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soning processes, but processes of logical reasoning",
that is, the formation of judgments upon the basis of
other judgments. Until the child can deal readily with
condensed experiences, he will be seriously handicapped
in such lessons. The primary grades, as we have seen,
are the field of concrete experience and the gradual for-
mation of a vocabulary. They are, above all, the field
for acquiring an initial mastery of the foremost tool of
thought, — language.


Typical Forms of Development and Instruction:
(c) THE Study, and {d) the Recitation Lesson

1. The study lesson is a name that was applied by
the late Professor Hinsdale^ to designate the mastery by
the pupil of an assigned portion of a text-book. It may
be the step of presentation in the inductive development
lesson, or the step of verification in the deductive devel-
opment lesson, or it may simply be an exercise in which
the pupils are gaining particular or conceptual judgments
from the printed page. In any case, the principles that
condition the successful issue of the lesson are the same.

2. In the general discussion of the book method in a
former chapter ^ we noted some of the difficulties that are
always involved in this type of instruction. In the pres-
ent connection, however, only two of these need be con-
sidered: (i) the difficulty of holding the attention to the
printed page, of emphasizing the salient points, and of
introducing variety into the monotony; and (2) the con-
sequent mind-wandering with the resulting temptation to
make up for lost time by rote-learning and verbahzing.

1 B. a. Hinsdale : Art of Study, New York, 1900, ch. ix.
' Ch. xviii, above.



The technique of the study lesson must aim to over-
come these difficulties. The first is the more fundamen-
tal, for rote-learning grows out of inadequate appercep-
tion, although it is greatly augmented by careless teaching
that either accepts text-book sentences quite undigested,
or, at most, is satisfied with a paraphrase that just misses
the "words of the book." If, however, the attention of
the child can be successfully directed to the content, it
is probable that the factor of verbalism can be easily

3. The study lesson may be divided into two func-
tionally distinct parts: (i) the assignment, and (2) the
seat work.

(i) The Assignment. This is a preliminary clearing
of the road before the seat work begins. Ordinarily it
occupies a portion of the time devoted to the previous
recitation, although it may often require but a moment
or two before the beginning of the study period. Its
function is similar to that of the statement of the aim in-
the inductive development lesson; that is, it should re-
late the new material to the old, and reveal a need for the
acquisition of the new. In doing this it will often be
profitable to anticipate, in some measure, the treatment
that the book represents. The acme of a skillful assign-
ment is reached when the teacher reveals just enough of
what is contained in the lesson to stimulate in the pupils
the desire to ascertain the rest for themselves. Just how
much this shall be will differ in different subjects and


with different classes. In general, the assignment will
be much more explicit and detailed in the intermediate
grades, where the pupil is just learning to use text-books,
than in the upper grades and the high school, where some
famiUarity with the text-book method may be assumed.
But in all cases the assignment, whether it be brief or
full, is an important step which should never be omitted.

In the use of the smaller geography, which is commonly
the first book to be employed strictly as a text, the assignment
is of the utmost importance. It is hardly too much to say that,
in this case, all the material of the text should be carefully
developed orally before the pupil is set to work at the book.
Even an adult's mind will wander when he attempts to read a
text with which he is absolutely unfamiliar and which deals with
a science whose technical terms mean very little to him. It is
a fallacy to think that a preliminary oral development will cur-
tail the pupil's interest in the text itself. One is interested in
what one knows about, not in what is unknown. Independence
in the use of the text is the objective point, but this independ-
ence cannot come at the outset.

The seat work preparatory to the " reading " exercise forms
an illustration of the study lesson, and the preparation for the
seat work is a good type of the assignment. During the first
four or five years of the pupil's school life, all new words in the
reading lesson should first come to him through the ear. The
printed or written word is a symbol not of an idea, but of a
spoken word. The normal process of interpretation seems
therefore to be from the printed word to the spoken word, and
thence to the " idea." Hence the necessity for a development
of all new words prior to setting the child at work on the read-
ing lesson.

For this development, the teacher has the choice of several


methods : (i) The story covered by the lesson may be told to
the class in a brief form, taking care to introduce new words in
simple and familiar connections, writing the new word upon the
blackboard at the time it is uttered so that the pupils may be-
come thoroughly familiar with its form. (2) If the " thought "
of the selection is familiar to the pupils, the new words may be
developed through the use of context not directly connected
with that of the selection itself. (3) It is always well during
the assignment to bring out any connection that may be ap-
parent between the lesson to be read and the experience of the
pupils. If the lesson is one upon the intelligence of horses,
for example, a period or portion of a period may profitably be
spent in a conversation lesson, aiming to draw out the experi-
ence of the children with respect to horses, the points that they
have noted concerning the horse's intelligence, etc. During
this discussion the new words may be introduced by the teacher
— suggested, perhaps, in place of a word which the child has
used and which may be less effective than the new word.
(4) In the case of masterpieces of literature, and especially in
the case of poetry, very little attempt should be made to de-
velop the thought and the new words through a paraphrase.
It will be much better to read (or, still better, to recite) the
poem to the class, pointing out the difficult words and clear-
ing up by explanations the more obscure passages.

At the close of the assignment, every pupil should be able
to recognize the words just developed at sight and to give the
main points in the thought development.

4. (2) The Seat Work. This phase of schoolroom
activity — or inactivity — is beyond doubt responsible for
much more than half of the serious waste of time that
our American system involves. The time spent by the
average child in "preparing lessons" is very largely time
thrown away. The German schools do away with this


source of waste by eliminating the text-book, but under
American conditions it is impossible to adopt this rem-
edy. A large proportion of our teachers are necessarily
to be classed as "undertrained." They remain in the
''profession" but a few years, and they commonly have
but an inadequate preparation on which to start. They
are forced to depend upon text-books, consequently the
use of text-books must be adapted to the conditions that
prevail. The preliminary oral development suggested
in connection with the assignment is somewhat of a com-
promise between the German and American methods.

5. But even a skillful assignment will not always op-
erate to prevent waste of time through inattention. In
the beginning, it is necessary every now and again to
direct the pupils' attention to the salient points. This
is best accompHshed by means of suggestive questions
which may be written upon the blackboard as a guide
to the text. The pupils at their seats will read the ques-
tions and note the answers that are to be found in the
book. The recitation may then be based upon these
written questions, although the latter should be sup-
plemented by others of a more detailed nature. After
some practice of this sort, the pupils may be encouraged
to make out Hsts of questions for themselves, covering
the matter given in the text. This may be rendered even
more effective by permitting the child having the best
Hst of questions to "quiz" the class — to turn teacher
for the time being. Needless to say, this device must


not be carried too far, for the questions asked by the
pupils will inevitably emphasize the minor and less con-
sequential points, rather than the larger thought rela-
tions. It is valuable, however, when used temperately,
for it enlists the powerful services of the instinct of emu-
lation. The task of the teacher, reduced to lowest terms,
is to give the pupil a motive, to show him a need, for
tracing out thought connections. Almost anything that
will subserve this end is a legitimate implement to em-
ploy, if it is not overdone.

6. After some degree of proficiency has been gained
in seeking out answers to questions, these may be re-
placed by topical outlines, which may, in turn, serve as
a basis for recitation work ; instead of answering a given
question, the pupil may "recite" upon a given topic.

7. With practice in study by the topical outline, the
pupil may gradually pass to the stage of making an out-
line for himself. This is an art to which too Uttle atten-
tion is now paid in the schools. If the child acquires
what might be termed the "outlining habit" early in life,
he will in course of time acquire the abihty to make a
serviceable outline without resorting to pencil and paper
— holding his attention over a long series of topics with-
out undue exertion. When he has mastered this art, he
has mastered the art of reading. The chances are that
he will no longer read, — as many of us do, even in
adult years, — following the words faithfully with the
eye, while the wits go "wool-gathering." Such a mas-


tery of reading involves, of course, a great deal of hard
work, and the road has to be traversed anew for every
subject that is taken up; for we cannot think of a gen-
eralized habit of study any more than we can think of a
generalized habit of neatness or industry. But we may
have ideals as to the best methods of study, and these can
be developed and sustained only by persistent practice
in various fields.

It is, of course, possible to give the pupil unnecessary
help in the study lesson and thus to involve one's self in
the same danger that was noted in connection with objec-
tive teaching. But the marked inefficiency of this work in
nearly every school at the present time seems to indicate
that the danger point has not yet been reached.^

Professor Hinsdale, in the chapter just referred to, gives
some excellent advice concerning the assignment. He calls
attention especially to the necessity on the teacher's part to
see to it that the text assigned is within the grasp of the pupil ;
that the book selected is suitable to the age and attainments of
those for whom it is intended ; that difficult points be cleared
up by oral development ; and that the material of the book be
carefully worked over by the teacher beforehand and cut up
into lessons : not by so many lines or pages or paragraphs or
chapters, but by sections of equal difficulty and importance.

8. The Recitation Lesson. The recitation lesson com-
monly follows the study lesson and has for its objects.

^ " At least three fourths of all the time spent by a boy of twelve in
trying to learn a hard lesson out of a book is time thrown away." — G. S.
Hall: Methods of Teaching History, Boston, 1885, p. 206.


(i) the reporting to the teacher by the pupils of the facts
gained in the study lesson ; (2) the clearing up of obscure
and difficult points by the teacher; (3) the concrete
illustration of details; (4) the amplification of the text-
book materials by supplementary matter ; and (5) the
bringing together and summing-up of the net results
of the study in a clear and systematic manner. We
shall not include under the term "recitation lesson"
the class exercise that has already been discussed as
the development lesson. Many exercises are given over
simply to the impressing of facts as such, rather than to
the development of principles upon the basis of facts
or the explanation of facts by reference to principles.
The recitation lesson, as the term is used here, compre-
hends only the first of these processes. This type of
lesson is met with in all departments of education, but
most frequently, perhaps, in the intermediate and gram-
mar grades.

9. The recitation lesson takes two general forms:
(i) the question-and-answer recitation, and (2) the
topical recitation.

(i) The question-and-answer recitation is the more
elementary form, inasmuch as the pupil's responsibility
for the materials of the text is limited to detailed facts,
which are recalled in response to the teacher's questions.
Thus the task of keeping in mind the connection between
details, which is the chief difficulty in the topical recita-
tion, is not imposed upon the pupil. All that he is asked


to do is to remember separate facts and to reproduce
each of them in turn when the cue is given.

ID. The art of questioning is an important factor in
this type of lesson. While this art can be acquired
only by persistent and painstaking practice, a number
of helpful suggestions may be obtained by a study of
questions both good and bad, and by a careful considera-
tion of the principles which condition successful ques-
tioning. Professor De Garmo's recent treatment ^ of
this general subject is especially rich in concrete illus-
trations which will repay careful study.

For the specific purposes of the question-and-answer
recitation, the following principles and suggestions may
be helpful : —

(a) The function of the question in this type of lesson
is to direct attention to the salient features of the text.
That it may not distract the attention from essential
to non-essential points, the question should be (i) defi-
nite, that is, limited to a particular fact that the lesson
brings out; and (2) unequivocal, that is, admitting
but one correct answer.

(b) The question should be so framed that the answer
will fulfill, as far as possible, the conditions of efficient
recall. This demands that the question should, as a
rule, demand an answer in judgment form, for the clear
formulation of experience in judgment is a powerful

1 Charles De Garmo : Interest and Education^ New York, 1903, pp.
181 ff.


factor in promoting retention and recall. For this rea-
son, questions are to be avoided that (i) imply the answer
("leading questions"), (2) permit of answer by "yes"
or "no," or (3) can be answered with single words.
(2) and (3) are subject to many qualifications, and are
not to be followed dogmatically. " It is pedantry ... to
banish all questions that can be answered by yes and
no. We need only to be sure that sufficient reason fol-
lows or sufficient experience precedes the answer. In
other words, the yes or no should not be a fortunate or
unfortunate guess." ^

(c) There is great danger that the recitation lesson will
involve almost as serious a waste of time as the study
lesson in that only the pupil who is "reciting" will be
attentive. For this reason it is good practice not to call
upon a given pupil to recite until the question has been
"put" to the entire class. For the same reason, it is
well to avoid a uniform order or sequence, alphabetical
or otherwise, in which pupils are called upon. It may
be well occasionally to call upon the same pupil two or
three times during a single recitation, even if all the
others do not have an opportunity to recite. Otherwise
a pupil who has finished his recitation may be tempted
to "rest on his laurels" and permit his wits to go wool-
gathering during the remainder of the exercise. It is
also generally recognized as poor practice for a teacher
to repeat an answer that a pupil gives. This encourages

1 De Garmo, op. cii., p. 194.


slovenly and inarticulate answers. The class should
be required to depend upon the pupil reciting for the
answer to the question, and for the preservation of order
and sequence if the recitation is topical.

(d) Everything that might, in any way, interfere with
the concentration of attention upon the matter in hand
must be ehminated or reduced to a minimum. Hence
the "marking" of the pupil after each individual reci-
tation is to be looked upon as bad practice; if this is
done, it should be at the close of the recitation period.

(e) If the question, as put by the teacher, seems to
puzzle the class unduly, it is permissible to recast it in
another form, but this should not occur frequently. The
habit of asking the same question in a half-dozen dif-
ferent ways is sure to confuse and distract.

II. (2) The Topical Recitation. The problem of the
topical lesson is to lead the pupil to give out the substance
of the material acquired from the book, with a minimum
of questioning on the part of the teacher. The mate-
rials are worked over in the child's mind — apperceived
— and expressed in the form of simple, factual judg-
ments following logically upon one another. The more
independent the pupil is in this process, the greater will
be the value of the lesson. Needless to say, however,
this capacity does not come to the child at once. Indeed
its development is one of the most difficult tasks that the
elementary school involves. It is perhaps best worked
up through the method suggested in discussing the as-


signment, passing gradually from detailed questions to
"sketchy" questions, and from these to rather detailed
outlines; thence by easy stages to schematic outlines.
If the recitation follows this order of growth in the assign-
ment, the pupil should be able to give a satisfactory
account of himself by the topical method in the latter
half of the fifth school year. But the transition from
the question-and-answer to the topical recitation need
not be a formal affair. The questions may be so framed
that they will require answers increasingly comprehen-
sive until they finally pass over into the mere statement
of the topic.


Typical Forms of Development and Instruction:
(e) THE Drill, (/) the Review, and (g) the Exami-
nation Lessons

1. The Drill Lesson. The purpose of the drill lesson
is to insure the functioning of experience as habit. Con-
sequently the technique of the drill lesson is strictly
conditioned by the principle of habit- forming : focaliza-
tion and repetition in attention. The chief source of
danger in this type of lesson is to overlook the impli-
cations of this fundamental law.

Exercises in spelling and writing, for example, are com-
monly placed at the most unfavorable periods of the day —
just before noon or just prior to the close of the afternoon
session, when attention is at a very low ebb. In the inter-
mediate grades, at least, all drill lessons — including writing,
spelling, basal reading, drill arithmetic, etc. — should be given
very favorable periods.

2. The necessity of preUminary focaHzation implies
that a part of each drill lesson should be given over to
an explanation and demonstration of the process to be
automatized. The lessons in writing and spelling should
be as thoroughly unified and as systematically organized
as the development lessons in geography and grammar.
They should concentrate upon one thing at a time and



carry that through to a successful issue. It is common
to look upon exercises in writing and spelling particu-
larly as "rest periods" for the teacher. As a matter of
fact, his direction and guidance are at no time more

In writing, for example, the structure of the capital D may
form the central feature of one lesson ; the connection of D
with following letters, the subject of the next, and so on. In
any case, the main topic should be talked over at the begin-
ning of the exercise, the difficulties explained, and a demon-
stration given by the teacher in the construction of the approved
form. Then the class should practice attentively, not mechani-
cally, under the teacher's constant criticism, until the correct
adjustment is automatized.

The same is true of the spelling lesson. Each exercise
should be a unity, dealing with some particular point — some
rule, perhaps, or some combination that has been found to be
a stumbling-block to many members of the class : the ie and
ei combinations, or priticipal and principle. These should be
focahzed, talked about, and drilled upon until the correct
forms flow from the pen without conscious effort.

The exercise in oral reading forms one of the best examples
of the drill lesson, particularly in the " basal " reading, the very
essence of which is drill. Here the appropriate posture of the
pupil demands attention ; it is not much more difficult for the
child to acquire habits of correct posture than it is to acquire
habits of incorrect posture, but it means a serious and unremit-
ting effort on the part of the teacher for a long time. The
"basal" reading lesson is also the best medium for fixing
habits of good articulation : the mumbUng of words, talking
"in the throat," clipping final consonants and even syllables,
are all lines of least resistance. But the main object of
the basal reading lesson is drill in the ready recognition and


proper pronunciation of words. Here there is nothing, in the
writer's opinion, that equals in efficiency the " old-fashioned "
repetition of the reading selection until perfect mastery is

3. In all forms of the drill lesson, the factor of focali-
zation implies that the conditions of apperception should
be fulfilled so far as possible. The pupil should see the
need of correct forms, and this should give him the motive
for repetition.

But even when the pupil perceives a distinct need for
making a process automatic, the monotony that the
necessary repetition involves may effectually discourage
him from the task. It will frequently happen that noth-
ing short of an arbitrary command, backed up, if need
be, with appropriate compulsion, will keep the pupil
returning to the task until it has been completed. This
necessity may sometimes be averted by an intelligent
use of devices that will serve to introduce a superficial
variety and at the same time preserve the essential ad-
justments that are being automatized. In arithmetic,
for example, the device commonly employed is the solu-
tion of problems, which appeals to the "puzzle instinct,"
so potent in children up to the age of adolescence.^
Devices that appeal to the instinct of emulation are also
profitably employed in arithmetic and spelling (as exem-
plified in the old-time, but still serviceable, "spelling

1 Cf. E. H. Lindley : " A Study of Puzzles," in American Journal of
Psychology, vol. viii, pp. 431 ff.


matches"). The exhibitioPx of good work is another
device that is commonly employed in writing, drawing,
and manual training.

Two very serious dangers are involved in the use of
devices, (a) The average teacher, finding a device
successful, is almost certain to overwork it — to carry
it so far that it defeats its own purpose. The device is,
at best, only a means to an end, and the effort must always
be to keep the end distinctly in view, and not to permit
the device to become paramount in the minds of either
teacher or pupils. In some schools, for example, emu-
lation is carried to a dangerous extreme. The marks or
grades are the be-all and the end-all of the pupil's effort.
In other schools, it is the exhibition of "good" work
or showy results that is the objective point of all teach-
ing and learning. To make these things (which are
excellent as devices) ends in themselves is to obscure
the true purpose and to distort the normal process of

(b) The danger that the child will come to depend
exclusively upon the factor of interest need not again be

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Online LibraryWilliam Chandler BagleyThe educative process → online text (page 22 of 25)