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to the capacities of the pupils to whom they are
addressed. The matter of reading-lessons is so
varied that it is difficult to designate in detail the
questions that may be asked concerning it. In
general, it may be said, that they should be such as
to call forth the pupil's knowledge of the subject
presented in the lesson, and to extend, consolidate,
and impress that knowledge. Pupils may be
required to give the sense of the selection or pas-
sage to be read in their own language, and those who
have minds sufficiently mature, may show the rela-
tion of the sentences in a paragraph to one another,
and the relation of each paragraph to the whole
composition. Questions addressed to young learners
must be calculated to give exercise to their percep-
tive powers and their memories ; but those asked
of advanced pupils should call into requisition the
faculties of judgment, reason, and imagination.
Incidentally, in reading-lessons, allusions are often
made to distinguished persons, to noted places, to
the principles of science, to works of art, to certain
books, to the customs of antiquity, to human
duties, and to many other things that cannot be
here enumerated ; and as these give life and beauty
to discourse, as well as reveal the under-currents of
the author's thought, no teacher can fully discharge
his trust who does not make them the subject of


study and explanation. It thus appears that, while
all reading-books should be arranged primarily with
reference to Elocutionary ends, they may be made
the means.of imparting very important information,
and inducing highly beneficial culture.

It is the duty of a teacher of reading to see that
his class fully understand the language of the author
read, and appreciate his style. For this purpose,
he must call their attention to the definition of the
words, the form and construction of the sentences,
the marks of punctuation, and the various kinds of
figures used in the composition. He must make
language transparent, in order that thought may be
revealed. Let the idea be hereafter wholly dis-
carded that flippant pronunciation is good reading.
Better that the whole time of a recitation be spent
upon a single paragraph, or even a single sentence,
than^to suffer pupils merely to utter sounds without
perceiving the sense they represent. If teachers
would make good readers of their pupils, they must
teach them to weigh every word, phrase, and sen-
tence of the lesson. The reading-lesson prepared
and recited in this manner becomes a fine intellec-
tual exercise, and furnishes good opportunities of
imparting valuable instruction in practical Gram-
mar and practical Rhetoric. To those pupils who
are properly prepared, many questions relating to
the language used in the lesson to be read, need not
be put at any one recitation, but enough should be
asked to keep the attention of the class constantly
alive to the importance of understanding it.

Skilful reading is hardly possible for one who is
not a good general scholar. A person who has been


accustomed to study, to tliiuk, who lias read good
authors, and heard intelligent conversation, will
readily see the meaning of a word, the drift of a
sentence, the aptness of a figure, the propriety of an
illustration, the point of a witticism, the significance
of an allusion, the force of an argument, or the scope
of a discourse, which would be wholly obscure to
another, less gifted by nature, or less favored by
education. The whole work of the teacher is, there-
fore, a preparation for the reading-lesson, and much
benefit may result from so regarding it.

2d. Readmg as related to the Umotiojis. — Some-
thing more is necessary, in order to read well, than
to understand the meaning of what is read. There
is, probably, no literary production that is the cold
work of the intellect alone. In all that has been
written of prose or of poetry, the emotions play an
important part. The plainest composer does not
write wholly without feeling, and the heart-beats of
the true poet stir in his every line. 'No one can
read skilfully who does not appreciate the senti-
ment expressed in what he reads, or w^ho does
not feel for the time being as its author felt w^hen
he wrote it. He cannot read well of beauty who
never saw anything beautiful, nor he of gayety, who
never felt gay, nor he of sorrow who never evinced
pity, nor he of wit who never enjoyed a joke.

Our school classes seldom seem to feel what they
undertake to read. It is not uncommon to hear
passages, as unlike in sentiment as possible, read
without variation of Force, Pitch, Rate, or Tone.
It is uncommon to hear reading done with that


regard to tlie feeling expressed in the composition
wliicli at once evinces good taste and careful cul-
ture. Something may be done to improve this bad

Such reading-lessons should be assigned as are
calculated to interest the classes of pupils who are
to learn them. If the feelings of children do not
respond to the sentiments expressed in the lessons
they read, it is „ not because their hearts are cold.
Let the feelings be such as their child-nature can
appreciate, and they will evince no want of sym-
pathy with them. It is not difficult to make an
application of this principle to all classes of those
w^ho are learning to read.

The teacher should lose no opportunity of im-
pressing upon his pupils the ennobling sentiments
which he may find in the reading lesson. Many
occasions will present themselves to the. watchful
teacher of awakening in their minds a greater love
for the beautiful, the true, and the good. There are
beauty, truth, and goodness in the works of nature,
in art and science, in human life, in the Bible,
in God, the Fountain of all; and, now and then,
they are caught up by some master hand, and, ever
after, like the pearly drops that hang upon the
flow^ers, like the beaded bubbles that break upon
the stream, grace our literature. These the teacher
can hold before the gaze of admiring pupils, until
their hearts respond in answering sympathy. Senti-
ments of an opposite character may be found in
reading-lessons, for literature is but a reflection of
human nature, and has its dark side ; but right
teaching will do much to guard against their iuflu-


ence. Bad sentiments will not be more loved
because well read.

One of the highest aims of composition is to
adapt the linguistic expression of thought and feel-
ing to their nature. Without a close analysis of the
language used by an author, it is scarcely possible
to feel as he felt. The heart of an author and the
heart of a reader hold communion through the
medium of words. It is the teacher's duty to remove
all obscurity from this medium, not only by explain-
ing their meaning, but by exhibiting the music and
the poetry of words. I have marked the pleasure
expressed on the countenances of pupils when they
first began to appreciate the beauty of a Metaphor,
or the force of an Antithesis, and was not disap-
pointed in judging that such appreciation would
improve their reading.

All education that tends to improve the taste and
to give proper direction to the emotive nature, will
be valuable preparation for the reading lesson.
Among means of this kind, may be mentioned ex-
tensive and varied reading, intelligent travel, famil-
iarity with the beauties of nature and art, and
sympathy with the comforts and pleasures, the
wants and woes, the fond aspirations and the proud
successes, the blasted hopes and the fruitless enter-
prises, which so strangely checker human life. The
Elocutionist must be a student of man's mental
nature,- learn to analyze the mingled emotions that
agitate his bosom, and observe and imitate the most
effective manner in which the}^ express themselves
in posture, in gesture, and in words.


3. Method of Teaching Delivery.

Delivery is the manner of reading. Success in
Delivery depends upon observing the relation be-
tween thought and feeling and their expression.
The practical end for which skill in reading may be
desired, is to give full force to the meaning, and full
effect to the sentiment of an author. A person may
possess a well-trained voice, and may have both the
head and the heart to appreciate what he reads, and,
still, for want of power to adapt the one to the other
in practical use, fail to read well. In other words,
his reading machinery can be quite perfect, and yet
he may not succeed in putting its several parts in
working order.

What is designed to be said of Delivery can be
embraced under three heads : Expression^ Posture,
and Gesture.

Expression. — Expression is vocal Delivery. The
great principle to be observed in vocal Delivery is
that all the mechanical modifications of the voice
should be governed by the nature of the thought
and feeling to be expressed, and the construction of
the sentence in wdiich they are embodied. This
principle may be applied in teaching reading in two
ways : fi.rst, the teacher may read correctly and
require his pupils to imitate him ; and, second, the
relations existing between thought and feeling and
their utterance in words, may be generalized into
rules which can be learned and followed in reading.

With children just beginning to read, the teacher
must instruct them mainly by using their powers of
imitation. His voice must be their constant model.
Rules can be but of little service to them. A large


number of suitable sentences for practice may be
prepared ; and these the teacher should continue to
utter, until the pupils can deliver them in the proper
manner. Faults of reading should be prevented by
showing what is right, and similar faults should be
corrected by showing in what they consist. All
descriptions of the variations of the voice in Quan-
tity, Compass, Movement, or Tone, will be unmean-
ing, unless the sound described be itself exhibited.
This method of teaching Reading by imitation is
not only applicable to young learners, but must be
used throughout the whole course of instruction. In
advanced classes, however, it is to be employed in
connection with the second method above indicated.
It follows from all this that the teacher should be a
good reader. Keading can no more easily be taught
by one who is not an Elocutionist than Yocal Music
can be taught by one who is not a Musician.

Books which treat of Elocution contain many
rules that relate to Delivery. There are rules de-
signed to aid the student in the use of Force,. Em-
phasis, Slur and Stress, Pitch and Inflection, Rate
and Pause, and Tone. The manner in which sen-
tences of different forms should be delivered is
pointed out ; and, in order to leave no doubt in the
pupil's mind concerning the application of the rules,
certain reading lessons are arranged with a notation
indicating the Quantity, Compass, Movement, and
Quality of voice required. Of course, rules relating
to Posture ^nd Gesture, are also given. That some
advantage may be gained from the study of these
rules by learners who are able to understand and
apply them, can hardly be questioned ; but that


harm may be done likewise is to be greatly feared.
If pupils can be made to see that conformity to the
requirements of Elocutionary rules in their reading
enables them better to present the thought and feel-
ing of an author, and adds more force and graceful-
ness to their Delivery, these rules may be profitably
studied and applied ; but if such rules are them-
selves arbitrary, imperfectly understood, or have
been derived by a wrong method, the more effort
that is made to apply them, the more stiff and formal
wdll the Reading become. These remarks appro-
priately introduce the question : What constitutes
good Delivery ? The teacher must have some stan-
dard of excellence to which he aspires to elevate
his class, and b}^ which he criticises their Elocu-^
tionary performances — What is that standard? It
is an easy matter to require pupils to commit and
mechanically apply the ordinary rules for reading
found in the works on Elocution ; but upon what
foundation do the rules themselves rest? Some
say, '' ^N'ature is the Standard." It is admitted that
if we read as we speak, we would read much better
than we do ; but it is still true that much of our
readino; would not then be in accordance w^ith srood
taste. There are ver\^ few persons whose vocal organs
do not need culture ; and, even of those who have
received it, scarcely any two have the same natural
style of speaking. Whose style is to be taken as a
standard ? Others maintain that Delivery is to be
measured by its effects upon an audience — if it
please, it is good, but if it displease, it is imperfect.
A reader may learn much respecting his impro-
prieties of Delivery by watching its effect upon his


hearers ; but he will find such a standard very un-
reliable, as what some count excellences others will
consider defects. The truth is that Reading is a
Fine Art, and like Painting, Sculpture, Architec-
ture, and other such Arts, no rules of criticism
derived empirically are as an ultimate measure of
beauty applicable to it. Every man is endowed
directly by his Maker with the power of judging
between beauty ld become apparent. Besides, pupils should be
required to compose original sentences containing
the words of the lesson, and this they could not do
without understanding them. Words having some
relation to one another form a much more interest-
ing lesson than, dry lists of disconnected words.

The meaning of words may he learned hy ohserving
their Signification as used in Sentences. — It has already
been intimated that the meaning of words can be


more readily discerned in sentences than in the
columns of Spelling-Books or Dictionaries. Chil-
dren especially are apt in learning the meaning of
words in this way. They rise from the perusal of
every good book with a rich accession of new words;
and a person can often tell the volume a child has
been engaged in reading by his language. More-
over, the liner shades of meaning, which distinguish
individual words, the innermost thought embodied
in a word, cannot be learned from a Dictionary.
Lexicographers explain each word by the use of
other words or forms of expression, but, since these
cannot mean exactly the same thing, every scholar
has felt the deficiencies of Dictionaries, and is aware
that they cannot be supplied. Those who desire to
realize the deepest meaning of words must study
them in discourse.

Teachers can do much to inculcate a taste for
reading among their pupils, and in this way, among
other good results, enable them. to increase their
facility in the use of language. The reading-lesson
furnishes a good opportunity for calling the atten-
tion of pupils to the meaning of words, as used
'singl}^, or in phrases, clauses, or whole sentences, or
whether in a plain or a figurative sense. Something
may be done, too, to impart similar instruction in
hearing recitations in any branch of knowledge. - If
new or uncommon words occur in a lesson, it is well
for the teacher to require an explanation of them.
The attention of pupils can thus be kept directed
upon the words they meet with in their studies, and
every day some addition will be made to their prac-
tical vocabulary.


The meaning of ivords may he learned hy the study of
Foreign Languages. — In the study of foreign lan-
guages, we necessarily use our Mother-Tongue. [N'o
practice can be better calculated to familiarize us
with the meaning of words than that of translating
the words of our own into another language, or the
reverse. It is hardly possible otherwise to develop
that fine sense by which the nicer distinctions
among words and forms of expression can be per-
ceived. I^othmg further need be stated here, as
elsewhere there will be found a discussion of
methods of teaching these languages.

The meaning of wo7'ds may he learned hy an acquaint-
ance with Etymology. — The English is a composite
language. Its ground-work is the Anglo-Saxon
element, but it has been enriched by the introduc-
tion of multitudes of words from the Latin, Greek,
French, German, Danish, and other languages.
Anglo-Saxon words mainly compose the language
of common life, and their meaning is generally
learned without study. Those words for whose
meaning we search Dictionaries are mostly deriva-
tive words; and in order to understand them fully
it is almost necessary to study their Etymology. It
is not going too far to say that without performing
an Etymological analysis of words, no student can
use them with nice discrimination and full effect.

Etymologists have made three classes of the ele-
ments of words, as follows : Prefixes, Suffixes, and
Root- Words. With respect to methods of teaching,
the first two classes may be placed together.

A method of teaching Prefixes and Suffixes may


be readily indicated. A well-arranged text-book
on Etymology should contain lists of Prefixes and
Suffixes, their signification, and numerous examples,
in which the meaning of each is plainly illustrated.
Lessons may be assigned and prepared, as in other
studies. At the recitation, pupils may be required
to write on the blackboard lists of the elements em-
braced in the lesson, together with their significa-
tions. They may point out the Prefixes and Suffixes
in the words presented as examples in the book, and
write words containing any given element. Teachers
ought to prepare themselves with a number of mis-
cellaneous words as tests of their pupils' skill.

When pupils have been made thoroughly ac-
quainted with the Prefixes and Suffixes, the work
of teaching them the Root-Words of the language
should commence. Almost the only Root- Words
whose meaning is not known without study are
those which have come into our language from the
Latin and Greek, and the signification of these must
be learned from text-book or teacher. Text-Bo-oks
on Etymology generally present a Root- Word, ex-
plain its meaning, and then give lists of words
derived from it. For example, the Latin word
traho is presented ; its primary meaning is stated to
be to draw, and then follow words like attraction,
subtraction, detraction, protraction, contraction, retrac-
tion, traceable, trackless; and others more obscure in
their derivation, as contractability, subtrahend, drag,
2?ortrait, track, trade, tract, &c. In reciting, pupils
should be required to give the Root- Words and their
meaning, and then to analyze the derivative words
presented as examples, pointing out the force of the


elements composing them, and the laws of their
union, and, finally, explaining the meaning of the
whole word. The mode of Etymological analysis
may be illustrated by an example. Take the word,
attraction : ATTRACTI0:N'. Prefix, at-, signifying
to, changed from ad on account of euphony ; Suffix,
-ion, signifying the act of or process; Root-Word,
-tract-, derived from the Latin, traho or tractum, which
signifies to draw ; Meaning of the word, tlie act or
the process of drawing to, or the tendency of bodies to
ajjproach one another and adhere together. After an-
alyzing a word, pupils may embody it in sentences.
A text-book ought not to contain full lists of deriva-
tive words, as pupils are much profited by searching
for them. Miscellaneous exercises in the analysis
of words must be furnished either by the text-book
or the teacher. It may be remarked further that
instead of committing to memory the meaning of
Prefixes, Suffix:es, and Root -Words, and analyzing
words by the aid of this knowledge, lists of words
which contain some common element may first be
given to the pupil, the meaning of that element
be ascertained and traced in other words, and,
finally, syntheses of such elements be formed. This
method, however, will not be found to dift'er ma-
terially in practice from the preceding.

In conducting exercises in Etymological analysis,
the teacher can deepen his pupil's interest in the
study of words by imparting information, now and
then, in regard to the origin and history of words.
He might introduce into almost every lesson a few
words whose primitive meaning would attract special
attention, or whose history would excite peculiar


curiosity. It might be explained liow new words
come into a language, how old ones become obso-
lete, and why some languages contain words for
which no expressions are found in others. This is,
indeed, a rich field, and it can be worked by a skil-
ful teacher so as to yield fruit a hundredfold.

The meaning of words may he learned hy seientijic de-
finitions. — A definition is a connected statement of
the essential properties or qualities of a name or
a thing. These properties or qualities may be the
results of experience or they may be the pure pro-
ducts of the Reason. The definitions peculiar to the
Empirical Sciences are of the former class, and those
which belono; to the Formal and Rational Sciences
are of the latter class. Compare, for example, the
definitions of a mountain, a leaf, a bone, on the one
hand, with those of a circle, order, truth, beauty,
goodness, considered abstractly, on the other.

It is to be remarked that the construction of
scientific definitions requires very accurate know-
ledge both of things and words. A good definition
is always a scientific triumph. It indicates that the
thing defined has been thoroughly investigated;
that all that is essential to it has been connected in
thought and expressed in words. Such definitions
make plain the meaning of words to those who will
take pains to stud}- them.

In regard to teaching scientific definitions, it is
scarcely necessary to say that little advantage is
derived from simply committing them to memory.
If not understood, they are mere empty words that
but cumber the mind without strengthening it. The


kiucl of definitions now referred to can only be
learned by learning tlie elements, real or ideal, of
which they are made up. The teacher must carry
his pupil back from the forms of words to the rela-
tions of things, and then no school-exercise can be
more useful than that of learning definitions.


Few branches of study have been taught less
skilfully than Grammar. This bad teaching is
owing to both text-book and teacher.

There is no text-book on English Grammar that
is a strictly scientific exposition of the principles
of the English language. Treatises upon this sub-
ject may be found which contain a great deal that
is valuable ; but, in all of them, there is too much
efibrt made to fit the peculiar constructions of our
Anglo-Saxon speech to the forms of the ancient lan-
guages. More independence of thought is wanted
in treating of the English language. Not till some
scholar is strong enough and bold enough to strip
the subject of its superfluous forms and rid it of its
incorrect definitions, and present its laws in a con-
cise, consistent, and logical manner, will we have,
what can be truly called, an Eyiglish Grammar. Be-
sides, the arrangement of most of our Grammar
books is the worst possible for the purpose of teach-
ing beginners. They commence by giving a defini-
tion of Grammar, by stating its great general divi-
sions, by fixing the number of Parts of Speech, &c.
— none of which generalizations can possibl}- be
understood without at least some knowledge of the
language. They would be more appropriate at the



end of the book than at the beginning of it. In
teaching, definitions should be accompanied with,
an exposition of their contents; and generalizations,
with a statement of the facts on which they are
founded; but these principles are constantly vio-
lated by our authors of Grammars.

Good teaching may neutralize the bad results
which are apt to follow from the use of imperfect
text-books ; but it is to be feared that in the case
of Grammar many of the commonly practiced
methods of teaching tend rather to increase these
bad results than to diminish them. A majority
of teachers to-day in teaching Grammar blindly
follow the order of the text-book; and though
every recitation should furnish evidence that this
is an error, they fail to appreciate it. Grammar, as
generally taught, consists in memorizing definitions,

Online LibraryJames Pyle WickershamMethods of instruction .. → online text (page 15 of 31)