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THE METHOD OF THE
RECITATION



THE METHOD



OF



THE RECITATION



BY



CHARLES A. McMURRY, PH.D.

DIRECTOR OF PRACTICE DEPARTMENT, NORTHERN ILLINOIS
NORMAL SCHOOL, DE KALB, ILLINOIS

AND

FRANK M. McMURRY, PH.D.

PROFESSOR OF THEORY AND PRACTICE OF TEACHING, TEACHERS
COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY



Wefor |00rfe
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.
IQIO

Att right* rtstrved



COPYRIGHT, 1897,
BY. C. A. McMURRY AND F. M. McMURRY.

COPYRIGHT, 1903,
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.



Set up, elcctrotyped, and published January, 1903. Reprinted
June, twice, September, 1903 ; January, February, 1904 ; March,
June, 1905; March, July, 1906 ; April, October, December, 1908;
July, 1909 ; July, December, 1910.



"V CALIFORNIA
SANTA BARBARA



Dctu'catrti to
JOHN W. COOK

PRESIDENT OP THE NORTHERN ILLINOIS NORMAL SCHOOL
DE KALB, ILLINOIS



$



PREFACE

THE Method of the Recitation has sprung out of
school-room work, and is designed to be a practical
application of the principles of method to the various
problems of class-room instruction. It is an effort to
bring together and to organize the various principles
that control skilful teaching.

It is based fundamentally upon the inductive-
deductive thought movement in acquiring and using
knowledge.

This organized plan of laying out recitation work
was first projected by the thinkers of the Herbart
school in Germany. For more than thirty years
they have been developing and applying it under the
title " The Formal Steps of Instruction " (Die forma-
ten Stufen des Unterrichts). Formerly Dr. T. Ziller
at Leipzig was a leader in the movement, and more
recently Dr. W. Rein at Jena. They worked out
their theory and applied it with proficiency to a large
variety of topics in different studies, thus showing
the flexibility of leading principles under various
forms of application.



Vlll PREFACE

The Method of the Recitation is based upon the
principles of teaching which were expounded and
illustrated in the work of Herbart, Ziller, and Rein.
At the same time, the authors hope to have shown
in the body of the work that we have to do here with
principles recognized by teachers in every land, and
that there is no thoughtless imitation of foreign
methods and devices. While our debt to German
thinkers for an organization of fundamental ideas is
great, the entire discussion, as here presented, springs
out of American conditions ; its illustrative materials
are drawn exclusively from lessons commonly taught
in our schools. In fact, the whole book, while
strongly influenced by Herbart's principles, is the
outgrowth of several years' continuous work with
classes of children in all the grades of the common
school.

The Method of the Recitation may be regarded as
Part II of the broad subject of Method of which the
" General Method," published earlier, is Part I. The
latter book is a discussion of the leading principles
of education as they bear on the school curriculum,
and is designed to be preliminary to the definite
treatment of recitation work.

The final test of the value of any such effort to
organize the recitation must be found in the worth
of the actual lessons worked out in accordance with



PREFACE x

its principles. Two chapters, II and XI, are given
up to such typical lessons. Each topic or lesson
unity treated requires several or even many recita-
tion periods for its completion.

The authors have divided the work nearly equally
between them, Chapters I, II, except the illustration
"In unity is strength," Chapters IX, X, XI, and
XIII, except the parable of the tares, being written
by C. A. McMurry. Chapters III, IV, V, VI, VII,
and VIII, Chapters XII and XIV by F. M. McMurry.

The present edition has been completely revised
and supplied with marginal topics for better use as
a text-book. Considerable additions have been made
to the original edition and some changes made in the
division and arrangement of chapters.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PACK

I. VARIETY VERSUS UNIFORMITY IN METHODS OF

INSTRUCTION i

II. ILLUSTRATIVE LESSONS SHOWING THE PROCESSES

OF REACHING GENERAL TRUTHS . . .13

III. How INDIVIDUAL AND GENERAL NOTIONS ARE

DISTINGUISHED FROM EACH OTHER ... 42

IV. WHY GENERAL NOTIONS OR CONCEPTS ARE THE

GOAL OF INSTRUCTION . . . . . 51
V. Do GENERALIZATIONS PRECEDE OR FOLLOW INDI-
VIDUAL NOTIONS? . . . . ' t . 64
VI. How INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS SHOULD BE AP-
PROACHED 74

VII. How INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS SHOULD BE PRESENTED 118
VIII. HOW PROCEED FROM INDIVIDUAL TO GENERAL

NOTIONS 185

IX. How SHOULD GENERAL NOTIONS BE APPLIED? . 207

X. THE VALUE OF TYPES 236

XI. ILLUSTRATIVE LESSONS 257

XII. LAWS UNDERLYING PROCESSES IN TEACHING . 288

XIII. APPLICATIONS AND CRITICISMS .... 297

XIV. LESSON PLANS 329



METHOD OF RECITATION

CHAPTER I

VARIETY VERSUS UNIFORMITY IN METHODS OF
INSTRUCTION

THERE has been a long-standing dispute among
teachers whether or not the processes of instruction
must conform to any fixed and uniform regulatives.
Among scholars, and even among teachers, many
have been sceptical of anything like a definite science
of education.

At the first glance, the broad field of education Reasons for
presents a medley, many and varied studies, chil-



dren of all ages and capacities, and teachers of science of

T-I education.

nearly every quality and description. There are
many sorts of schools, and great diversity of purpose
and method even in schools of the same kind. In
high schools, for example, there are general and
business courses, classical and scientific courses, but
teachers are at variance as to the best methods of in-
struction even in the classical course, to say nothing
of the different standpoints of teachers of classics
and of natural science. What is still more discourag-
ing, the very sciences upon which pedagogy claims



METHOD OF RECITATION



Universal
principles of
method the
basis of a
science of
education.



to be based, psychology and ethics, lie as much in
the field of controversy as pedagogy itself. In the
midst of this endless variety and fluctuation in the
theory and practice of teaching, it is not strange that
many educated people, even teachers, take a scepti-
cal attitude toward scientific method, and regard each
person as a law unto himself.

This tendency to discredit a science of education is
indicated by our use of the term method. There is
scarcely a more common word in the teaching pro-
fession, and it is frequently employed in the plural
form, a practical admission not of one and only one
right method, but that their number is legion. Also
some of the most common watchwords of our pro-
fession point in the same direction, " Freedom and
originality," " The teacher is born, not made," " Make
your own method."

Our pedagogy seems to have fallen into a condi-
tion similar to that in which philosophy found itself
in the time of the Sophists. Each man's judgment
was counted as good as another's. Each man was
the measure of all things, and though two men dif-
fered radically, both might be right in their judg-
ments. The Sophists were sceptical of any universal
standard of truth.

But Socrates, who followed the Sophists, sought in
the individual's thinking, when properly guided, a
universal principle of truth, so that all men when
they think logically and soundly must agree. He



VARIETY VERSUS UNIFORMITY 3

was in search of a uniform mode of thinking which
would have universal validity. Pedagogy likewise is
in search of universal principles of method in learn-
ing, based not upon the subjective whim of the
teacher, but upon the common law of mental action
which is universal with children and students, in fact
with all human beings. And the extent to which
such universal principles of method are discovered,
determines the extent to which there is a science of
education.

The question is this : Is there any essential, natural
process upon which a uniform method of treating the
varied school subjects can be based? As already
said, to outward appearance there seems to be no
such process; there seem to be no principles that
may serve as a guide for all persons in teaching all
subjects. But we should not be discouraged by ap-
pearances. The fact that even good teachers show
an infinite variety of individual and personal traits,
and that studies differ greatly in subject-matter, is no
proof that there is not a common mode of procedure
for instruction. We remember that everywhere in
nature and in society is variety and apparent con-
fusion; fundamental laws do not stand out so as to
be easily detected by careless observers. They lie
deep and must be searched out by patient examina-
tion and labor. In the study of trees and flowers no
scientist is deceived by the multiplicity and variety
of forms. It is the habit of his mind to reduce all



METHOD OJf RECITATION



Economy of

such

principles.



varieties to common structural forms and simple
classes.

Hence, while there is a large element in teaching
that is always variable, according to the branch of
study and the differing personality of teacher or
pupils, may there not be essential uniformity ; some
great underlying principles of method ?

Could these principles be discovered, no one would
deny their value ; we are not so enamoured of indi
vidual freedom as to refuse submission to rational,
regulated processes.

Definite and valuable principles of action, while
they check one's freedom along foolish lines, guide
effort into the channels of efficiency. Too much free-
dom becomes positively oppressive. Whether travel-
ling over a continent or through a field of thought,
erecting a mansion, or developing a high moral char-
acter, whoever would keep his bearings and work
forward to an important end, must have a guide.
Whether it be a compass, a model, or an ideal, he
must look to it continually for direction. Any one
engaged in a work so important and difficult as teach-
ing is much in need of fixed principles which outline
for him the ideal of method. If convinced that no
one method is right, that no ideal can be set up, he
is like a sea captain who is persuaded that whatever
course he may choose for his vessel is at least possi-
bly good. He acknowledges the possession of no
standard of excellence, and sees chiefly fog in his



VARIETY VERSUS UNIFORMITY 5

chosen course. He is subject, therefore, to half-
hearted action, for energy and encouragement are
not born of uncertainty and confusion.

No one, therefore, will object to a search for the
unity that may underlie the variety of good methods
in teaching.

Our text-books supply us with a definite formula- The uniform.
tion of methods of teaching. They are generally
constructed out of the experience of the better teach-
ers and in conformity with those traditional ideas and
practices which are common to the great body of in-
structors. The examination and comparison of our
most widely used text-books in grammar, arithmetic,
history, geography, reading, etc., will show a uniform-
ity in at least one very important respect.

It may be said that our text-books in English gram-
mar are built on a single plan. As surely as an ordi-
nary dwelling has parlor, sitting room, and kitchen,
so grammar has orthography, etymology, and syntax.
This is one kind of uniformity ; namely, that of lead-
ing topics in the subject-matter. But, what is more
to our purpose, the general truths contained in these
materials are singled out as the central aim of study.
In grammar everything culminates in the definitions
and rules, whose complete mastery gives us the scien-
tific grasp of the structure and meaning of language.
In most books even the method of reaching the rules
and definitions is stereotyped. Definitions, examples,
and applications constitute the regular order in the



O METHOD OF RECITATION

treatment of every topic. Green's grammar is an
illustration. Some of the more recent books have
modified the order of topics and have adopted an in-
ductive method of treatment ; but under all changes
the definitions and principles expressing the functions
of the parts of speech and the syntactical relations
of the elements of the sentence have remained the
central aim of instruction.

An examination of a score of the best arithmetics
in use will show a striking uniformity in the series of
important topics treated. The following series is
very familiar : the four fundamental operations, fac-
toring, common fractions, decimals, compound num-
bers, percentage, ratio, proportion, involution, and
evolution. But this external uniformity of subject-
matter is only a sign of that deeper-lying uniformity
which aims at the development and use of funda-
mental principles. The elementary general truths of
arithmetic lie at the basis of all the important topics
handled. The solution, analysis, and explanation of
problems are simply means for bringing the impor-
tant principles clearly to light. When the principles
can be explicitly stated and intelligently applied, the
essential aim of arithmetic has been reached. In
most books even the method of procedure in mas-
tering the rule is the same, first one or two simple
problems worked out and explained, then the rule,
followed by a series of applications growing more
complex and difficult.



VARIETY VERSUS UNIFORMITY 7

In algebra and geometry the essential principles
which constitute the framework of these studies are
still more strikingly prominent as the aim of study.
While the methods of approach to principles vary
somewhat, the definitions, theorems, and proposi-
tions, when finally reached, are formulated in nearly
the same language.

In mathematics, therefore, as in grammar, instruc-
tion centres in the principles to be understood and
applied. All variations in method, whether induc-
tive or deductive, are different modes of presenting
these generalizations.

A comparative study of the leading common-
school geographies will show a similar agreement
in aim. No study is richer in the abundance and
variety of concrete material than geography, but
the books follow a strong traditional tendency and
are really modelled on a single plan. Not only the
outline of leading topics is the same, such as mathe-
matical geography, physical features of the continents,
the political divisions and populations, the chief occu-
pations, as agriculture, commerce, mining, and manu-
facturing, but in these topics the chief purpose is to
give a distinct emphasis to the general truths which
underlie all the variety of geographical detail.

Some of these truths, for example, are the follow-
ing : soil comes from rock ; slopes are necessary for
drainage, and drainage for farming; mountains
greatly influence temperature and rainfall; the



8 METHOD OF RECITATION

roads of a country are an index of its civiliza-
tion ; great cities owe their growth largely to the
advantages of their location for transportation ; coal
and iron ore are the two most important mineral prod-
ucts ; climate and occupation greatly aff ect the char-
acter of a people. The location of points, the fixing
of boundaries, etc., are of use, to be sure, but interest
in geography centres primarily in such truths as these.

In history every important event is typical or repre-
sentative in character, setting forth a truth common
to many other events, or reappearing in the lives of
many persons. In Hamilton's life and thinking as a
statesman the notion of a strong central power of
government was potent. This idea appears, also, in
other statesmen, as in Webster, Washington, and
Lincoln, and has gradually become an idea common
to all patriotic Americans. The building of the old
national road was a particular event, but it illustrated
the principle of the right of the federal government
under the constitution to make internal improve-
ments. So every event in history, that is worth
learning, helps point the way to a more general
truth. History, therefore, has a large number of
general truths in store, and it is the deeper, broader
meaning of these general ideas which we seek, through
particular events, to disclose.

This statement may be accepted without commit-
ting one's self in favor of a philosophy of history, such
as that presented in Hegel's noted work bearing that



VARIETY VERSUS UNIFORMITY 9

title. One may properly believe that sufficient data
for the broadest, deepest truths concerning human
progress are wanting, so that history cannot reveal
such truths, even to advanced students ; but one may
still feel convinced that it is the purpose of history
to present general truths of a lower order, as those
just suggested.

Beginning reading is a study in which the mastery
and use of arbitrary symbols play a very important
part; yet there is a small nucleus of generaliza-
tion upon which the study is organized. In good
reading final consonants are enunciated with distinct-
ness ; soft tones are heard ; and the voice is modu-
lated in accordance with the thoughts expressed. It
is such abstract statements as these that the learner
must comprehend and apply before he can read well.

Finally, even spelling contains its rules. But
these, you say, are partly useless because of their
numerous exceptions. True ; and that is one of the
reasons why spelling fails to receive the respect ac-
corded to other studies. Its want of reliable rules
deprives it of scientific content, and it is regarded by
many persons as an evil, though a very necessary-
one. It is not a full study.

In these various studies, therefore, we find the ten-
dency predominant to concentrate effort upon the
mastery of essential general truths. What is the
reason for such uniformity ? Is it simply blind cus-
tom, or have we been working out, consciously or



IO METHOD OF RECITATION

unconsciously, a fundamental principle in education ?
Is it not the latter ? Whether conscious of it or not,
text-book makers have been laboring for the nearest
approach to a scientific statement and arrangement
of general truths that each of the studies would per-
mit. And while there has been much glib talk about
freedom and originality in teaching, the text-books
have held the great majority of teachers in a well-
defined routine ; have led them to do practically the
same things, and in essentially the same way.

The striking similarity that marks each large class
of text-books is one of the most noticeable character-
istics of our education, and is in clear contrast to that
variety of methods discussed at the beginning of this
chapter. Education gravitates into these channels of
generalized knowledge as surely as rivers work their
way through the lowlands. Even in a democratic
country where each community is free to adopt its
own system and method of education, where no hie-
rarchy of learned men in any way officially directs the
educational policy, we see an almost universal ten-
dency toward uniformity, based upon the broad sci-
entific principles of any study.

General If now we find that the ground for this uniformity

Carting-point * s rea % a scientific idea, not only widely recognized,



for a scientific fo^ valid in psychology, we may fix a starting-point

instruction, for a sound pedagogy. The mastery of the general

truths of a study must remain the direct purpose of

instruction in each branch of knowledge. These



VARIETY VERSUS UNIFORMITY II

truths are what are known in psychology as general
notions or concepts. They are the centres around
which the knowledge of any subject is grouped and
classified. It is the mastery of these rules and prin-
ciples, and the ability to apply them, that are con-
stantly aimed at in all the best school work. From
an examination of the psychologies we detect that
the treatment of the precept and the concept (the
particular and the general notion) furnishes two lead-
ing chapters of mental science. The process of learn-
ing as explained by all the psychologies culminates
in the general notion or concept. Psychology sup-
plies, therefore, a strong support to our conclusion
as to the basis of scientific method.

It would not be difficult to show that all the higher
studies, as history, science, language, medicine, law,
etc., become organized under general notions or prin-
ciples ; in fact, the definition of science is " general-
ized, classified knowledge."

In the history of philosophy also the general no-
tion plays a r61e not less important than in these
other subjects. From the days of Socrates and Plato
on, inductive and deductive reasoning have set the
general notion as the centre of all thinking as the
thing aimed at in induction, and as the basis of all
true deduction. When Herbert Spencer, therefore,
calls his most fundamental book " First Principles,"
he has in mind those general truths which lie at the
basis of his entire system of thought.



12 METHOD OF RECITATION

In conclusion, we find that the general notion is a
pivotal centre of discussion not only in elementary
and higher studies of all sorts, but also in the great
fields of psychology and philosophy.

It is not claimed that the method by which general
notions have been worked out in our text-books is
uniformly correct and valid. This is a question that
we are not called upon to settle at this point. Whether
or not an inductive or deductive approach to general
truths is the correct one, we can leave for further
consideration. But one leading aim of instruction in
every important study is a mastery, in the full sense,
of its general truths. Without this basis no method
of instruction has any validity. It may be that the
method by which this aim can be best realized has
been so thoroughly misinterpreted and misapplied
that we have approached a uniformity of error in our
methods of teaching. It may be that definitions and
abstract formulae have been set too much in the fore-
front of every lesson, and also that systematically
formulated knowledge has been forced prematurely
into lower grades. Yet it is a great step in the right
direction to have fixed clearly the aim of instruction,
to have determined the goal toward which all proper
mental movement tends. Assuming that our con-
clusions thus far are justified, we may move on to a
discussion of the essential steps in a correct method
of instruction.



CHAPTER II

ILLUSTRATIVE LESSONS SHOWING THE PROCESSES OP
REACHING GENERAL TRUTHS

IN the first chapter, having located the goal of in-
struction in general notions and in their proper use,
the question, how to reach them, now becomes para-
mount. In the present chapter a number of lessons
is worked out to illustrate the different processes in
vogue for mastering general truths. In each exam-
ple two different methods are presented : first, that
common to many of our text-books and to the usual
practice of teachers ; and second, the fuller inductive
and developing method now followed in some schools.

The purpose of this chapter is not only to show
the two ways of reaching a comprehension of such
truths, but also to suggest other important phases of
recitation work. In the discussions of recitation
method which follow, these lessons may be kept in
mind as illustrating the principles under treatment.

The lessons are taken from different studies,
arithmetic, geography, literature, natural science, and
history. They recognize generalizations as the goal
of instruction, but leave open the question as to

'3



14 METHOD OF RECITATION

whether or not any further principles of method
may be found in the treatment of these various
materials.

The Addition of Fractions

In first learning to add fractions, one method of the
arithmetics is fairly illustrated by the following :
What is the sum of fy, |f, and |j ?

Process : & + |f + M = a M JJl = If = 'H-
What is the sum of ^|, ^f , ^|, and -$ ?
What is the sum of f , _, and \\ ?

Since unlike fractional

units cannot be added, re-
Process: , ' ,

li _? duce the fractionsf, -^, and

1 !*!' 9i = , to a co mm on denomi-



nator and then add the
resulting fractions.

After ten or a dozen problems the following rule
is given :

" To add fractions, reduce the fractions to a com-
mon denominator, add the numerators of the new
fractions, and under the sum write the common
denominator."

The following more detailed process is suggested
for consideration :

How shall we add fractions whose denominators
are unlike ?

What fractions have you already learned to add ?
Try these, ^ and J% -| and |. ^ and Jf . Can you



ILLUSTRATIVE LESSONS 1$


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Online LibraryCharles Alexander McMurryThe method of the recitation → online text (page 1 of 21)