James Pyle Wickersham.

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faculty of our minds, the reason, is active in early

The matter of Object Lessons must be adapted to
increase the pupil's facility in the use of language.
Thoughts are helpless without words. But words
are best learned in connection with things. With
fit opportunity, it is surprising how rapidly a child
becomes acquainted with language, but the ordinary
instruction of our primary schools does not furnish
this opportunity. If the system of object teaching
is not diverted from its true function, it will give
prominence to linguistic culture. According to
this system, the names of things, and the names of
qualities of things are constantly pressed upon the
attention of the pupils. They are taught, not only
to make observations, but to tell what they know,
to repeat what they have learned ; and every lesson
acquaints them with new words. A constant suc-
cession of interesting objects is made to pass before
them, and they are taught to give them names. An
Object Lesson is, in part, an exhibition of objects,
and, in part, an application of words, and the two
processes should be inseparable.

The matter of Object Lessons must be adapted to
communicate the elementary fiicts which constitute
th<e foundation of knowledge. It was previously
shown that all the sciences took their rise from the
common experience of men. A child can be made
to experience by design what men at first experi-
enced incidentally or by accident, and this is one of


tlie principal ends proposed by the object S3\stem of
teaching. A child can be made acquainted with an
immense number of facts, which are not only valua-
ble in themselves, but form the basis of further
knowledge. Almost every common object may be
made the subject of interesting lessons. Many of
the objects technicallj^ belonging to the various
branches of ISTatural History, many of the simpler
phenomena of experimental science, certain national
peculiarities of customs and manners, and large
numbers of historical incidents, when properly pre-
sented to children, are w^ell calculated to instruct
and delight them. The experience of children can
thus be made broader, and a great number of
valuable facts and useful words be stored away in the

The matter of Object Lessons must be adapted to
expand the elementary ideas which furnish the con-
ditions and measure of our knowing. That there
are such ideas has been already shown, and no
student of the human mind can doubt it. 'No
exhaustive enumeration of them will be attempted
here, as this is properly the work of the mental
philosopher. It may be said, however, that they can
be divided into two great classes : Eynpirical ideas,
or those which are derived from experience, and
are limited by it; and Rational ideas, or those of
wdiich experience is simply the occasion, and which
transcend experience. These form respectively the
bases of the Empirical and the Rational sciences.
Among the ideas which I would denominate empi-
rical, are those of form, number, relation, size, weight,
cob?', consistencii, locality, ^c.^ which relate to material


things ; and those of duty, right, truth, beauty, good-
ness, ^c, which are moral qualities. Among the
ideas which I would call rational ideas, are those of
space, time, order or harmony, identity and difference,
the infinite, the absolute, the true, the beautiful, and the
good. Chronologically the former class of ideas pre-
cede the latter in consciousness, but logically they
are evolved from them. For example, a child
realizes the idea of form before the idea of space,
but the idea of space contains all possible forms.
So the idea of number is involved in the idea of
time, the idea of relation in the idea of order or
harmony, the ideas of particular truth, beauty, or
goodness in the all-comprehending ideas of the true,
the beautiful, and the good; but in all these cases,
and in all others, the mind passes from that which
can be presented in a concrete form to that which
can only be conceived abstractly. Hence lessons in
form, number, relation, &c., are valuable in them-
selves, and more valuable for furnishing the occa-
sions of the reali2?ation in consciousness of the all-
comprehending ideas which involve them.

If the ideas now designated do furnish the con-
ditions and measure of our knowing (and no think-
ing man can doubt it), it should be one of the
principal aims of those who instruct the young, to
expand them, or to increase the knowledge which
is based upon them. Their ideas of form can be
expanded by having children notice, describe, and
name objects of various forms; draw these forms
upon slates, paper, or blackboards ; or imitate them
in wood, stone, or clay. Their ideas of number can
be expanded by counting objects, as beans, pebbles,


or grains of corn ; and adding, subtracting, multi-
plying, and dividing them. ]^o object exists in
nature that has not its relations — its relations to
other objects, and the relations of its parts to one
another; and many of these are so simple that
children of five years of age, and even younger,
can understand them. Other ideas relating to ma-
terial things may be expanded in the same way.
Moral ideas must be expanded by acquainting chil-
dren vrith the acts which exemplify or illustrate them.
History, biography, personal experience, must be
made to contribute stores of incidents that can l)e
made to do much to enlarge the conception chiU
dren have of right and wrong, and to form their
character to virtue.

The matter of Object Lessons must be adapted to
improve the artistic taste and talent of the young.
Children have productive as well as receptive
powers. These productive powers can be stimu-
lated to activity by the exhibition of objects of art.
The teacher can call their attention to the structure
of houses, bridges, mills, vehicles, articles of furni-
ture, and machinery in great variety. Such lessons
are lessons on objects, and so are those which relate
to the mechanism of plants, animals, and the human
frame-work. They can also receive exercise in
practicing the elements of writing, drawing, paint-
ing, and making things of wood, and stone, and
cla}', or of any other suitable materials. Fathers
and mothers could attend to this duty better than
teachers, but teachers can do much. Our schools
cannot have shops connected with them, as had
those of Pestalozzi and.De Fellenberg, but still such



instruction can be given in them as greatly to im-
prove the taste and talent of the yonng. 'Nov need
this instruction be wholly confined to what are called
the useful arts, for it happens that many children
can ajjpreciate some of the artistic qualities which
distinguish the grander works of nature, and the
finer creations of man.

It need scarcely be added that the matter of
Object Lessons must be selected and arranged with
reference to the age and acquirements of pupils.
Some objects may furnish matter more appropriate
as lessons for young pupils, and other objects be
better suited for the study of those who are older ;
but it will often happen that the same object may-
be used in teaching both classes, provided due regard
is paid to their . intellectual difierences. Objects
generally have some qualities, resemblances and
difierences, relations, and uses which are easily dis-
cerned and open to the observation of children ; and
others which being more hidden require close in-
spection, or careful experiment to reveal them.
Sheldon's work on Object Lessons makes -^ve series
of lessons each more difiicult than the preceding.
This is an excellent arrangement.

3. The Preparation for imparting Object Les-
sons. — An important part of the preparation for
imparting Object Lessons consists in procuring suita-
ble objects. Knowledge is most efiectually con-
veyed to children through the medium of the eye.
Whenever it is possible, therefore, the teacher
should present to his class the object upon which he
desires to give a lesson. For this purpose primary


schools should be furnished with cabinets of Things.
These should contain many common objects; col-
lections from the mineral, animal, and vegetable
kingdoms ; tools used by different tradesmen, and,
if possible, specimens of manufactured articles ;
models of machinery ; curiosities exhibiting the
manners, customs, and degree of civilization among
tribes and nations ; coins ; sets of weights and mea-
sures ; blocks of various forms ; in short, any object
about which a useful lesson may be given. Some-
times, it is more convenient for a teacher to take his
class to see an object than to bring the object into
the presence of the class. Children are greatly pro-
fited by visits to a museum, a menagerie, a gallery
of pictures ; by rambles down a valley, through a
wood, or along the ocean shore, and they should
frequently be indulged in them.

"When the object itself cannot be exhibited to a
class, the best substitute is a picture of it. A vast
amount of useful knowledge might be pleasantly
imparted to the young by means of pictorial illustra-
tions. At present such illustrations are mainly
used incidentally ; I would make a systematic use
of them. There have been prepared in Europe, and
some of them in this country. Charts of Lines and
Forms, Charts of Colors and Colored Cards, Charts
of ISTatural History, Charts of Common Things,
Moral Prints, Scripture Prints, and Prints illustra-
tive of the History and Peculiarities of ^N'ations. It
would not be very difficult to prepare a set of en-
gravings which might be used to great advantage in
elementary instruction. If a teacher can draw, the
blackboard is a never-failing resource.


Ill addition to objects and pictures of objects, there
are certain kinds of apparatus that seem indispensa-
ble in the work of primary schools. Children will
watch with intense interest the revelations of the
Microscope. A Stereoscope can be used with great
advantage, as can also a Magic Lantern. A teacher
can procure, with trifling expense, the means of
making many simple philosophical and chemical
experiments, and his pupils will be delighted with

But with all it is necessary sometimes to rely
upon descriptions. "When this is the case, the de-
scriptions, whether given by the teacher or presented
in a book, must be of the most lively character.
The story must be well told, and calculated to
awaken in the most vivid mannej the imagination
of children. Most children are fond of the novel,
the marvelous, and the witty, and this fondness must
be turned to good account.

A teacher of Object Lessons must prepare himself
both in respect to the matter and the method of the
lesson. A text-book may enable a teacher ignorant
of the subject of the lesson to ask questions of his
pupils and know whether their answers are correct
or otherwise ; but all such botchwork as this is out
of the question in object-teaching. In giving an
Object Lesson, a teacher must collect and arrange
his own materials. His knowledge of the matter he
would present must be full, precise, and ready, or a
failure is inevitable. ]^o proper inquiry from a
pupil should take him by surprise or make him hesi-
tate for on answer.

'No small degree of skill is required to adopt a


proper method of imparting a lesson on an object.
The matter must be arranged with reference to its
own logical relations, and also with reference to its
adaptation to the mental capacities of the class.
This work requires skilful handling, and cannot be
done without careful consideration. The difficulty
is increased when a general subject is intended to
be developed by a series of lessons, which is always
best except with the youngest pupils. It is a good
plan for a teacher first to fill his mind with the
details of the subject, and then arrange them under
prominent headings, calculated to present the parts
of the lesson in their proper relations, and to make
an impression upon the minds of his pupils. He
may write out a full sketch of the lesson for his own
convenience, but a well-planned outline of it is
indispensable. Such an outline should not be
referred to at the recitation, but it should be strictly
followed. Without such adherence to a method,
the desultory modes of thinking which characterize
children will make the lesson fruitless of good in
efi^ecting that mental discipline which is its main
object. Still the outline should only guide, not
cramp, the recitation. An Object Lesson should not
consist merely of a number of questions asked and
a number of answers given ; the teacher should
propose to himself in every lesson certain points to
be presented, certain ends to be attained, and then
strive to accomplish what he purposes. It is more
a training than a teaching exercise ; and each ques-
tion should be put with a w^ell-defined object, and
other questions should follow until that object be


Something will be gained in all cases if the
teacher would announce the object about which a
lesson is to be given some time before the recita-
tion takes place. When this is done, the pupils
can make some preparation for the lesson. They
can observe, make inquiries, and, instructed to that
extent, can increase their information by reading.
It does not follow that because the kind of instruc-
tion now contemplated is called Object Lessons
that pupils are precluded from increasing their
knowledge from books, and it is well to have suit-
able books, books of reference, books containing
pictures of objects and descriptions of them, pro-
vided in every primary school. A lesson about an
object of which the pupils know nothing will
always be dull, and is likely to be profitless.
Teachers sometimes furnish an outline of the pro-
posed lesson to their pupils before the recitation,
and this practice, it is thought, guides them in
their search for information, and enables them to
make a more systematic arrangement of it.

4. The Method of Conducting Object Lessons.
— A school-room presents no more delicate or
difficult work than the recitation. N'othing else
tests more severely the teacher's skill. This is
especially the case with lessons on objects. In most
other recitations, the text-book furnishes some help,
but in giving an Object Lesson a teacher is thrown
mainly upon his own resources.

The teacher is supposed to have in his mind the
point which he wishes brought out in the lesson.
This may be the communication of a knowledge of


important facts, the pointing out of a quality, the
development of a principle, the expansion of an
idea, the exhibition of a relation ; but whatever it
is, it must be allowed to give direction to the recita-
tion. Going forward with a well-defined aim, the
recitation has three stages which should be severally

First, it is the teacher's duty to obtain all the
information concerning the matter of the lesson
which may be in the possession of the class. He
may ask questions or make suggestions, but before
giving any information himself he must be sure that
no member of the class could give it. Pupils will
not exert themselves to prepare a lesson unless they
think they will have permission to show what they
have learned. A lesson about an object is not in-
tended to be a lecture upon it. Besides, if the
teacher does the observing and thinking for his
class, the disciplinary purposes of the Object Lesson
are in great measure defeated.

Second, it is the teacher's duty to give his pupils
the opportunity of finding out all they can. Skill
in teaching does not so much consist in what a
teacher imparts to a class as in what he leads them
to find out for themselves. In object-teaching
especially pupils should be constantly prompted to
observe new facts, explain new phenomena, and
perform new mental operations. Each lesson is a
voyage of discovery in which the teacher acts as
captain and pilot, but in which the pupils make,
record, and elaborate the observations. When
pupils hesitate for an answer, they should not be
told it directly unless hints will not suggest it to


tliem, or they cannot be brought to infer it from
what they have previously learned. To lead a pupil
from what he knows to find out what he does not
know requires the highest order of teaching talent,
and to attain this ability should be the constant aim
of the teacher. Without it, no successful object-
teaching is possible.

Third, when pupils have exhausted all their
knowledge acquired before the recitation and all
their ingenuity in adding to it during the recitation,
the teacher may impart any further information he
deems proper.

The three stages of a recitation now named are
sufficiently well marked, but of course it is not
meant that any one of these stages can be completed
in all the particulars of a lesson, until the others are
entered upon. The teacher must not wait to give
hints or impart knowledge in regard to one point,
because the pupils have not exhausted their infor-
mation in regard to others.

5. The Dangers to which the Object Lesson
System is exposed. — Doubtless the greatest danger
to which the Object Lesson system is exposed arises
from the want of a proper appreciation of it on the
part of teachers. Many teachers even who profess
to use the system, entertain extremely narrow views
respecting it. They do not apprehend the great
educational truth that a// the sciences rest upon certain
elements as bases, and that these elements are only knoivn
hy means of our experience with objects. The system
of object-teaching well understood is broad enough
to embrace all the elements which constitute the


foundation of knowledge, and that system is much
disgraced hy those who allow it to degenerate into
loose lessons on pieces of paper, bits of glass, lumps
of sugar, or stalks of grain. Besides, those who
would fully comprehend the sj^stem of object-teach-
ing must study its adaptation as a means of develop-
ing the mental faculties of children as well as of its
capability, when well administered, of imparting
instruction in the elements of knowledge. With
an inadequate conception of the function of Object
Lessons it is no wonder that many teachers fail in
securing any advantage from them. 'No one who
has been accustomed to a slavish dependence upon
text-books can succeed. But success is possible to
all who possess teaching talent and strive to make
themselves acquainted wdth the nature and design
of Object Lessons.

In addition to the danger to the Object Lesson
system which arises from ignorant teachers, several
special dangers to which it is exposed may be briefly
referred to. They all arise from a misconception as
to the true nature of Objecf Lessons, or are faults in
the methods of imparting such lessons.

The Object Lesson system is apt to become an
exercise in learning words without ideas. Children
are capable of making great progress in the use of
language, and they should be instructed with refer-
ence to this end. In giving a lesson upon an object,
it does not seem objectionable to allow children to
name every quality they can readily discern, nor do
I see any serious objection to the use of scientific
names ; but it is objectionable and quite contrary to
the spirit of the Object Lesson system, for children


to commit to memory the names of the qualities of
things which they cannot be made to perceive with-
out great difficulty, if at all. The lists of the names
of the qualities of certain objects, as they appear in
some of our works on Object Lessons, ought to be
much shortened.

The Object Lesson system is apt to tempt the
teacher to introduce matter into the lesson which
the pupils cannot comprehend. This is a temptation
to which all teaching is liable, but it seems to be
stronger when the teacher makes his own selection
of matter for a lesson than when that matter is
arranged in a text-book. At any rate, the fact is cer-
tain that many who impart instruction in Object
Lessons err in this particular. The desire is so
great to communicate to others what seems most
important or is most interesting to ourselves, that if
such teachers could sit in judgment upon their own
work they would find it to consist, not wholly in an
effort to impart the simple elements of knowledge
adapted to the capacity of children, but in an efi:brt
to expound principles of science quite beyond their

The Object Lesson system is apt to continue
instruction in the concrete after pupils can appreciate
the abstract. All instruction should commence with
the concrete. The elements of all kinds of know-
ledge must be taught in connection with objects,
but an acquaintance with material things is far from
being the highest end of study; and object-teaching
pushed too far tends to degrade education. Back
of all there are principles, ideas, controlling things,
which are the soul's most nourishing pabulum.


Soon after a child has learned to count with objects,
he may begin to count without them - soon after he
has become acqainted with real forms, he may begin
to deal with ideal ones. Through facts and phe-
nomena he should be led to apprehend the laws that
control them and the Lawgiver. The contempla-
tion of truths should bring into clear consciousness
the idea of truth, and of virtues, virtue.

The tendency of the times is towards materialism
in education. It manifests itself in the oft-repeated
objections which are made to the study of the
Ancient languages, to the study of higher Mathe-
matics, and especially to the study of Metaphysics.
In this spirit some have favored Object Lessons, be-
cause it was thought the system tended to cultivate
in the young a taste for concrete rather than abstract
science, to teach them to handle substantial realities
rather than airy nothings. Blind guides these ; all
earthly phenomena are fleeting, while the powers
that cause and govern them are eternal. Herbert
Spencer, in his inquiry as to " What knowledge is
of most worth?" arranges education with reference
to its relative degree of worth into the following
classes: 1st. That education which prepares for
direct self-preservation ; 2d. That which prepares
for indirect self-preservation ; 3d. That which pre-
pares for parenthood ; 4th. That which prepares for
citizenship ; 5th. That which prepares for the mis-
cellaneous refinements of life. All this looks like
an implied denial of man's immortality — as if the
interest of self was man's only interest. But is that
education of highest worth which prepares for
direct self-preservation ? I am not unmindful of the
value of life, but surely there are many things for


which it is well to sacrifice it. The preservation of
life is not to he compared in importance to the pre-
servation of the soul's integrity. Let education he
guarded from the influence of a low materialism.
Concrete science is worth much, hut ahstract science
is worth more. The former is hut a means of reaching
the latter. Let us devoutly study the works of the
creation, hut let us not forget that God made them.

The Object Lesson system is apt to cramp the im-
agination, and weaken the trustfulness, of children.
Every one has noticed the lively imagination of
children. They gild the narrow horizon of their
vision with dreams. Elysian fields cover all their
future. Unless this characteristic indicates an ah-
normal condition of the youthful mind (and no one
can believe that it doesj, it is wrong to limit their
education to the acquirement of dry, hard facts.
Facts must he learned, true enough, hut we must
allow some room for the play of the imagination.
It is a great mistake to suppose " That facts alone
are wanted in life." The sunlight plays about the
rugged mountain heights, and silver lakes nestle
down below frowning crags and cliifs. I would but
chasten his imagination, I would not destroy a single
air-castle of a child.

God made children trustful, l^o scheme of edu-
cation could be worse than one which proposes
never to describe anything to a child which he
cannot see, never to tell a child anything which he
cannot understand, for this would be to weaken the
power which was given him to be developed into
that faith which lays hold of things unseen — im-

Online LibraryJames Pyle WickershamMethods of instruction .. → online text (page 10 of 31)