Percy Arthur Barnett.

Common sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice online

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useful to the class only ; it is especially indispensable to
the teacher himself, if only because it serves as a reminder
to prevent him from relapsing into bad habits and from
forgetting that carelessness is so heavily penalised. If,
then, the teacher wishes to preserve his own voice, he
will give his class a little regular exercise in voice-
production for however short a time daily.

It is not, of course, to be supposed that breathing
alone, however accurate, can do all that is necessary.
As all real authorities insist, in order to secure for one's
own all the good effects that should come from syste-
matic breathing exercise, we must have good ventilation,
easy dress, regular bathing in tepid or cold water, general
scrupulous personal cleanliness, and ordinary free and
energetic general exercise.

The penalties of neglect paid by the teacher are three-
Thepenaities fold. There is, first of all, actual voice
of neglect disease. Those who see a large number of
teachers, primary and secondary, at their work, know
that affections of the larynx are all too common and
only too easily recognised. The persistent sore throat
from which so many teachers suffer is due very generally,
though of course not altogether and in all cases, to ex-
cessive strain on a few overtaxed organs called upon to
do work that should be otherwise distributed ; and it
is a bad symptom that ought at once to be referred to
the family doctor, or a properly qualified voice-specialist.
At the earliest available period of his teaching career

Audible Speech 147

the young teacher should see that his actual practice is
in accord with wholesome rule ; and those who are
responsible in any measure for the training of teachers
are under the most serious obligation to see that this is
done, if only for the preservation of health. We have,
to be sure, to remember that many circumstances may
contribute to produce the disease besides the practice of
imperfect breathing and an ill-pitched and overstrained
voice. Some general warnings we have just noted. In
certain respects the teacher is at a special disadvantage,
as for instance, in having so often to inhale chalk-dust
and in being made a victim of the extraordinary help-
lessness that still seems to beset our architects when
they approach the problems of airing and warming large
spaces. But regular voice gymnastics and breathing
exercises for a short time every day are the best pro-
tection that can be devised against the perils of school
strain and are the best possible reminder of the general
need to strengthen our defences.

That insistence on this point is not a mere monomania
is only too sadly proved by such statistics as are available.
For instance, quite recently, when four thousand teachers
in the service of the London School Board accepted the
Board's invitation to apply for lessons in voice-production,
more than a fourth of them were declared to be or to have
been suffering from some form of throat trouble.

Throat trouble, we know, is not the only definite and
marked consequence of the bad use of the voice. In
addition to this, most of us have found ourselves at the
end of a day's teaching far more exhausted than we ought
to have been ; yet five hours' talking or lecturing, even
in a difficult room, ought not to leave us weary and
worn out. Given decent conditions of premises, we
should feel stronger and healthier and more cheerful after

148 Common Sense in Education

this as after other physical exercise. But if our day is
spent in a constant battle to get work done by organs
which are not duly strengthened, or which are called upon
to perform functions that should be shared by other organs
now becoming atrophied because they are not used ; if
the throat and upper part of the lungs have to do work
in which the mouth, the throat, and the whole of the
lungs are alike concerned, it needs little medical or
physiological knowledge to see that the inevitable result
is nervous exhaustion and ultimate breakdown.

It is possible that many an earnest teacher thinks the
strain and pain and the spending of himself in this way
is inevitable, and that at all events the result is satisfactory
so far as his class is concerned ; at all events the teaching
is effective. Yet even this is often a delusion. Facts
are obvious enough, of course, when a teacher is brought
up abruptly by illness or absolute physical incapacity ;
there is no ambiguity about such a circumstance as that.
But a harsh and irritating voice, a noisy voice, a muffled
voice, a monotonous voice, are all in their way ineffective ;
that is, they all hinder the teacher from producing on his
class the result that he desires to produce. They all
distract and tire according to their degree, where the
effect should be interest and gentle stimulus. The
uneasiness and restlessness of a class may often be safely
set down to the unimpressive or harassing voice of the
teacher ; the pleasant voice is emphatically one of the
best means of legitimate " suggestion " that a teacher
could use. A well-managed voice carries and impresses
in difficult and noisy rooms, when an ill-controlled voice
and careless speech merely become part of the hurly-
burly that is straining the nerves and temper of a class and
making " discipline" impossible. A teacher should there-
fore be quiet, restrained, and distinct in speech. Let his

Audible Speech 149

words be few but let every one of them have its value for
the class. There should be no loss by the way. A soft
voice is an excellent thing in teachers.

So much for the teacher's duty in regard to a proper
discipline of audible speech in himself. He is none the
less bound to exact it fully from his pupils.

In the first place he has to combat in them the
characteristic fault of English speech, its indis- The faults
tinctness. For one reason or another some of English
writers have suggested our native fogs an s P eech
Englishman does not open his mouth as widely as other
folk, and he has therefore fewer tones. Perhaps, also,
his comparative monotonousness is part of the general
gravity and reserve of his character. Again, although it
is true that England is not the only country where people
indicate a word without fully pronouncing it, the effect
is more serious in our case because our syllabic accent
tends to fall back upon the first part of the word, with
the consequence that we indicate the word by its earlier
syllables and leave the latter syllables to take care of
themselves. They are consequently slurred ; vowels lose
their original values, and the final consonant, if we are
careless, receives only faint recognition. The vowels in
the last syllables of Oxford, London, water, coachman, and
bun, are, as usage prescribes, almost indistinguishable
one from another. If, then, we are not scrupulous about
the final consonant of a word, the means of identification
are by so much the fewer.

Again, in the natural course of things, the final con-
sonants are corrupted very frequently by the initial
consonants of the following word. " Shut your mouth "
(an excellent piece of advice) becomes " shutch oor
mouth " ; " his ship " becomes " hizsh ship " ; " first shot "
appears as either "firs' shot" or even "firsh shot". All

150 Common Sense in Education

these and such like corruptions tend to indistinctness
and inaudibility. And if, in addition to faulty pronuncia-
tion, the tone is monotonous and the voice is wasted by
confinement between closed teeth, indistinctness and
inaudibility are inevitable. Such indistinctness brings
with it as a first consequence, ineffectiveness. To be
informing and convincing, speech must be readily un-
derstood, and reasonable precision of speech is some
indication of a desire to be clear in thought. The
boys and girls who at school are permitted to " express
themselves " in slovenly form are the less likely to grow
up into intelligence and intelligibility ; they are therefore
the more likely, in their turn, to miss their points and to
lose the influence which is the due of those who know
what they mean and can communicate their meaning to
others without effort and without error ; for the purpose
of speech is to inform and to persuade. It is quite worth
the while of the teacher to show a class the difference
between impressiveness and unimpressiveness proceeding
from this cause. Our boys and girls in general leave
school more or less inarticulate ; whatever they may
know, they certainly find great difficulty in saying it.
Provinciality of accent is another defect which the
school should do much to remove. Variations of dialect
in themselves no one with a scientific or scholarly sense
can deplore, and the children of primary schools at all
events must be allowed a large licence so long as they
speak articulately and bring their voices from the right
quarters. But in schools of the secondary type we must
exact from our pupils general conformity with the
usage common in educated society. We need not con-
cern ourselves to look for a final standard, for we shall
be disappointed ; no class of society has a monopoly of
correct speech, and no dictionary is quite trustworthy.

Audible Speech 151

Above all, it would be extremely unsafe to follow the
example set by " the stage," which besides its select store
of mannerisms (such as my for my and traditional pro-
nunciations in certain stock passages) has as many
defects as any other institution recruited at haphazard.
We can merely satisfy ourselves approximately that
such and such is the pronunciation of the most cultivated
people of our acquaintance, and follow this rather than
any dictionary that was ever compiled.

To secure distinctness and accuracy of speech, whether
in the mother-tongue or any other language, The teach-
the most gradual way is also the shortest, ing of
We must begin, indeed, here as everywhere, s P eech
with imitation pure and simple. No one is so crazy
an enthusiast for the analytical method as to teach an
infant to speak by giving it unmeaning sounds to copy.
Automatic synthesis precedes analysis. The babe in
arms learns words and then agglutinates words to make
sentences ; and he must do this to a considerable ex-
tent before he passes into the hands of the professional
teacher. Perception and conception and judgment are
all at work, though of course at their weakest, as soon
as thought begins. But when children begin to recognise
the written or printed symbol and to associate it with a
sound, we must do our best to see that the associated
sound is a correct one, that is, such as conventions

We begin, of course, with the mother speech, teaching
all the sounds, simple and compound, that the infant
needs every day. It can hardly be right at this stage to
trouble a child with sounds not represented in his own
language. No good purpose can be served by such a
practice, for the sounds taught are too easily forgotten
in childhood unless they are associated with percepts.

152 Common Sense in Education

A word may be here interposed to point out the
The objections to the phonic method of teaching

Phonic reading in the earliest stages. This plan seems

Method ^0 be a clear case of impertinent analysis and
rationalisation. To teach children that the letters are
mere symbols for impersonal sounds is to deprive letters
of much of the interest which attaches to them if they
have names. The child is not more perplexed by " H
for Horse" than by the injunction to remember that the
symbol H is reproduced by the reader in such and such
a way. Give the letters names, and they acquire a per-
sonality and therefore interest. Besides, it is no small
matter that, with names, they can be committed easily
to memory. There is reason for thinking that the old
way is, here again, at least as good as the new.

When the child has mastered the difficulties of reading
the simplest matter, we may then profitably begin to
analyse sounds so as to secure absolute correctness and
quickness of ear. This plan offers few obstacles if the
teacher confines himself to the sounds of the native lan-
guage, for the child has already a familiar stock to draw
upon for examples ; and it certainly prepares him for a
correct apprehending of strange sounds when he comes
to them as soon as he is put to systematic training in a
foreign language.

When this last point has been reached, the need for
Analysis of & more systematic analysis of sounds is more
sounds marked. Sound-drill and sound-analysis can,

of course, be conducted without a special alphabet, but
obviously at a disadvantage. The correct reproduction
of sounds must always be ultimately a matter of imita-
tion ; but if we have an alphabet whose symbols respec-
tively represent one sound and one only, it is possible,
having once learnt the key, to reproduce all the sounds

Audible Speech 153

in any of the languages which the key is contrived to

i unlock. And if the sounds are arranged in systematic

i order according as they arise simply or in combination,

I then the task of understanding and remembering them

s reduced to its lightest. Clearly the teacher must here

call in to his aid representations, as graphic as he can

make them, of the mechanism of sound. It is possible

o make a pupil produce a difficult sound correctly by

ihowing him the position of the vocal organs most ob-

riously concerned. The so-called deaf-mutes are most

uccessfully taught to pronounce and articulate by being

made to see, and even feel, the work done by the mouth,

ips, teeth, tongue, throat, and so on, in other people.

We ought now to consider the proper procedure of the
heading Lesson. It may well be believed that
t is a really desirable exercise at all stages, tions for
rom the first to the last stage of school-life, procedure
't is equally certain that the procedure must in the
be different in different stages. The little Readin s
child must be first made to pronounce words
correctly ; but as soon as his stock of words is sufficient
:o provide instances of all English sounds, he should be
taught to analyse the sounds, and to produce them
Properly, using every speech-organ properly. The voice-
sxercise should then become a part of every lesson
that calls itself a lesson in reading.

As soon as we have passed through the initial stages,
md pupils begin to be able to take in the sense of a
ole paragraph, say at the age of six or seven, the
ordinary lesson should be preceded by a few minutes of
Drivate reading during which the class is mastering the
Dassage which it is to be called upon to read. The teacher
ll then require one or more of the class to repeat the
mbstance of the paragraph or chapter, making sure that

154 Common Sense in Education

every child sees the drift of the passage. Explanations
of unusual words in isolation are best left until the whole
passage has been read aloud ; but when a real difficulty
shows itself the teacher may well give a paraphrase from
which the class can infer the meaning of a strange wore
or (better still) phrase. If a teacher habitually supplie
the class with the meaning of a strange word, the chi
dren will inevitably acquire the habit of waiting for som
foolishly kind Providence to supply a synonym wheneve
an unusual sound strikes their ear ; whereas their instinc
should rather move them to try to infer the meaning frorr
context. This kind Providence, who is also placed (b
publishers) at the service of teachers, is represented i
our reading books by the lists of words with their defini
tions that appear at the tail of each exercise. Thes<
should be neither needed nor used ; they are types o
the too much instruction which is such bad teaching.

When the teacher has satisfied himself that the genera
drift is understood, he can call upon his boys in succes
sion to read ; requiring, first, distinctness, particularly
consonants ; next (in a school not severely " elementary "
purity of vowel sound ; and finally, such natural intona
tion and variation as show that the reader understand
the passage and wishes it to be understood by others.

Punctuation may very generally be ignored, for th
Punctua- purposes of reading aloud, if, as Mr. Burre!
tion and enjoins, we make the unit of phrasing a definit
Phrasing image or idea. The image or idea is, in fac
the unit commonly used in intelligent speech. We ru
on until the idea is interrupted or completed. Then w
draw breath and proceed. The old-fashioned " counting
at stops is both mechanical and inaccurate, and places th
reader at the mercy of circumstances and the printer

Audible Speech 155

As a rule, " pattern " reading of short passages and
simultaneous or collective reading are both Pattern
most undesirable expedients. Both tend to kill reading
real intelligence and originality ; each has its other peculiar
demerits. If a teacher begins a lesson, as too many
teachers do, by reading a sentence or a few sentences for
the class to imitate, the class infers that the first thing
expected of them is that they should imitate the teacher,
whereas the all-important thing is that they should under-
stand the passage and read it so that others may under-
stand it as they understand it. Pattern-reading comes
properly at the end or in the middle of a lesson, if the
teacher is reading only a short passage. On the other
hand, an occasional half-hour which the time-table gives
to Reading the teacher may spend with the greatest
profit in reading new matter carefully and clearly not to
the eyes, but to the ears of his pupils, their books being
closed. The teacher should not, in the formal Reading
Lesson, read the passage till it has been read aloud by
one or more of the class ; and he should never call for an
exact imitation unless it be to correct a fault of emphasis,
in which case it may be indispensable.

This subject of emphasis is very curious. Until one
has tried to teach reading, it is hard to believe


how many people of apparently fair education
are unable to stress an italicised word. It is a question,
no doubt, of intelligent apprehension ; and a few experi-
ments serve to show that much reading aloud is done
almost mechanically, by the eye alone, the mind being
only partially interested and partially employed. The
ordinary reading lesson in places where they teach reading
cultivates this senseless habit only too often. Unskilled
readers tend to lay emphasis almost invariably on the
last word of a sentence, except of course when it is a

156 Common Sense in Education

particle ; and in fact our English sentences do generally
require this usage. But the drift of a sentence, and
therefore its intelligent reproduction, can always be most
easily reached by the practice of rinding out and stressing
the word which the author means to be the key- word.

Simultaneous reading or speaking is hardly ever defen-
simui- sible, except on grounds which are a reproach

taneousor to organisation that is when classes are so
collective excessively large that otherwise the bulk of the
pupils get no practice. It causes shouting, it
promotes uniformity and sing-song, it gives the lazy boy
the opportunity of shirking, it spoils the natural voice,
and it is a terror to civilised ears. If it must be used,
then the class should be trained to read or speak in a
very subdued manner ; but it may well be believed that
it is better that some pupils should get too little practice
rather than the whole class should be demoralised by
simultaneous intoning.

Sofar whatwe have said ought to apply to youngerpupils
only to classes of children between the ages of seven
and thirteen or fourteen. The reading lesson after these j
Distinctness stages should be rather a means of keeping up
always the habit of precision and distinctness, properly

important moderated pace, and, in general, the healthy
and effective use of the vocal organs. At every stage
of school life these things are important, and at no time
should a teacher permit a slovenly habit of indistinct
speech to grow up in his class. Care about such
matters as these reacts on all parts of the work ; the
best work is done when the tools are kept in best con-
dition. Clearness of speech and clearness of thought are
not far apart.

The recitation exercise requires treatment similar in all
obvious respects to that given in the case of reading. It

Audible Speech 157


should be used first as a kind of compendium or memo-
randum of the qualities required in clear and

re ^ 1 rr ^ i Recitation

effective speech. If the passages chosen are,
as they should be, of fine literary quality, then they are
possessions for ever, and of priceless value in the cultiva-
tion of taste. In practising this exercise we must not
allow our pupils, during the first stages, to recite in too
big a room, for this tends to induce them to pitch their
reading or reciting voice too high, and the habit grows.
Good results in training the habit of distinctness may
come from an occasional use of whispering as an


It is highly important to note here how much the study
of a foreign tongue as speech helps us to dis-

f . Learning a

tinctness in speaking our own language. In foreign
learning a foreign tongue one soon feels I do tongue to
not say that one consciously recognises that g ive P re -
clearness and distinctness, that is, the plain cisiontothe
discrimination of sound from sound, is all-
important ; and one comes back to the use of one's own
speech with a clearer sense of what is needed. No one
speaks his own language so clearly as one who has tried
to make it intelligible to foreigners. The learning of
Latin and Greek by heart, necessitating the precise
discrimination of sounds and particularly the careful
rendering of the final syllables, has been of incalculable
service in rendering the English gentleman less inarticulate
than he would be if left to draggle-tailed monoglottism.
For this purpose Latin and Greek are better than French
(though not perhaps German) because in French the final
consonant is naught, and the final vowel is all in all.

158 Common Sense in Education

In order to secure some universal representations of
Phonetic different sounds philologists have constructed
alphabets phonetic alphabets. It is true that all the
alphabets propounded are in a greater or less degree
arbitrary, the most frequently used, and apparently the
best, being that which has been adopted and, to a certain
extent, popularised by Professor Victor. All alphabets,
however, phonetic or arbitrary, are open to the objection
that, in spite of every effort to secure a symbol for every
sound, there are dialectical differences, small and great,
which the alphabet is powerless to deal with, except by
an infinite multiplication of symbols.

But whether the phonetic alphabet should be used
before the twelfth or thirteenth year is exceedingly
doubtful, though experiments are now being made in
England with very young children which should help to
decide the question, and these must be carefully watched
before we can make sure of our ground. On the other
hand, phonetic drill may well be used, in the modified
forms just suggested, from the first ; and it should
gradually grow in difficulty until all the sounds of the
associated languages are well produced.

That a phonetic alphabet, is, in the present condition I
of teaching, the most valuable expedient available for
older pupils who can interpret it admits, to my mind, of
no doubt ; certainly the best to our hands until, as Pro-
fessor Spencer suggests, every schoolboy has his owni
phonograph to which he can betake himself for the model i
sound. Moreover, the phonetic alphabet must be all but
indispensable to the bulk of those who are called upon at
the present time to teach modern languages in schools.
It seems to be agreed that, with some brilliant exceptions,
Frenchmen and Germans do not teach their own languages
very well to English boys and girls ; and French and

Audible Speech 159

German school authorities themselves act on a like
presumption in instructing their own youth, seeing that
they entrust the teaching of English to English teachers
only under very rare and most exceptional circumstances.

Of course the teacher of a foreign language should
have mastered it ; but at present the supply of Pronuntia-
Englishmen and Englishwomen who, having tion
thoroughly learnt French and German where they are
spoken, are ready for service in the schools, is very small
indeed. We must therefore be content with less expert

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Online LibraryPercy Arthur BarnettCommon sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice → online text (page 12 of 25)