade. The science lessons furnish
good thought matter for simple sentences, and there
is good reason why, in learning to read, children
should use sentences drawn both from literature and
from natural science.


The oral lessons in good stories, and the later
board-use of these materials in learning the elements
of formal reading, are an excellent preparation for
the fuller and more extended reading of similar
matter in the second and third grades.

When the oral work of the first grade has thus
kindled the fancy of a child upon these charming
pictures, and the later board-work has acquainted
him with letter and word symbols which express such
thought, the reading of the same and other stories of
like character (a year later) will follow as an easy
and natural sequence. As a preliminary to all good
reading exercises, there should be rich and fruitful
thought adapted to the age of children. The realm
of classic folk-lore contains abundant thought mate-
rial peculiar in its fitness to awaken the interest and
fancy of children in the first two grades. To bring
these choice stories close to the hearts of children
should be the aim of much of the work in both these
grades. Such an aim, skilfully carried out, not only
conduces to the joy of children in first grade, but


infuses the reading lessons of second grade with
thought and culture of the best quality.

Interest and vigor of thought are certain to help
right expression and reading. Reading, like every
other study, should be based upon realities. When
there is real thought and feeling in the children, a
correct expression of them is more easily secured
than by formal demands or by intimidation.

The stories to be read in second or third grade
may be fuller and longer than the brief outline sen-
tences used for board-work in the first grade.
Besides, these tales, being classic and of permanent
value, do not lose their charm by repetition.


By oral reading, we mean the giving of the
thought obtained from a printed page to others
through the medium of the voice.

There is first the training of the eye in taking in a
number of words at a glance a mechanical process;
then the interpretation of these groups of words
a mental process ; next the making known of the
ideas thus obtained to others, by means of the voice
also a mechanical process.

The children need special help in each step. We
are apt to overdo one at the expense of the others.

i.. Eye-training is the foundation of all good read-
ing. Various devices are resorted to in obtaining it.
We will suggest a few, not new at all, but useful.


(a) A strip of cardboard, on which is a clause or
sentence, is held before the class, for a moment only,
and then removed. The length of the task is in-
creased as the eye becomes trained to this kind of

(b) The children open their books at a signal from
the teacher, glance through a line, or part of one,
indicated by the teacher, close book at once and give
the line.

(c) The teacher places on the board clauses or
sentences bearing on the lesson, and covers with a
map. The map is rolled up to show one of these,
which is almost immediately erased. The children
are then asked to give it. The map is then rolled
up higher, exposing another, which also is speedily
erased and so on until all have been given to the
children and erased.

2. The child needs not only to be able to recognize
groups of words, but he must be able to get thought
from them. The following are some devices to that

(a) Suggestive pictures can be made use of to
advantage all through the primary grades. If the
child reads part of the story in the picture, and finds
it interesting, he will want to read from the printed
page the part not given in the picture.

(b) Where there is no picture or even where
there is one an aim may be useful to arouse interest
in the thought, i.e. a thoughtful question may be put


by the teacher, which the children can answer only
by reading the story; e.g. in the supplementary
reader, " Easy Steps for Little Feet," is found the
story of " The Pin and Needle." There is no picture.
The teacher says, as the class are seated : " Now we
have a story about a big quarrel between a pin and a
needle over the question, 'Which one is the better
fellow ? ' Of what could the needle boast ? Of what
the pin ? Let us see which won."

(c) Let all the pupils look through one or more
paragraphs, reading silently, to get the thought,
before any one is called upon to read aloud. If a
child comes to a word that he does not know, during

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Online LibraryCharles Alexander McMurrySpecial method in primary reading and oral work with stories → online text (page 10 of 12)