Thursday, February 24, 2011






TO the lover of childhood nothing is more delightful than to teach little ones "how to read;" but in order to ensure that success in teaching which would give pleasure to the children and satisfaction to the teacher, one must call common sense to her aid and free herself from the old traditions concerning the first steps in reading. No wonder the little ones hated to go to school, when they were expected to learn the whole alphabet before reading a word! There is a surer and a better way.

This little manual has been prepared hoping that it will aid earnest teacherpare forms before anything like reading is attempted. What should we say of a carpenter who commenced a nice piece of work knowing that his tools were blunt? And yet most teachers expect little ones to learn to read without any mental preparation whatever. One of the most successful primary teachers we have met—one whose children read and write remarkably well at the close of the first school-year—does not turn to Chart 4 until she has spent several months in training the eye and the hand as a basis for future work.

"Why train the hand f" do you ask, teacher? The answer is evident: what the child learns through two senses is more firmly fixed in his memory than what he learns through one. Develop sense of touch, therefore, as well as sense of sight. 1

The teacher referred to gives her children beads to string, blocks to build, cards to sew, papers to cut and to weave, and in connection with each occupation she has interesting talks with the children — miniature object-lessons —which call out their thought and train them to observe, compare, and remember forms. She has a little store of china animals, pretty stones and shells, and many other things that interest children. She has a jar of goldfish, another jar of tadpoles. There are flowers growing in the windows, pictures on the walls, and there is a small aquarium filled with plants which the children helped the teacher to gather. It is needless to say that such a teacher establishes from the outset a sweet fellowship with her pupils which is rivaled only by the mother's love.

It must be remembered, however, that the teacher herself must converse in pleasant, sprightly tones, or she will not call out pleasing inflections in the children's voices. The faulty intonations of pupils in the high school may be the result of bad habits of voice acquired in the primary department. The ingenious teacher will think of many devices for inducing the children to talk with her, and to bring out sweet qualities in their voices. Let them tell what they saw on their way to school. Let them describe objects in the room. Let them.tell about their pets at home.

To recapitulate, then, the needs of the primary school, the following points should receive attention before anything like reading is attempted:

1. The children must be taught to see and to remember forms.

2. They must be taught to talk.

3. They must learn to use the voice pleasantly.

4. Their imagination must be called out.

All these results can be attained by wide-awake object-lessons such as have already been suggested.

Children that have had preparation through occupations and object-lessons will be ready to learn from

Chart 2 (page 9 in New Primer).—Do not allow them to see at first all the lines and figures on this chart. The teacher should draw on the blackboard a horizontal and a vertical line; these are enough for one lesson Do not use the terms "horizontal" and "vertical:" "up-and-down line" and "left-toright line" are enough for the outset. Let the children point out the straight lines in the roomaround the doors, the windows, etc. Give the children little sticks that they may reproduce these lines on their desks. (These can be obtained at "school-supply" stores at a trifling cost, or the teacher herself can make, them from matches, cutting off the brimstone ends. Bits of wire may be used for curves.) Give only two sticks at first, and increase the number day by day. At the close of these lessons let the children invent little forms with their sticks and take turns in telling what they have made. .Perhaps one will say he has made a slate, another a window, another a kite, and so on. This exercise tends to call out the imagination and greatly interests the little ones.

For another lesson the teacher should copy on the blackboard the first slanting line. Ask the children if they find in the room any lines like it* Let them reproduce it with their sticks, and proceed as before. Another day copy the next slanting line, and in this manner teach gradually all the lines and figures. After a while the slate and pencil may be used in copying them.

In teaching large numbers of children the teacher may not be able to see whether all are laying their sticks according to direction; in such an emergency she can get assistance from some of the brightest children. By a little tact on the part of the teacher the most mischievous and troublesome pupils may become earnest little helpers.

Chart 3 (page 10 in New Primer).—The counting lesson should be made bright and pleasant. Let the children talk about the birds before they begin. "Do you love little birds?"—"Have you seen any real birds to-day?"—"Where did you see them?" Such questions as these may be asked, to awaken the interest of the little ones and bring out pleasant qualities of voice. Do not attempt to teach them to count ten at once; let them count one bird at first, bring you one book, point out one child, one window, etc. Teach them to count two in the same way, always requiring them to count objects in the room.

After a few lessons let the children sometimes take turns in pointing out the birds, while the rest of the class counts. To vary the lessons p,nd to call out the imagination of the children let them have little sticks on their desks (say an inch in length) and "play they are birds."

"Charlie, how many birds have you on your desk?"—"I have two birds."—"Here are two more birds flying to you, Charlie" (the teacher laying two more sticks on his desk). "Now count and tell me how many more birds you have."—"One, two, three, four! I have four birds."—"You are right. John has no birds.—John, come here and take five birds out of my box."

The ingenious teacher will think of many ways to keep up the interest of little ones, and to aid them in counting.

After a drill of several weeks or months in the directions already hinted at, the children will be ready to learn from

Chart 4 (page 11 in New Primer).—The teacher should make herself familiar with the directions at the bottom of the chart before beginning the lesson. Of course these directions are for the teacher only, and she will vary them according to the needs of the pupils.

These charts can be used by the word method or by the phonic method. We earnestly recommend the latter, for it makes the children self-reliant from the outset. Grammar-school teachers have found that children who have been taught to read by the "word method" are not apt to be good scholars in arithmetic. The reason is obvious: they have formed the habit of depending on others in learning to read, instead of finding out the words for themselves.

Most of the words in the charts and Primer are phonic, and can be taught by sound. A few words "by sight" are introduced later, when the mental habits of the child are somewhat formed. We would say, then, Do not teach the names of the letters on Chart 4 as em, en, a: give only their sounds.

First, the teacher should clearly understand the difference between the sounds of the vowels and the consonants. In articulation, the lips, the teeth and the hard and soft palates are brought into use. In producing the vowels (a, e, i, o, u, including the long and short sounds) the vocal organs are open and free; but in producing the sounds of the consonants there is a hindrance to the free emission of the voice, owing to a closer position of the vocal organs, and in most cases actual contact. This is illustrated in the following diagrams. Figs. 1 and 2 represent the position of the vocal organs in producing the sounds of the consonants m and n. Figs. 3 and 4 indicate the open position of the organs in producing the long and the short sound of the vowel a.

Fig. 1 shows that the sound of m is made with shut lips, the sound being emitted through the nose, as indicated by the dotted line. Notice position of lips in producing final sound of such words as am, dim, hum, etc. Fig. 2 shows that the sound of n is made by putting the tip of the tongue just back of the upper teeth, the sound again being emitted through the nose. Notice the position of the tongue in producing the finalsound of in, tin, ran, etc. It is much more difficult to understand the sound of a consonant when it is the first letter of a word: the sound of the consonant mingles with that of the following vowel and confuses one.

The sound a (long) as in pate is not used in the Primer, but we add a diagram of the same, that the teacher may see how perplexing it is to a child to progress in making the first road to knowledge an easy, pleasant one. Especially does the writer hope that some assistance is herein given whereby teachers may clearly understand the very important difference between the sounds of letters and their names; for he who teaches by sight alone (or the word-method) not only robs the child of the advantage to be gained by learning through two of the senses instead of through one, but also fails to arouse in him that self-reliance in overcoming difficulties which is the secret of true progress.

tell him, in the outset, that a in man is a. The long sound of a is double, made up of a + e. This is shown in Fig. 4. The dotted line indicates the position of the tongue in producing the final part, e. Slowly pronounce a as in fate, and notice the twofold action of the lips, tongue, and teeth. Then begin to pronounce words commencing with the short sound of a, as at, am, an, etc., leaving out the final consonant. It will be seen that this sound of a, or U, requires but one position of the vocal organs, as is shown in Fig. 3. Now, if the teacher wishes the child to find out or "build up" words for himself, and tells him in the outset that em, a, en, spells man, it is as perplexing as if she gave him marbles and told him to build a block-house.
The teacher, then, understanding that the sound, and not the name, of the letter is to be taught, should, before showing Chart 4, print m on the board. Ask the children how many "up-and-down" lines they see in it. They will readily say, "Three;" and if they have had faithful preliminary drill on "Lines and Figures," they will also say that they see two curves at the top.

Then the teacher should proceed according to directions on Chart 4:

"Children, when you see this letter witli three 'upand-down' lines in it, you should call it thus;" and the teacher makes the sound of m with closed lips.

After sufficient drill print a on the board. Ask if there is an "up-and-down" line in it. Let the children point it out. Ask if it has curves, and where. Compare it with m. Draw out from the children the points of difference between the two letters. In this way the forms of the letters are impressed upon the minds of the little ones, and they are ready to learn this sound of a, the teacher giving, of course, not a, but a as inman. Next print n on the board, and the children will be quick to observe that it has but two vertical lines. Then give the sound of n as directed above.

After the children are familiar with the sounds of the three letters the teacher may turn to Chart 4 and say, after talking a while about the picture, "Now, children, you have learned enough this morning to read all that is on this chart. First let me see if you remember the sounds;" and the teacher should review the sounds of the letters found on the chart, as little children may be bewildered at seeing the characters in print. Let them point out all the m's, n's, etc. (being very careful to give only the sounds of the letters). Pay no attention to the script at present.

Next the teacher should help them "build up" the word man, beginning at the top of the chart. The spaces between the letters indicate the slowness with which a little child would do this. The teacher points at the three letters in their order, while the child gives the sounds m-a-n.At first he does not know that he is framing a word. The teacher repeats the process again and again, pointing out the sounds more quickly each time, until the child perceives that he is saying the word man.

Finally teach the phrase a man. The article is always to be joined with the following word in speaking, as if it were a first syllable; as, a-go, a-bed, a-man.

Forming the other words on the chart will be a very easy matter after the foregoing is accomplished. Teach tbis first lesson thoroughly, and it will make all the subsequent lessons comparatively easy to the children.

Let all printed letters remain upon the board a week, at least, after they are taught. The teacher will often find the little ones looking at them and repeating to themselves the sounds.

As it is probable that several of the class will not remember all the sounds on Chart 4, review it at the beginning of the next lesson:

"Now, children, we want to read from a new chart to-day, and we shall turn to it in a few minutes, if you will all give attention and show me that you remember the sounds you learned yesterday. Who thinks he can read all that is in this first lesson?" Some bright child will volunteer."Charlie thinks he can read it. All the rest of the class watch carefully while I point and Charlie reads.—Very good! I am glad to see you remember so well.—Who else will read it for me?" etc.

Sometimes vary the lessons hy letting the children take turns in pointing for the rest of the class to read. Children greatly enjoy "playing teacher;" they will he sure to give closer attention that they may earn this privilege.

After a short, brisk review turn to

Chart 5 (page 12 in New Primer): "Children, I know you will enjoy this lesson. You can read every word here except one, and you will soon know that. But first we will talk a while about the picture.—Lizzie, what do you see here?"—"I see a little boy."—"Good!— Anna, tell me something about the little boy."—"He has a big hat on."—"John, do you think the hat fits him?"—"No, ma'am. I think it is his papa's hat."—"I think so, too.—Jane, what has he in his hand?"—"He has a big cane. I think it must be his papa's cane."—" Perhaps it is.—Carl, what do you suppose this little boy can be doing with a big hat and cane?"—"I guess he is 'making believe' he is a man."—"That may be so. He seems to be full of fun. I think he is talking; we will read what is on the chart and find out what he is saying. First we must learn the new sound."

The teacher then prints I on the board. Talk about the form of the letter, and finally give its sound, which in this instance is the same as the name of the letter. Turn again to the chart and let the children point out all the I's; they will then be ready to read all the words and phrases and find out what the little boy is saying.

The important thing now is to teach the children to read in phrases. By frequent repetition they must be made so familiar with the words that they can call them promptly at sight. And they must be taught to see short phrases and speak them at a single breath; thus, I am as fluently as if it were one word. Then a man is to be spoken in the same easy manner. Next the two phrases should be spoken (or read) with a slight pause between them, and finally the complete sentence, "I am a man," is to be read easily with a single impulse of the breath, and with no awkward pauses between the words.

Fig. 5.

Chart 6 (page 13 in New Primer) will also be found easy and interesting to the children if the previous lessons have been faithfully learned, as it contains but one new sound, that of r. The capital A. is also to be taught. Copy these two letters on the board. Ask questions about them. Let the children tell the points of difference: "One of these letters has a 'sharp angle.' Who will show me where it is?•" etc.

Give the letter A. the same sound as the little a, already taught—namely, its short sound as in man. Be careful on this point; a man ran is very bad reading. If a child begins with this fault, it is very difficult to break it up. (See page 10.) Be careful not to call r by its name; as, ar. Give only its sound, which is made according to the diagram below.

The tongue is reversed, or turned back. The inexperienced teacher will easily get at the sound by beginning to say ran. Leave off an, and you have the sound of r.

It is much easier to teach children to read phonetically if they have not learned the names of the letters. If any child is unfortunately already familiar with them, it will be necessary to teach him to distinguish between the name of a letter and its sound. The following hints may be of use:

The teacher asks, "Children, have any of you a cat at home?" Several will reply that they have. "What is her name? What do you call her?" Some answer, "We call her Kitty," "Puss," etc.—"Well, does she say 'Kitty'? Does she say 'Puss'?—" Oh no; she says 'Mew.'"—"And has any one a dog at home?"— "Yes."— "What is his name?"—"Carlo."—"Does he say 'Carlo'?"—"Oh no!"—"Does he say 'dog'?"— "No."—"What does he say?"—"He says 'Bow-wow!' and sometimes, when he is cross, he says 'r-r-r'" (a growling- noise).—"Yes, the dog's name is Carlo, hut the sound he makes is 'bow-woiv' and 'r-r-r;' and the sound Puss makes is 'Mew' and 'pr-r-r.' Now, the name of this letter (»«) is em, hut itsounds m" (with the lips shut, the sound passing through the nose). "And the name of this letter (r) is ar, but it sounds just a little like your dog's growl—r-r-r."

Position of tongue in giving the sound of r.

In a similar way the names of the different letters as they appear on the charts may be distinguished from their sounds (if it he found necessary), but it must not be forgotten that the sound is the important thing in reading.

Chart 7 (page 14 in New Primer).—Proceed as before, printing the two new letters on the board. Make this exercise bright and interesting, and the children will enjoy analyzing the forms of the letters. They will be sure to say that e is almost round; they will speak of the straight line running through it, etc. The sound of this e is like the name of the letter itself (e).Explain that two e's (ee) sound the same as one e.

The sound of s is made by putting the end of the tongue back of the upper teeth, leaving a slight orifice, through which the breath passes. (See Fig. R.) 'Begin to speak the word see, leaving off the ee, and you find yourself producing the sharp sound of s. The teacher should be sure that she understands how to make the new sounds on each chart before airing the lesson.


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