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direct their attention suddenly to a different sub-
ject, we can appreciate the difficulty they find in
collecting the desired facts and in entering into the



THE APPROACH TO INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS 1 1/

spirit of the lesson at once. On the whole, it is
very unsafe to take for granted that the necessary
ideas are present ; it is ever wiser to take at least a
glance at the foundation, and in most cases to ex-
amine it closely, before proceeding to build upon it.

The method here is entirely conversational; it Method con-
could not be otherwise, since each child is merely versatlonal<
offering whatever he can bring to bear. It is well
to arrange the thoughts given under headings, and
frequently at the close of the step to recapitulate,
in order that the exact amount accomplished may
stand out and the pupils may thus keep their bear-
ings.

This is often called the step of analysis as well as
the first or the preparatory step. It is plain that
this other name is in place, since in it the children
are required to analyze the contents of their minds,
or to separate a certain few ideas that bear on a
special point from the many others which are in
their possession.



CHAPTER VII

HOW INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS SHOULD BE PRESENTED

THE first step prepares the foundation ; this second
adds a portion of the superstructure. In the first,
those thoughts that bear on a certain topic are sepa-
rated from the other contents of the mind, hence
, that is called the step of analysis : in this second
the new thoughts are united with the old, hence it
is called the step of synthesis. If the former has been
successful, the latter will show the effects speedily.
How prepar- Judged by common practice in teaching, the first
saves time ste P involves great loss of time, for instruction usually
here - commences with the second. But as soon as one

begins presenting the new concrete facts, the effect
of a good preparatory step shows itself by allowing
much more rapid progress than is otherwise possible.
The children, being able to comprehend the topic in
hand, and being also interested in it, are much more
on the alert than otherwise, and can digest more
rapidly whatever is offered. Also it is unnecessary
to interrupt the instruction by long explanations, and
by detours to hunt up related experiences ; conse-
quently the time is occupied more completely by the
advance instruction.

118



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED 119

The same reasons hold for the statement of an aim Necessity of
in this step as in the step of preparation. That is,
an aim will concentrate attention and furnish a mo-
tive for active thinking. The fact that it makes the
child conscious of the course he is pursuing, and
thus prevents unexpected discoveries, is greatly in its
favor. While it is an excellent thing to make dis-
coverieSj it is much better that they be dimly antici-
pated than that they be entire surprises. Students
of all ages should realize which way they are bound,
and if they comprehend the situation so well that
they foresee what is likely to come, it is a very
encouraging sign. In fixing the aim the same pre-
cautions should be observed as have been discussed.

The form of presentation, that is, the way of get- Form of
ting at the facts, may vary greatly. The children pre '
may hear a story and discuss it; they may read a
selection, study a map, or a geography lesson, in the
book ; they may examine and sketch a flower ; they
may interpret and work out a set of problems in
arithmetic, or perform a suggested experiment, or
study the conjugation of a verb, or examine and
discuss the objects of a science lesson freely with the
teacher. So long, however, as the class is engaged
in acquiring new and concrete subject-matter, it is
always the second step of instruction.

But while there is so much variety in the form of
recitation, it is due rather to variety in the subject-
matter taught than to difference in the methods



I2O METHOD OF RECITATION

employed. In the main, most subjects are treated
according to one of three methods ; namely, accord-
ing to the lecture, the text-book, or the developing
method.

1. The lecture method is followed extensively in
college and university work, and to some extent in
high schools. According to that plan, the teacher
imparts knowledge directly, or tells the facts which
the students are expected to learn. When it is re-
membered that lecturing is synonymous with telling,
it is evident that the method is not wholly unknown
even to teachers of small children. They very often
spend five, ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes telling
thoughts from a Sunday-school lesson, or facts in
geography, history, etc.

2. Text-books have long been in vogue and are
probably as popular to-day as ever. Recent years,
however, have brought very great improvement in
their use. There was a time when it was customary
for children to learn verbatim the text in grammar and
geography. It is needless to say that that work was
destructive of the best qualities of mind. Subject-
matter was often committed to memory that failed
entirely to be understood, although a pretence to the
contrary was made. In the main, it was the memory
that was appealed to, rather than the ability to under
stand and appreciate.

In more recent years a better class of teachers has
required pupils to memorize only the substance of the



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED 121

thought, neglecting the form of expression in the
book. They have often even discouraged similarity
between the language of the child and that of the
book, hoping thus to throw the chief emphasis upon
the thought itself.

A third class of teachers also require only the gist
of the lesson, but instead of employing the recitation
period for a mere reproduction of the thought, they
occupy a good part of that time with discussion, so
that the ideas presented in the book may be compre-
hended and appreciated ; for example, after an out-
line of facts in connection with the battle of Bunker
Hill has been committed to memory, the events
are discussed in detail in class until an accurate and
vivid picture of the whole is constructed. Likewise,
after the definition of the subject of the sentence, as
presented in the grammar, has been carefully studied,
numerous sentences are offered by the children and
discussed until a fair understanding of the matter is
reached.

It is evident that this way of using text-books is
much better than either of the other two mentioned; by
it a greater interest is awakened, misconceptions are
corrected, and more effective knowledge is acquired.

3. The developing plan of teaching is one radically
different from the lecture and the text-book methods.
The teacher who employs it lectures but little to her
class, although it is important to remember that she
does tell some things outright ; neither does she



122 METHOD OF RECITATION

allow the facts that are to be learned to be first
presented through a text-book ; she prefers to de-
velop facts and conclusions by conversation with the
pupils. The nature of this method and its difference
from the text-book plan were suggested in Chapter
II on illustrative lessons ; other examples will reveal
its characteristics more clearly still. Frye's " Primary
Geography," page 108, states the following facts in
regard to the British Isles :

" In the British Isles there are vast beds of coal
and iron. Near these many great workshops have
been built. People of the British Isles weave into
cloth fully one-third of the raw cotton and wool raised
in the world. They also produce one-third of the
iron and steel. Their ships carry on one-third of the
commerce. To the British Isles the United States
sends cotton, grain, meat, tobacco, copper, and many
other products. Which of these are needed for the
workshops ? Which are used for food ? The British
Isles send to the United States iron and steel goods,
cotton, wool, and cloth, silk, and many other articles
from the workshop. London, on the Thames River, is
the chief seaport and railroad centre of the British
Isles. It is the largest city in the world. The greater
part of the trade of the United States is by way of
Liverpool, a city near the west coast. Scotland is
noted for its iron and steel ships. They are built on
the Clyde River near Glasgow."

The text-book method allows these statements



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED 123

to be studied before the recitation period begins,
and then to be talked over in class until they are
sufficiently well understood and impressed upon the
mind. In the developing plan the book would not
be used at first; the following might be the nature
of the conversation that takes place in the class,
the teacher beginning thus :

Many years ago it was discovered that there was
an abundance of iron ore in England (showing
where). Also a great quantity of coal was found in
certain places (use map). So much being true, what
might follow ? When people have plenty of iron ore
and coal, they can make pig-iron and all sorts of things
from which iron is made ; for instance, nails, screws,
hatchets, axes, ploughs, rails, locomotives, all sorts of
machinery, cutlery, iron ships, etc. What effect
would that have upon the number of people to be
found in the region where these manufactories exist ?
Large cities would spring up. Thus Manchester,
Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, Nottingham, and
Glasgow, which you will find on the map.

Since so many people are engaged in manufactur-
ing, what would be done with the articles that they
make? They cannot use them all at home. Then
what will be done with them ? Some of them must
be sent away to other countries. What, then, will
be some of the exports of England ? Rails, engines,
etc. Through what ports would they be likely to
leave England ? (Examine map frequently.) It



124 METHOD OF RECITATION

would depend upon the direction in which they
were to be sent. If to Europe, they would go by
way of Hull or London ; if to America, by way of
Liverpool, or possibly Bristol. What effect would
this commerce have upon the size of these ports?

If so many of the English people are engaged in
manufacturing, and they send so many things abroad
to America, for instance, what are some of the things
that they are likely to need from us ? Food. What,
therefore, would be some of their imports? Grain,
meat, tobacco, etc.

But England is an excellent country for grass.
Can you tell why? Because of the moist atmos-
phere and frequent rains. A considerable part of
the country, too, cannot well be cultivated ; can you
tell why, from the map ? It is too hilly and rough
in the west. Yes, also in places it is too swampy.
In many of these regions sheep are raised. What
is likely to follow from that fact ? Much wool, much
manufacture of clothing, since coal is abundant.
Hence, increase in size of cities, in importance of
ports, etc. ; clothing is one of the exports, etc.

All of this conversation could best take place
before the paragraph in the book is assigned as a
lesson.

Take an example from literature ; namely, from
the story of Robinson Crusoe. Suppose that a
point in the story has been reached where Rob-
inson has been shipwrecked and is lying senseless



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED 12$

upon the island near the water's edge. If the reci-
tation begins at that point, it might proceed as
follows :

When Robinson came to his senses, he stood up
and looked about. What do you suppose he said
to himself ? " Where am I ? " What would he do
then ? Recall what had happened. And further ?
Hunt for his companions. How would he hunt for
them ? Look for them. And ? Walk up and down
the shore. More than that ? Shout for them. Yes,
but he did not find them. What conclusion would
he reach ? That they were all drowned. How do
you suppose he felt ? Very sad. Had he any rea-
son for feeling glad ? Yes. What ? His life had
been saved. How might he show that he was glad ?
By kneeling down and offering a prayer of thanks-
giving. And that is what he did. Then what would
he do ? He would hunt for other people, houses,
etc. He did so, but he found none. As time passed,
what else would he begin to think about ? Something
to eat and drink. What could he hope for if there
were no people? Some wild berries, apples, etc.
Where would he find them ? Growing in the woods,
etc. But he found nothing. Finally, as night was
coming on, what would he begin to think about?
Where he might stay during the night. And where
could it be ? He might sleep on the ground. But
there was some objection to that. What ? He was
afraid some wild animals might find him. What else



126 METHOD OF RECITATION

could he do ? Build a hut ; go into a cave ; sleep in
a tree, etc. Yes, the last is what he did. What kind
of a tree would he search for, etc. ?

Thus the story may be taught from day to day,
the children telling what might reasonably follow
from a given situation. In this case the teacher
needs to do very little except to put skilful ques-
tions based upon a few given facts.

Let another example be taken from history;
namely, the battle of Bunker Hill. Suppose that
the class understands that the British are shut up
within the city of Boston. The aim might be to see
how the Americans outwitted the British and nearly
succeeded in driving them out of the city. We
recall the situation of Boston harbor, the Boston and
the Charlestown peninsulas, etc. The teacher then
tells the class that there was a hill over on Charles-
town peninsula which overlooked the city. The
conversation might continue as follows : a brilliant
thought occurred to the Americans in connection
with this hill ; what could it be ? That they would
seize it. Why ? Because if they had possession of
it, they could drive out the British. How? They
could fire down onto Boston. But would they destroy
their own houses ? remember they built Boston.
Yes, they would, if it were necessary in order to
drive out the British. How would they go to work
to carry out their idea ? They would take possession
of the hill quietly. When? By night. Describe



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED

how. What would they do after reaching the hill ?
They would throw up earthworks. Describe the
earthworks. What question have you to put in
regard to the British when it came morning ? " How
would the British feel when they looked up and saw
the fortification there?" They would be greatly
surprised and excited. What could they do? One
of two things : abandon Boston, or capture the
fortification. They decided to do the latter : how
would they do it ? Send a body of soldiers over to
march up against the fortification. This was done.
As the British marched up the hill, would they go
slowly or rapidly, and why ? What do you suppose
the people over in Boston were doing ? Probably as
many as possible were up on the tops of the houses
to see what was going on. The British stormed the
fortification, but were repulsed. How do you sup-
pose the people in Boston acted when they saw
that ? A second repulse followed. But on the
third charge the Americans' powder gave out. What
would follow? Who had won a victory? Why?

This latter method is often employed in such a
subject as language work. For instance, the chil-
dren desire to write a composition, and some of them
are inclined to omit the title or put it in the wrong
place, etc. When this is the case, the following con-
versation might take place :

Ought you to write any title for your composition,
or not? Yes. Why? Because we want any one



128



METHOD OF RECITATION



who reads the composition to know what it is written
about. Where would you put the title ? At the
beginning. Good; just where would you place it?
Place it out by itself. Why ? So that it can easily
be seen. Good ; what kind of letters would you use
in writing it ? Large letters. Why ? Because they
are plainer and can be more easily read, and so on.
Good.

Facts in regard to paragraphing and use of capi-
tals, periods, margins, etc., can be easily developed
in the same way.

The developing plan has now been illustrated by
examples from geography, literature, history, and
language work. Several other examples are suggested
later in Chapter XI. Before judging the relative
merits of these three methods of teaching ; namely,
the lecture, the text-book, and the developing methods,
it is necessary to determine a standard according to
which the worth of each may be measured. Happily
this standard is easily obtained from suggestions in
the preceding pages. Since teaching consists in fit-
ting new ideas, feelings, etc., to those that are already
at hand, or since it consists in dovetailing the new
with the old, or adjusting what the teacher has to
give to what is already in the child's mind, that
method will prove the most worthy which secures
this desired adjustment in the highest degree.

It should be remembered that, if the adjustment
has taken place in the proper manner, the good



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED 129

effects must show themselves, i.e. interest is aroused,
the minds of the pupils are active in producing
thought, they themselves even have questions to ask
in class, and in expressing thought they use their
own words rather than those of the teacher or of the
text-book.

Having now this standard of values, let us turn to This stand-
the three methods presented. Lecturing ordinarily "thTfirst
consists simply in offering or telling. The instructor two methods
regards the mind as a granary or storehouse, and
pours into it the desired knowledge. The learner is
not the central thought of the teacher, but the latter
directs his attention primarily to the knowledge that
he is imparting. Consequently there is little ten-
dency to adjust the new knowledge to what is already
present in the pupils' minds. Past experiences count
for little. Hence this method does not arouse a high
degree of interest nor lead to mental life. Teachers
who adopt it and fall into the habit of " telling "
most of the facts that they desire to be learned, are
a source of little inspiration. It is being abandoned
to some extent even in our colleges.

The text-book plan is essentially like the preced-
ing. The difference lies in the fact that books
appeal to the eye by the printed page, while the
lecturer, or the one who tells, appeals to the ear. So
far as the adjustment of the new to the old is con-
cerned, there is less of it in the text-book than in the
lecture. The lecturer, as he stands before his class,



I3O METHOD OF RECITATION

necessarily adapts his thoughts somewhat to his
individual audience. But the text-book is intended
for no individual audience. Any author of a com-
mon school geography writes for the average child
in the United States. He is as far from preparing
the text for a certain child, or for the children in a
certain community, as he can possibly be.

Nevertheless, the third method of using the book,
according to which the substance of the text is
studied, and then carefully discussed in class, greatly
remedies this defect; conversation affords opportu-
nity for calling up related past experiences, correct-
ing misconceptions, etc., and thus the new becomes
adjusted to the old. For instance, pupils studying
Barnes's description of the battle of Bunker Hill, can
discuss it in class until they see a vivid picture, or
they can enlarge upon his brief statement of the
causes of the permanent union of our states until
they have really entered into the spirit of the situa-
tion.

Hence, this method can excite interest and mental
life, leading to much freedom on the part of the
children or students in conceiving questions, and in
using their own language in the expression of thought.
Fuller mean- But the real question under consideration is, What
* s ^ Q ^ est m ethod of instruction ? While this use of



suggested by t ne text-book accomplishes much good, it may not

arithmetic.

be the best method there is. Indeed, that it is not
ideal, is apparent when viewed in the light of facts



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED 131

that are generally accepted in the teaching of mathe-
matics. In arithmetic, for example, there are two
parts to each problem, i.e. the answer, and the pro-
cess by which the answer is reached. Answers in
themselves it is claimed have little value; the
worth of the study lies, first of all, in the process by
which they are obtained. Further than that, the
thinking necessary for the discovery of the right
process, must be done, as far as possible, by the
pupil. It is a serious violation of the law of self-
activity to tell a child how to solve a problem ; he
must solve it himself if he is to be much benefited.

Is the case different when we come to geography,
literature, history, etc. ? That these branches of
knowledge likewise consist of problems and their
answers, cannot be doubted. For instance, the para-
graph on the British Isles, quoted above, suggests
several important ones, such as the following :

How would the presence of an abundance of iron
ore and coal be likely to affect the occupation of the
English people, and also the population of England ?
What are some of the exports likely to be in con-
sequence ? What the imports ? Why should England
be a wool-producing country ?

. In the part of the story of Robinson Crusoe that
has been presented, the text offers the answers to the
several questions :

What would Robinson first say to himself when he
came to his senses ? What would he then do ? What



132 METHOD OF RECITATION

conclusion would he reach in regard to his friends ?
How would he feel ? Where would he hunt for food ?
How would he spend the night ? etc.

The text in the history discribing the battle of
Bunker Hill likewise answers a series of definite
questions :

What plan to outwit the British might well come
into the minds of the Americans when they began to
reflect about Bunker Hill ? How would they execute
that plan ? etc.

Much of the text in ordinary school books presents
answers to questions, just as the key to an arithmetic
presents the answers to problems. Further than that,
the answers to such questions are as easy of solution
on the part of children as ordinary examples in arith-
metic. Why, then, should the value of arithmetic be
found in the solution of problems, while that of these
studies is confined to learning the answers to problems?
Weakness of But the ordinary text-book method, even where
method* re- thorough discussion is permitted, does not allow such
veaied by liberty to the pupil. Instead of permitting him to

this standard. '

weigh problems and suggest reasonable solutions for
them, it offers the latter to him outright with the
expectation that they be comprehended and learned.
One result of this defect is that the knowledge
lacks thoroughness because the problems themselves
are largely omitted from thought. It is a very easy
matter to overlook the chief questions involved in a
given text. For instance, the author recently con-



INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS PRESENTED 133

ducted a class through Herbert Spencer's " Education." Result of this

weakness.

When the first chapter discussing " What knowledge
is of most worth " was finished, the students were
asked to state the important questions answered.
One of the most prominent thoughts in the text is that,
since science is the most useful kind of knowledge, it
should constitute the curriculum. This seems at first
sight a strange and narrow conception on the part of
Spencer, and has aroused much opposition. But when
we understand that he includes very nearly all the
school studies under the term science, the situation is
not so bad. Undoubtedly one of the first questions
to ask in this case is, What does Spencer mean by
science ? Without conceiving this question clearly, one
can scarcely realize that he has received its answer, i.e.
he does not comprehend what is said. Yet in a class
of eight persons who average ten years of experience
in teaching, only one seemed to have grasped it.

Children and adults are alike in this matter ; they
both easily omit from thought the questions whose
answers they are supposed to be receiving. But they
should see each problem, and they should even pon-
der its solution for a while without aid, in order the
more fully to realize what the question is, as well as
their own weakness or need in disposing of it. Then
they are ready for real appreciation of the answer.
For example, in addition of fractions, children should
for some time face the questions, Why make the
fractions alike ? and How do it ? before answers are


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Online LibraryCharles Alexander McMurryThe method of the recitation → online text (page 8 of 21)