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The matter of spelling reform may be put aside as having no practical bearing on the instruction teachers are required to give.
The orthography of the English language is almost entirely a matter of memory-a re-collection of certain previous impressions on the mind; impressions either of word forms, or of the recurrence of certain arrangements of letters. In the teaching of spelling two ends are to be striven for: 1. The production of clearly defined, permanent impressions upon the mind. 2. The ability to readily and accurately recall these impressions. All methods and varieties of methods in spelling are based on this law. The old, or oral method, seeks to produce impressions of the recurrence of the individual letters of a word, while the written, or more modern method, seeks the same end by producing an impression on the mind of the word form taken as a unit. Which is the better, " the old way or the new?" At the present time, and I think unfortunately, very many teachers entirely discard oral work in spelling, and depend altogether on the written method. Here, as elsewhere, there is a golden mean that is better than either extreme. Happy he who finds it! Good spellers can hardly be made by a slavish adherence to either way. Only by a judicious combination and adaptation of both are the best results to be obtained. Probably these results will be best secured by a combination that will contain as much of the one method as of the other.
But what means shall be used to make good spellers?
1. Arouse the pupil's pride. Let him once feel that bad spelling is a disgrace, and half the battle is won. Children should be taught to avoid a wrongly spelled word as they would a contagious disease. At the same time they should look on correct spelling as a matter of course and as not, in itself, meritorious. A great cause of poor spelling is the very prevalant notion that it does not matter how a word is spelled so that its identity be not lost. When pupils learn that intelligent readers measure the culture of the writer of a letter by his spelling, the first great obstacle to teaching spelling is removed.
2. Spelling should be taught in classes as a separate study. It will do to depend upon other recitations in this particular, when it will do to teach reading in connection with the grammar class solely, or when the study of geography can be properly confined to the use made of it in teaching history. Not only should spelling be taught as a separate study, but lessons should be assigned in advance of the recitation, that opportunity to study them may be had. Primary pupils cannot study in a better way than to write the words of the
lesson on their slates, and the words of the reading lesson should constitute the spelling lesson. When the lesson has been repeatedly copied from the book, let it be written from dictation and afterwards spelled orally. Care is to be taken that as few words as possible be misspelled, for errors are very likely to be repeated. Let words in common use be first taught; words to which pupils can attach some meaning, giving new words as their fund of information increases. Merely technical words may better be avoided until there is a need for them. Besides these separate classes, all recitations should be, to a certain extent, recitations in spelling. When a new word occurs, have it spelled and defined. If this cannot be done, there is no use of the pupil who fails going further in that recitation until he consult the dictionary.
3. Pronunciation — that is, correct pronunciation on the part of the teacher, is a powerful aid to the study of spelling. In dictating words, many teachers are liable to pronounce so plainly as to be incorrect; each syllable being enunciated with labored distinctness and an utter disregard of the laws of pronunciation. If the pupil is unable to spell a word, he has only to say that he does not understand it, in order to have it so pronounced as to leave no doubt as to its orthography. Of course, he will miss this same word the next time he has occasion to use it. Carelessness of pronunciation on the part of pupils can not be too carefully guarded against. We spell as we pronounce — to a great extent. If part-i-ci-ple be pronounced with three syllables, it will be spelled with three syllables; and if perspiration be pronounced as if the first syllable were pre, it will be spelled in like manner.
4. A fourth means to correct spelling is composition. A list of words is assigned for a lesson; the recitation to consist of the correct placing of these words in sentences. This is a very useful means of teaching the orthography and use of words pronounced alike but spelled differently and of different meaning. How often is the word principle used when principal is meant and vice versa? So cur-rent is used for cur-rant and the reverse. The argument for teaching the spelling of words only in connection with their meaning applies especially to this class of words. The spelling of each examination paper should be carefully scrutinized and misspelled words noted. If it be understood that these errors will affect the standing, carelessness in spelling will be effectually done away.
5. Good penmanship is a most efficient teacher of spelling. Many
a person writes a word poorly because he is not certain of its orthography, and his penmanship prevents detection. A misspelled word looks worse when well written than if only scrawled. I have seen the word to-geth-er misspelled many times, but never did it look so utterly out of place as when it appeared in the rounded characters of a well known writing teacher. A gentleman who stands high among the teachers of Wisconsin, in writing the dipththongs ei and ie, makes both letters exactly alike and places the dot above and just halfway between them. There is nothing to be insisted on more strenuously than plainness of writing. It will prevent attempted deception as well as a great waste of time.
6. Rules for spelling have a place among the means of teaching this art. Just what their relative importance may be, is a matter of opinion. Time spent in a mere memorizing of rules is time wasted. Yet this is just what many think to be their use. Their application to the spelling of certain classes of words may be very valuable both as a means to correct spelling and as a matter of discipline. The application of rules to the spelling of derivatives must be practiced until it becomes habitual to the pupil, or the rules are of no account. But there is a large class of words that is above all rules and that defies all law. Such words as deleble and indelible; as siege and seize. The only way that I know to dispose of such words is to learn their spelling just as the multiplication table is learned. They must be taken by force and compelled to submit.
7. Pupils should keep a list of all misspelled words, and from time to time review them. Of course, the teachers will note all such words, and frequently bring them to the attention of pupils.
8. And last, but by no means least, let the habit of consulting the dictionary whenever any doubt arises, be formed as soon as possible not an unwilling consultation, as is now usually the case, but a willing and cheerful search after truth. This habit cannot be overestimated. If it be once acquired, there is little fear that misspelled words will find a place in any composition.
THE teacher must know how to enter into the hidden recesses of the youthful mind, and from that point work outward and upward. The pupil is like a treasure in the sea, and the teacher like a diver who goes to the bottom to bring it up. If you do not descend and ascertain first exactly where the child's mind is, you will not bring him up
where you are. The descent of the teacher is essential to the ascent of the pupil.
BOTANY IN COMMON SCHOOLS.
In compliance with your request, I give some results of the attempt to introduce botany, not as a text-book study, but as a general exercise, into the schools of Pierce county. It
may not be out of place to outline some of the reasons for what may seem an innovation. While personally, I believe that botany should be placed in the list of third grade studies, and taught from a text-book, to such an extent that all pupils of ordinary ability could, at sixteen years of age, analyze phenogams, I will not defend that position in this paper. Further, I should like to read some convincing arguments, if it were possible to bring forward any, to prove that botany is not as profitable, both as a practical and culture study, as constitutions, history, two-thirds of what is taught under the head of geography, and one-half of the work in text-books of arithmetic and grammar. But the merest rudiments of the science can be taught, until the law is made as it should be. Nothing more has been taught in this county.
1. All admit that the perceptive faculties are first active, and should receive the first cultivation given to the mind. But our common school curriculum either ignores the existence of such faculties, and the beautiful material world, or else presumes upon the completion of all needed cultivation at four years of age. At that point, the state throws open the school house door, and the child can, if he choose, begin to work in abstract processes. The very best mental food for him is entirely withheld. He learus to reason before he learns to
a relatively painful process. 2. Botany, in connection with drawing, without which it cannot be properly taught, is the best possible study to quicken the perceptives; and if, in itself, it was valueless, this fact would warrant the study of it.
3. Botany, being a proper subject for the child to investigate, giving actual employment to those mental faculties which alone are developed in early years, is to his mind what proper food is to the stomach, and therefore the processes of study give exquisite pleasure to the young pupil. So all subjects would give pleasure to older pupils, if properly presented, and at the right age. And, as the perceptives do not cease to be active for several years, and until the reasoning faculties begin to develop, older pupils can also study it with profit and pleasure.
Incidentally, they learn something of the principles of classification, of color, form, and geometrical terms. The pupils, so interested in botany, are more easily interested in other studies. The keen relish for the work stimulates them, perhaps unconsciously, to work harder in other branches, without any effort on the teacher's part. But knowing this fact, the teacher can use it to work wonders. Botany will keep your school lively in all mental work.
4. Schools of all kinds are criticised because those who have gone out into actual life so often fail to make better progress, financially, than others. Why? Because the curriculum too often makes students day-dreamers, rather than observers. The man of small perceptives is absent-minded, often lacking energy in any direction. If children were taught to use their eyes and hands, or, in other words, to control those organs by the mind, the day of dreaming, conceited graduates would be past. To distinguish minute differences is a most valuable capacity. Botany consists largely of that work. It gives a man an ability and disposition to see the world and its contents. A certain college president, lately elected, said that his success was due to the fact that he always gave the closest attention to the smallest details. In no other respect was he different from others who accomplished less good. Others have said as much. Botany turns the mind in that direction.
5. The time spent daily does not detract from the school work, because it comes just before an intermission, when idleness is the rule. The stimulus imparted causes more work to be done in the day than could be accomplished without it. Fifteen minutes given to botany is equivalent to adding at least a half hour to the working time of the school. So the cries of "time wasted," "too many studies now on the list," " what is the use of a smattering," etc., are from those not cognizant of the facts. If a slow boy is never interested in anything, try him on botany. Tell him to draw a leaf form, after he has seen it and described it. If that does not waken him the outlook is bad. But it rarely fails.
There are two schools in Pierce county which give systematic textbook instruction in botany, viz.: the Normal, and River Falls Institute. Hence, many teachers are well prepared to teach the rudiments, orally.
Nearly one-third of the pupils have received some instruction in botany during the summer. Between twenty and thirty teachers have given instruction in it, orally. The lessons have been chiefly
2- Vol. IX.-No. 12