James Pyle Wickersham.

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ing to do it, they should be required to analyze them
into their component letters and sounds, and, after-
wards, be instructed as to the manner in which ele-
mentary sounds are combined to form words, and as
to the fact that letters are used to represent sounds,
and that their names and their sounds are different.


All this should be abundantly illustrated. As some
of the letters of the Alphabet have several sounds,
it will be necessary to adopt a system of notation.

From this point on through the Spelling-Book, I
would adopt the arrangement of words and exercises
previously described as appropriate to the Phonic
method ; but I would not adhere to that method in
conducting the recitations. I would conduct recita-
tions in the following manner, which, I think, enables
pupils to profit by what is good in all methods.
First, let the teacher pronounce the words and the
pupils imitate him. Second, let the pupils name
the elementary sounds in a word, and then pro-
nounce it. Third, let the pupils name the letters
composing a word, and then pronounce it. Fourth,
let the pupils pronounce the word without giving
the elementary sounds or naming the letters. Of
course, the words should be disposed of in this way
one at a time.- The first step enables the pupil to
obtain a correct pronunciation of a word, and to ini-
tiate an association between its name and its form.
The second is an exercise in phonic synthesis. The
third is an application of the Alphabetic method
and has advantages in itself, and in the preparation
for learning to spell which it afi:brds. The fourth is
the consummation of the end aimed at — the pronun-
ciation of a word at sight. Thus, as I conceive, the
strong points of one method may be made to supply
the weak points of another, and each deriving help
from the others, an Eclectic method can be formed
that is at once philosophical and practical.

Pupils must not only be taught to pronounce
words, but they ought to be taught to pronounce



tliem correctly; and it is requisite that something
be said in this connection regarding the method of
attaining this desirable end. Contrary to the com-
mon practice, great care should be taken to have
the pupil acquire a correct pronunciation to the
greatest extent possible, before he begins to read —
pronouncing words in sentences is not reading.

In teaching pupils to pronounce correctly, two
things must be attended to : first. Enunciation ;
second, Acceyit. Enunciation relates to the manner
of uttering sounds. Accent is stress of voice placed
upon particular syllables in words.

Certain impediments frequently lie in the way of
pupils' acquiring a good Enunciation. Among them
are imperfect vocal organs, timidity, and bad habits.

"When pupils are unable to utter certain sounds
on account of imperfect vocal organs, the teacher
may, in some cases aid in removing the difficulty by
training them to speak with due deliberation, with
an expiring breath, and with the mouth open, so as
to allow the weak organs freedom of movement ;
but a want of time in school will generally prevent
that prolonged application of remedies deemed
essential to effect a cure. Lisping, stammering,
stuttering, and like vocal defects, can often be cured;
but special schools are wanted to apply property the
means. If the teacher find the impediment to arise
from inability to utter a certa^in sound, he can often
remove it by securing practice upon the most nearly
related sounds. He can do something, too, by show-
ing the position of the organs in uttering the sounds
with which difficulty is experienced. He can always
do much by patiently giving general vocal culture.



If pupils mispronounce words in consequence of
their timidity, the teacher must endeavor to gain
their confidence by speaking words of encourage-
ment and showing an interest in their work. He
must also lead them step by step to have confi-
dence in themselves.

Bad habits are the most common source of mis-
pronunciations. Children listen to words incorrectly
pronounced, and, of course, imitate what they hear.
The spoken language of few neighborhoods is free
from errors; and that of many is full of them.
Children learn to utter certain vocal elements
erroneously, to omit them when they o,ught not to
be omitted, and to use them when they ought not
to be used. These bad habits can only be corrected
by long and patient training in phonic analysis and
phonic synthesis. Pupils must be made familiar
with all the elementary sounds of the language.
They must be taught to make words by combining
sounds, and to distinguish the simple sounds con-
tained in w^ords. They should be allowed much
practice upon combinations of sounds of difiicult
utterance, and words and classes of words which
they are liable to mispronounce. Great difiiculty
will be experienced with the vocal sounds in unac-
cented syllables, but the teacher must make his
practice conform to the best authorities he can find
upon the subject. Beo-inners may derive advantage
from a division of words into syllables.

All words in the English language of more than
one syllable have one- accented syllable. Pollysylla-
bic words have generally both a primary and a secon-
dary accent. The placing of the accent is an impor-


tant matter in pronouncing words, and teachers
should carefully train their pupils to do it properly.
Their own pronunciation should be a correct model
for imitation. Patient attention must be paid to the
accentuation of words new to pupils, and frequent
repetition is necessary to break up habits of mispro-
nouncing words with respect to which they hayebeen
accustomed to place the accent upon the wrong
syllable. Much adyantage may be had from the
practice of haying pupils write on slates or black-
boards columns of words, and then mark the ac-
cented syllables. Lessons of the same kind may be
made with the words as arranged in Spelling-Books.
As soon as pupils can use a Dictionary, they should
haye access to one. It will only be added that more
attention to the principles of Orthoepy in Primary
schools would saye much labor in higher schools and
many foolish blunders in society.


Spelling consists in expressing the characters
composing words upon hearing or conceiying those
words. In pronouncing, the forms of letters are
presented to the eye, or their names or sounds to
the ear, and the pupils are expected to name the
words thus constituted. Spelling is this process
reyersed. More concisely, it may be said that in
pronouncing, we haye giyen letters or letter-sounds
to find words ; and in spelling, we haye giyen words
to find letters or letter-sounds. Pronunciation is
essentially a synthetic process; but Spelling is an
analytic process. Logically, Pronunciation must
precede Spelling in a course of study, because


cTiildren must be acquainted with words as wholes
before they can reproduce their component parts.
Practically, however, it may be convenient to in-
clude exercises in both in the same lesson.

"Words may be analyzed in two ways ; and conse-
quently there are two methods of teaching Orthog-
raphy. The first method consists in resolving the
words into their elementary sounds, and in express-
ing the characters which represent these sounds.
This method is founded upon an analysis of sound,
and depends upon the sense of hearing. It may be
called the Auricular method.

The second method consists in resolving words
into their several parts, and in expressing these
parts. This method is founded upon an analj^sis of
form, and depends upon the sense of seeing. It
may be called the Ocular method

Both methods are dependant upon the memory.

1. The Auricular Method. — If the English was
strictly a phonetic language, the Auricular method
of teaching spelling would have advantages over any
other method. In that case, spelling would consist
in the analysis of words into the simple sounds
which compose them, and the representation of
these sounds by their appropriate characters. Chil-
dren could be readily taught to do this, and thus
escape the heavy task of memorizing spelling-lessons.
The English language, however, does not conform
its Orthography to the Phonetic principle. Many
of the letters composing words are silent. Many
letters represent more than one sound, and many
sounds are represented by more than one letter.


Even with words of the simplest Orthography, an
analysis of their sound never gives the names of the

Orthography is the reverse of Pronunciation. The
Auricular method of teaching Orthography is the
reverse of the Synthetic method of teaching Pro-
nunciation, and might he divided into the same
number of special methods. As letters can be
named and the Pronunciation of words suggested
by them, so the names of words may suggest their
component letters. As elementary linguistic sounds
can be combined to form words ; so words can be
analyzed into their simplest sounds. As a classifi-
cation of words according to their analogies aids in
learning Pronunciation working forwards, so may
such a classification be made to aid in the work of
learning Orthography working backwards. As
separate characters may be used to represent all the
elements employed in phonic synthesis, so may
they be used to represent the results of phonic
analysis. Thus methods of teaching Orthography
might be arranged to correspond to the Alpha-
betical, the Phonic, and the Phonetic methods of
teaching Pronunciation. This detail is deemed
unnecessary here, however, since whatever merits
or demerits these methods have with respect to
Pronunciation they must have with respect to

2. The Ocular Method. — We spell more by form
than by sound. We are more apt to remember
letters as parts of whole words, than we are to
remember them as characters representing sounds.


We use the sense of seeing in spelling more than
that of hearing. In proof of this position, it might
be stated that most persons are accustomed to write
words with respect to the Orthography of which
they are in doubt, or to conceive their form, thus
judging whether words are spelled correctly by
their looks.

Proof-readers, whom I have consulted, allege
that they seldoto consider what elementary sounds
compose words, and then what characters represent
them ; but they think of words as pictures which
are marred by bad spelling.

It is the general experience, too, that the blind
spell with more difficulty than the deaf.

The Ocular method of teaching Orthography is
founded upon the same principle as the Associative
method of teaching Pronunciation, and corresponds
to it. By this method, the problem of Pronuncia-
tion is : given the form of a word to determine its
name ; and that of Orthography is : given the name
of a word to find its form. Pronunciation is the
translation of eye-language into ear-language, and
Orthography is the translation of ear-language into
eye-language. It need scarcely be added that the
advantages and disadvantages of teaching Pronun-
ciation by the Associative method belong equally to
the Ocular method of teaching Orthography.

In the preceding Article it was stated that the
difterent methods of teaching Pronunciation might
be combined, and that an Eclectic method might be
formed that would avoid many of the objections
which could be made to each of these methods when
used by itself, and embrace the certain advantages


derived from all of tliem. The same may be said
in reference to methods of teaching Orthography.
Pronunciation and Orthom-aphv should be tans-ht
together, and both require the same arrangement
of subject-matter; and as this arrangement has
already been indicated, a repetition is now un-
called for.

As the most important thing to be attended to in
teaching Orthography is to impress the form of
Avords upon the memory of pupils, some suggestions
may. be made with reference to this end. The cor-
rect forms of words may be impressed upon the
memory of a child by selecting words that he under-
stands, and that represent something in which he is
interested. It may be done by calling attention to
the peculiar forms of words, their analogies, and by
requiring pupils to draw or write their spelling-
lessons before reciting them. If pupils be taught to
spell immediately the same words that have fur-
nished their pronouncing or reading lesson, it will
be found to be of great advantage. One exercise
may contain words correctly spelled with which
pupils may be made familiar, and then pass on to
another in which the same words are used with
letters omitted, added, or misplaced, that they are
required to correct. AV"ords of like Pronunciation
but unlike Orthography can be most easilj' spelled
when their meaning is known and contrasted.
Pupils should be made familiar with the various
methods of spelling words of doubtful Orthography,
and for this purpose lists of such words should be
frequently spelled. There are a few Orthographical
rules, such as those with respect to changing y into i,


and doubling the final consonant, a knowledge of
which may be profitable to pupils. Each rule should
be fixed in the mind by numerous examples.

After this statement of principles, it is deemed
proper that a -more detailed description should be
given of methods of conducting recitations in Or-

1st. Spelling Exercises for Beginners. — Much atten-
tion should be paid to Orthography in our Primary
schools. Those who do not learn to spell well when
young, seldom acquire the ability to do so. Each
lesson should be pronounced and then spelled.
Pupils may repeat the names of words uttered by
the teacher and associate them w^ith their proper
word-signs. They may name the letters or sounds
composing words and again pronounce them. They
may pronounce the words, and then give the letters
or sounds. They may pronounce the words with-
out giving either the letters or sounds. Finally,
they should spell the words both by giving the
names of the letters and the elementary sounds of
the words. Each of these exercises will aid the
others, and all ought to be embraced in the same
lesson. The words contained in every primary read-
ing lesson should be spelled, and the words used
in a spelling lesson should be embraced in sentences
and read.

A Peading-Frame with block-letters can be used
very advantageously in teaching young children to
spell. Words made of these letters can be imitated,
taken apart, and put together in a manner well
calculated to impress their forms upon the pupil's


memory. The handling of tlie letters tends to fix
the attention upon their relative locations in words.
Before children can write, they may draw or print
words upon their slates or upon the blackboard.
They can copy in this way their reading and pro-
nouncing lessons.

2d. An oral Exercise in Spelling. — The common
mode of managing an exercise in oral Spelling is to
require pupils to prepare several columns of words
from a Spelling-Book. A class is then formed, and
the words are given out to each pupil, commencing
at the head of the class and proceeding toward the
foot. If a pupil misspell his word, the next below
him may spell it and take his place ; if two misspell
a word, a third may try it, and so on to the end, un-
less some one spell it correctly.

It may be objected to this method that, by collu-
sion among one another, each pupil knowing the
order in which the words will be given out, may
prepare only those words which he calculates will
be assigned to him. This objection, however, can
be easily obviated by the teacher's changing the
order of assigning the words.

It is also objected to this method that, while
pupils are spelling at one end of the class, they may
be inattentive at the other end. This result does
not occur unfrequently, but it may be prevented
by the teacher's assigning words miscellaneously.
If it be desirable to retain positions of honor and
dishonor in the class, at the end of a recitation,
those who have misspelled the fewest words can
pass to the head of the class ; those who have mis-


spelled the next to the fewest words can occupy the
next place, and thus on until all are located, such
as misspelled the same number of words retaining
the same relative position as when the recitation
began. This changing of position need occupy but
a moment, and necessitates no confusion. Each
pupil can be readily accustomed to recollect the
number of words he misspelled, and honestly to
report it, or some one can be appointed to keep the

A more serious objection to the method of oral
spelling is that by this mode of reciting each pupil
can receive but a small portion of the words of the
lesson, and the teacher does not know w^hether the
whole lesson has been prepared or otherwise. In
other studies the teacher may nearly always judge
how well a pupil knows the whole lesson by the
manner in which he recites a part of it, but this is
obviously not the case with Orthography. Though
this is a strong objection to oral spelling, yet the
practice of it ought not to be wholly discarded. It
sometimes happens that pupils cannot write, and
sometimes it is inconvenient for them to do so ;
and if neither w^as the case, variety of method in
reciting gives zest to study. Now and then, indeed,
I do not think it out of place for the teacher to
indulge his pupils in an old-fashioned spelling-
match. The interest they will take in preparing for
the contest will acquaint them with the Orthography
of many words.

3d. Method of using Slates in a Spelling Recitation, —
Those who spell well orally do not always write words


correctly. Every teacher has witnessed and won-
dered at this fact. It may he that, in oral spelling,
we rely more upon the sense of hearing than upon
that of seeing, and that in written spelling the
reverse is true. Whatever may be the cause, the
fact is as stated, and hence the necessity that pupils
should have ample practice in spelling words by
writing them. This exercise may be conducted by
using slates. The pupils having made the necessary
preparation by looking closely at the words of the les-
son, writing them, and naming the letters composing
them, are supposed to be conveniently seated, each
with a slate and pencil. The teacher now pronounces
the words of the lesson, or such of them as he may
select, and all the pupils write them. When the
words have all been written, the teacher must ascer-
tain how many of them have been spelled correctly.
For this purpose, I have found the best plan to be
for the teacher to spell the words in the order he
gave them out, and require each pupil to mark such
of them as he may have misspelled. Pupils may,
however, spell the words by turns, or as called upon,
and correct one another, marking misspelled words
as before. How to dispose of the misspelled words
is an interesting question. It would be a great mis-
take merely to have them marked, and then allow
them to pass without further notice. It is an excel-
lect plan to require each pupil to write upon paper
lists of all the Avords he misspelled, and then to
make special preparation to spell them at certain
fixed times, once a week, or more frequently, in a
review lesson. At such a recitation, all the lists
must be handed to the teacher, and he can assign


the words in the usual manner ; and as each pupil
has only the words misspelled by himself to pre-
pare, it can justly be expected that no mistakes
will be made.

In addition to the attainment of the ability to
write words correctly, some of the advantages of
this method are that each pupil has the opportunity
of spelling all the words of the lesson, all the mem-
bers of the class are constantly employed during the
recitation, no one who does not know his lesson can
escape detection, and misspelled words can be re-
studied and recited a second time.

4th. Method of using the Blackboard in a Spelling
Recitation. — In order to conduct a spelling recitation
upon a blackboard, there must be sufficient surface
to allow to each, pupil the requisite amount of space
upon which to write his lesson. When ready to
recite, each pupil takes his place in front of the space
upon which his lesson is intended to be written ;
and with a piece of crayon in one hand and a suita-
ble rubber in the other, prepares himself to write.
The lesson is then given out, written, corrected, and
reviewed, as when slates are used. Instead of each
pupil's correcting his own work, all may change
places, and each correct the work of another. Slates
can be exchanged in the same manner ; but in both
cases, there is always some loss of time, and there
may be ill feeling.

I prefer slates to the blackboard in conducting a
spelling lesson, for the reason that while the general
advantages are the same, pupils cannot so readily
copy from a blackboard their misspelled words after


the recitation, and during the recitation there is a
strong temptation to watch each other's work and
profit hy it. This latter objection can be partially
removed by dividing the whole class into two sub-
classes, placing the members of each alternately,
and giving out the words of the lesson to each sub-
class in a difi'erent order ; but this arrangement is
itself not free from objections.

5th. False Orthography as an Exercise in Spelling. —
Proof-readers become very expert spellers. They
detect instantly by its look every misspelled word.
An exercise something like proof-reading might be
profitably introduced into our schools. Pupils could
be made to notice carefully the correct spelling of
certain collections of words, and afterwards these
words might be embraced in miscellaneous exercises
systematically misspelled. Peading lessons might
be followed by exercises in False Orthography, or
misspelled words might be introduced into sen-
tences and the pupils be engaged in correcting them.
Examples of False Orthography might be placed
under each of the Orthographical rules, and pupils
could thus become familiar with the rules in apply-
ing them. A book containing matter suitably
arranged can easily be conceived. In preparing
such lessons, pupils ought to have loose slips of
paper upon which they could make their corrections
for the teacher's inspection.

6th. Dictation Exercises. — All exercises that require
pupils to write words when given out by the teacher
may be called Dictation Exercises; but by such



exercises in tliis connection are meant sentences,
paragraphs, or short pieces of composition read by
the teacher and written by the pupils. The mean-
ing of words contained in sentences is more readily
discerned than when they are arranged in col-
umns, and consequently children take more inter-
est in spelling them. Besides, the spelling of sen-
tences seems to them to be working to more pur-
pose than spelling the words of dry spelling-book

Dictation exercises should be first written upon
slates, but when they have been corrected they may
be transferred to paper. The manner of correcting
the exercises may be the same as in the ordinary
spelling upon slates. With advanced classes, the
teacher will do well to make such selections for
dictation as are worth preserving on account of
their literary merit ; and something may be done in
this way to cultivate the taste even of beginners.

It is considered proper to append a few additional
suggestions. They have a general application.

Some attention should be paid to Orthography in
all branches. It is not amiss to ask pupils to spell
the new words with which they meet in Arithmetic,
Geograjjhy, Grammar, or any higher study. Espe-
cially is it proper that pupils be required to spell
the new words which occur in their reading lessons.
I have noticed pupils increase their skillin spelling
English words by practice in spelling the words of
other languages.

A wonderful degree of interest can be created
among children by giving them lessons in which
they are required to spell common things, such as


the things about the school-room, articles of furni-
ture, articles of wearing apparel, kinds of food,
things bought at stores, things taken to market,

Online LibraryJames Pyle WickershamMethods of instruction .. → online text (page 13 of 31)