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and listening to a description of it.

But unfortunately it is often impossible to see and
handle the objects themselves. In that case there
are several partial substitutes; among them are
models, maps, photographs, and lantern slides. Any
school could make a valuable collection of pictures
by simply cutting them out of newspapers and
magazines ; thus water-falls, industries, beautiful
views, etc., could be presented in concrete form.

But there is another substitute for the real object
that is especially worthy of mention ; it is an abun-
dance of details. To be sure, there is often a strong
objection to them, for there is a kind of details that
is a useless burden : the dates of most battles, the
number of men engaged in them, the bends in a
river, the exact height of mountains, the several
uses of the present active participle, the number of
seeds in an apple, the degree of longitude in which
most towns on the earth are situated, are fair exam-
ples. These are not the kind meant. There is
another kind that is really essential, and it is illus-
trated in the story of Crusoe, where little incidents
are related without number in order to build up a
vivid picture ; they are necessary to the comprehen-
sion of Minneapolis as a trade centre, for one must
know the kinds of grain shipped into the city, the
many railroads carrying it, the numerous flour mills



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED l6/

with their capacity, etc., before he begins to see
what is meant by trade centre. Many detailed events
in the life of the milkweed butterfly are likewise nec-
essary before one can get a right conception of its
metamorphosis.

In tracing the origin of our constitution it is in- Need of welt
sufficient to read that New York, New Jersey, and Details.
Connecticut fell into disputes and threatened war.
We want to know what they quarrelled about. So
it is not enough to call attention merely to the fact
that there was no national coinage, and hence that
trade was hindered ; we should like to see in detail
some of the ways in which it was hindered. Only by
the help of abundant little facts are we likely to enter
into the spirit of such situations and understand them
properly. These details are trivial in themselves, to
be sure ; but it is through them that the child becomes
so absorbed in a subject that he fails to hear you when
you speak to him; it is through them that he ap-
proaches perfection of understanding and interest.
The point to be emphasized is the selection of the
right kind. Those should be chosen that are es-
sential to a clear, attractive, and correct picture.
Those that are irrelevant to this end should be cast
aside. The biographer omits many incidents in the
life of his hero, because they contribute little to any
important purpose, but he depends upon others to
make important characteristics clear and to render
the biography attractive. The popularity of Fiske's



1 68 METHOD OF RECITATION

" Critical Period in American History " is due largely
to its exciting details. As said, then, the first precaii-
tion to exercise is to select the details witJi care. This
being recognized, the next should be to provide an
abundance of them. Meagre data can never produce
a complete notion, but a great number of them, well
chosen, can make permanent impressions.

Motor The vividness of mental pictures is dependent

finally upon the extent to which thoughts are allowed



securing ^ o fi nc j expression in physical action. During the first

vivid impres-

sions. six years of life the child acquires a large share of his

education. Each year he probably learns more than
he does during any later year of life, not excepting
his college course. What are the means by which
this great result is brought about? Two character-
istics of these six years are especially noticeable. One
is that he is almost constantly employing his mind.
He propounds questions, finds their solution, makes
observations of various kinds, etc. But during all
this time his motor activity is as striking as his mental
life. He is using his back, neck, legs, arms, hands,
etc., as freely as his mind. Undoubtedly it is natural
for him to do so. He is so constituted that if he did
not exercise he would scarcely be able to contain him-
self. Hence such physical action may be considered
restful. But it is more than that. It is not a waste-
ful activity that merely accompanies mental action, in
an unrelated way, but it aids this action, it helps to-
ward clearness of ideas. By dramatizing the scenes



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED 169

that he pictures, by doing and making the things that
he imagines, he uses two means of expression rather
than one ; namely, words and actions, and he experi-
ences a richer spiritual life in consequence.

All this being true, when the six-year-old boy enters
school, what conception should be entertained of
his work there ? Is it to be his occupation to sit
still and think? Or at best, does learning consist
for him in thinking, in free exercise of the muscles
of the tongue, and of those of the hand and arm in
writing and figuring? If an abundance of physical
activity was characteristic of those years when he
learned so much, and if it was a necessary means to
that end, why should not provision be made for it
in the school? Why should not the method of
teaching, throughout the grades, provide for plenty
of motor activity, whose immediate purpose shall
be to contribute to vivid imaging and to mental
growth ?

But how can this arrangement be effected ? In the
first place, one can plan to employ the hand in many
kinds of subjects. For instance, if drawing is begun
with school life, children can learn to express their
thoughts as freely with chalk as with words; they
will illustrate Hiawatha's fight with the sturgeon, or
the interior of a coal mine, without the slightest
hesitation. They not only can be made willing to
step to the board when asked, but if they happen to
be near the board they will step to it unconsciously



I/O METHOD OF RECITATION

when words seem to be inadequate to express the
idea. This result, too, can be brought about not by
skilled instruction in technical drawing, but merely
by daily practice from the beginning in expressing
all kinds of thoughts with chalk as well as with
words.

Schools are already somewhat numerous in which
this kind of work is done, and their number can be
multiplied. The hands can be further employed in
shaping clay to represent such objects as an Eskimo
hut, or in using sand in geography work, or in paint-
ing a beautiful sunset, or in making objects out of
paper or pasteboard or wood. The thoughts repre-
sented by such objects can, of course, be expressed
in words, but if in addition to that they are told
through the work of the hand, clearer perceptions
are obtained.

In the second place it is often just as easy to
employ the whole body as the hand in this expressive
action. For instance, it is well in geography for a
pupil, instead of saying simply that London is north-
east of New York, to point toward it, or, better still,
to walk toward it. It would be in place occasionally
to have a walking exercise in the geography with
such questions as the following : Let us now suppose
ourselves in Paris, will you walk toward London ?
Walk toward St. Louis. Toward Rome. Again,
we are now in St. Petersburg, will you walk toward
Buffalo ? Toward London, etc. ? The entire class



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED I /I

may be asked to face St. Louis, to face Duluth,
Cincinnati, etc. During this exercise there is no
need of words on the part of the pupils, they can
answer the questions by their physical actions. Thus
a pleasant variety is brought into the work, and it
is a more thorough way of answering the questions
put than the ordinary way. The author has often
found that both children and teachers who know
the directions in their locality and who can tell the
direction of Philadelphia from their home, must
hesitate before they can walk toward Philadelphia.
Without doubt this is due partly to the novelty of
the request, but it is also due to the fact that a fuller
realization of the direction is required in order to
walk toward a point, and many people are not ac-
customed to mental imaging vivid enough to meet
the demand immediately.

In primary reading there is no reason why a child
should always show that he comprehends a thought
by expressing it in words. If he has just read the
sentence, "The door was opened," he can himself
quietly perform that action ; many good teachers
adopt this device. In several studies it is possible
to act out scenes in some detail. This is especially
true of literature and history. In studying the life
of Columbus, young people can represent how Co-
lumbus appeared before Queen Isabella, and repro-
duce the supposed conversation between him and the
wise men of Spain. To do this is plainly an addi-



1/2 METHOD OF RECITATION

tional requirement beyond recalling the narrative
from memory, but it is done in some schools, and
where it is done properly, vivid picturing is secured.
The author is acquainted with a third grade that had
an interesting experience of this kind in the story of
Robinson Crusoe, When the point was reached in
the narrative where Robinson was to teach Friday
the English language, Margaret was asked to repre-
sent Robinson, and Richard, Friday. They stepped
out before the class, and after a moment's hesitation,
Margaret began beating herself on the breast and
shouting to Friday, " I, I am Robinson, Robinson,"
then she pointed to Friday and said, " You, Friday ;
you, Friday." This was done several times, but
Friday understood his r61e sufficiently well to grin
discouragingly and make a grunting noise. Mar-
garet then saw that her plan was not succeeding and
concluded to try another. Casting her eyes about
her, she spied the sand table near by, and seizing
Friday by the hand she hurried him to it, plunged
her hand into the sand and shouted, " Sand, sand,"
making motions. She forced him also to take some
sand into his hand, and speaking the word herself,
she required him to make the same sound. He
attempted it and succeeded fairly well. From that
time on Friday seemed to have the idea, progress
was more rapid, and in a few more minutes several
words were taught.

Jn literature and history it is very often possible



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED 1/3

to find a portion of a narrative which can be nicely
illustrated in this way. Of course there is unneces-
sary loss of time if much care is taken to give regu-
lar drill in presenting a given scene. What is
required is simply impromptu representation of any
scene, nothing more.

One proof that such teaching secures especially Proofofvaiue
vivid pictures is the fact that children taught in
this way are peculiarly free from self-consciousness ;
that is, they must so fully enter into the spirit of
situations that they forget themselves. This is a mat-
ter worthy of careful consideration on the part of
teachers. Further than that, by acting out thoughts
children really get possession of knowledge more
fully. If instead of ending with words in regard to
a topic, they close with actions, they feel that the
ideas are more fully their possession, which means
that they feel self -confidence in regard to their knowl-
edge. The presence of such self-confidence is itself
another proof that the picturing is vivid, for this con-
fidence is lacking where situations are not clearly
imaged. It is, therefore, an important test of method
to inquire to what extent the teacher provides for
motor activity as a means of producing vivid impres-
sions.

There are, then, four prominent factors to be
attended to when vivid picturing is desired : past
related experiences are to be appealed to in abun-
dance ; the objects studied are, just as far as pos-



1/4 METHOD OF RECITATION

sible, to be seen and handled ; a large number of
carefully selected details are to be offered, and pro-
vision is to be made for physical expression of
thought. By careful attention to these factors it is
possible to present facts in such a manner that the
pupil enters into their spirit so as to seem to experi-
ence them himself ; he then feels himself among, or
in the midst of them ; or, in other words, is inter-
ested (inter esse, to be among or between or in the
midst of). This interest is necessary if knowledge
is to be really digested and become a source of
power.

When review The teacher's practice in regard to reviews is one
very valuable test of his skill and insight. It was a
favorite maxim of the Jesuits that, " Repetition is
the mother of studies," and the extent to which they
applied it is astonishing. Every lesson began with a
review of the preceding lesson, and ended with the
review of that which was just covered. Besides
this, one day a week was devoted entirely to repeti-
tion. In the three lowest grades, also, the second
half of each year was spent in reviewing what had been
taught during the first half. Probably modern edu-
cators would agree with them in the importance that
they attached to review ; at least it should certainly
occupy much time. But modern educators would
disagree with them radically as to the way in which
it should be conducted.

To-day repetition and review are by no means fully



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED 1/5

synonymous terms. On some occasions mere repeti-
tion, or reproduction of thoughts substantially in the
way in which they were first taught, is entirely in
place. For instance, the one, two, or three reviews
and summaries that have been suggested (p. 152) as
desirable in each recitation may practically amount
to a repetition of the facts presented. Such repeti-
tion may also be in place at the beginning of a
recitation when work is called for that was accom-
plished on the previous day. It is advisable to recall
subject-matter for a few times in much the same
manner in which it was originally taught; that is,
practically the same questions and the same answers
may be repeated until facts become well fixed for the
first time.

But before knowledge is really digested, it is wherein re-
necessary to fix it in mind many times. Mere ^^5 weak!
repetition cannot do this in the right way ; what is
needed is a new adjustment of a thought to our
usual way of thinking, then another and another,
etc., until it becomes welded to our personality on
many sides. Repetition usually signifies verbatim
reproduction ; or, if not that, something so closely
akin to it that mainly memory, and not reason, is
appealed to. It requires that the same route be
followed that was originally travelled, and hence
always approaches knowledge from the same side.
This is what the Jesuits did, and it is largely what
was done in the term reviews so common in this



1/6 METHOD OF RECITATION

country only a few years ago. It was the custom
then to set aside the last two or three weeks of the
term for a review of all the matter that had been
taught during the term. This was the practice not
only in the common schools, but in the normals and
colleges as well. On such occasions so much was
assigned for each lesson that there was no hope of
studying it so thoroughly as the first time it was
covered. Indeed, that was not the object; the aim
was rather to take a rapid view of all the ground
traversed in the belief that one more look, though
not a careful one, would greatly aid in fixing the
facts permanently in mind. It was mainly a hurried
repetition. But what stultifying work ! Two, three
weeks consumed at the close of each term without
pretence of reaching new thoughts, or of reviewing
old ones in a new light, but with the sole object of
impressing the memory ! There was certainly no
inspiration to the pupil in that kind of work, or to
the teacher, either. But, aside from that, there was
little profit for the pains ; the aim was a narrow one,
and it was very poorly attained. When a review
degenerates into a mere drill by repeating knowledge
in the same form in which it was first acquired, it
makes little impression upon the memory itself, and
the hammering must be kept up a long while before
it will tell. It was a narrow aim, too, because even
after one has learned a thing so well that he can
say it in his sleep, he has no proof that he knows



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED

it so thoroughly that he will be conscious that he
has it when it is needed. The world is full of peo-
ple who need to be told when to use their knowledge,
even though they have learned it by heart.

Reviews should aim to be much more than mere Purpose and
drills for the memory. They should aim to put the principal
child into the possession of facts for use by causing kmdof
him to approach them from as many sides as possible.
No one who has thought of a point in only one way
has real control of it ; if he has repeated it a great
many times, he has perhaps fallen into a rut rather
than gotten a broad understanding of it. The
world does not necessarily, in fact does not usually,
adopt the one approach to a thought that was
taught in school ; hence, the school should prepare
for the world by leading the pupil to one point
from many directions. Repetition is then only one
kind of review, and an exceedingly narrow one at
that.

Reviews in the main should mean a new view of an
old thought, or a view from a new position. This kind
has already been partly provided for by the preceding
step, for, in the acquisition of individual notions, it
was shown to be important to collect the past related
experiences. Such a review can be further secured
in the presentation of the new material, provided
teachers can find sufficient energy to throw away
questions that have become somewhat worn from
use, and think new ones. Any important topic,



1/8 METHOD OF RECITATION

when once taught, should be recalled many and
many times, and the questions referring to it should
be stated in all possible forms, so that it can be seen
from one side, then another, and another, etc. A
mountain does not appear the same on one side as on
another, and he who has observed it closely from one
point may fail entirely to recognize it when viewed
from a different position. The same is true of ob-
jects of knowledge in all subjects.

It often happens that a mere change of the word-
ing of the question utterly confuses an intelligent
class. The author was once acquainted with a sen-
ior class in a state university who, in their study of
pedagogy, had reached the conclusion that the devel-
opment of good character was the chief purpose of
the public school. The matter had been discussed at
length until they seemed clear in their conception of
good character and well grounded in their reasons
for giving it such prominence. One day shortly after
this result had been reached, the statement was made
to them, "The superintendent of schools of one of
our largest cities recently remarked that the chief
object of the first three years of school is to teach chil-
dren to read. Would you agree with him or not ? "
The reply came unanimously that they would. The
matter was then carefully discussed, and they saw that
in this case the acquisition of knowledge was set up
as the highest purpose of the primary grades while
they had asserted that it should be the development



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED

of character. They acknowledged their inconsist-
ency and withdrew their assent to the superintend-
ent's remark.

Again soon afterward they were tested on the same
point, as follows : " A mother often says to her little
child, * Did you have your reading lesson to-day ? '
And if she is convinced that he did have it, she feels
quite satisfied as to the success of the school so far
as her child is concerned. Is she quite right ? " The
reply came that she was, in spite of previous conclu-
sions to the contrary. 1

These are merely examples showing how, after a
question had been settled not only once but even
several times, a query somewhat different from those
already presented will prove that it is not -yet by any
means really settled or brought into relation to other
kinds of experience. It is largely because matters
have been reviewed in only one way, from one point of
view, that strangers, who have different ways of look-
ing at things from the teacher, receive no replies, or

J The author was recently discussing the relative value of studies
with a class of twenty-five persons who averaged about ten years of ex-
perience in teaching. Nearly one entire recitation period was devoted
to that topic. It was the custom of the class to receive a few questions,
at the beginning of each hour, that bore upon any of the preceding
work of the year. Accordingly the next day after the recitation men-
tioned the question put was, Have we at any time during this year
discussed the problem, What knowledge is of most worth? The unani-
mous reply was that we had never considered it. In like manner
children often ' haven't yet had " a topic which has already been " had "
and finished by them.



ISO METHOD OF RECITATION

very ridiculous ones, when examining school children.
If there were usually an element of newness in the re-
views, so that they might be distinguished from mere
drills and repetitions by taxing the thinking power, they
would prove more interesting 2C&& thereby make a deeper
impression upon the memory; they would also lead
to greater thoroughness of knowledge and thus largely
eliminate such discouraging answers as the above.
Amount of There is no desire expressed here to dimmish the
review. 1 " amount of time devoted to reviews. The great dan-
ger is that they will receive altogether too little
rather than too much attention. On the average
probably from one-third to one-half of the time in
school should be spent in considering topics that
have already been studied. It occupies much time
to recall the old related experiences in approaching
a new topic and in following the developing method ;
it consumes much more, as will appear later, to com-
pare facts already studied, with the object of finding
similarities and differences and essentials ; it takes
more still to review old knowledge by applying it,
until it becomes one's own ; when all this is done
and when, in addition to it, time has been taken for
proper repetition, and for review by numerous ques-
tions put from new points of view, one will find that
easily one-half of the teaching time has been con-
sumed. But the time for review should not come
mainly toward the close of the term it should be
distributed throughout the term, every recitation con-



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED l8l

taining some of it. Only in that way can a student
become so familiar with thoughts that he has his
bearings in regard to them, no matter from what side
he may be approached.

One of the important parts of any recitation con- Assignment
sists in the assignment of the lesson for the next day,
In case the developing method is employed, the aim
of the next period should be clearly stated in the lat-
ter part of the recitation, and when the next period
arrives, that aim should be recalled. In the mean-
time the pupils can be held for careful reflection on
what was last accomplished, so as to reproduce it
correctly and with ease.

In case a text-book is used, sufficient time should
be taken toward the close of each recitation to state
the aim for the next period, and to allow at least the
preparatory step, so that the class may approach the
text at home in an apperceiving mood. It is impor-
tant' that this preparation be completed before the
text itself be discussed.

But whatever method be employed, all that has
been heretofore said about the importance of fixing
a definite aim applies to the assignment of the next
lesson. If a clearly defined object is a necessary
condition of valuable study in the presence of the
teacher and with his help, it is all the more evident
that when left to study at home by themselves chil-
dren will waste much of their time unless guided by a
clearly defined purpose in each lesson.



1 82 METHOD OF RECITATION

Amount of The time necessary for the second step varies in-
time neces- _
sary for the definitely. Sometimes it may not occupy more than

second stage. flft een minutes. But when it is remembered that it
deals with individual notions and must furnish as
many of them as are necessary, as data, for reaching
a generalization, often a broad one too, it is evident
that it may occupy many recitation periods. Eight


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Online LibraryCharles Alexander McMurryThe method of the recitation → online text (page 11 of 21)