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CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE-EDITED
BY W. AND R. CHAMBERS.
AND SOLD BY ALL BOOKSELLERS.
WITH DIRECTIONS FOR TEACHING ENGLISH.
The present small work is designed to furnish young persons with a series of simple Exercises in Reading: according to the discretion of the teacher and the capacity of the pupil, it may be used after the SECOND Book and before the RUDIMENTS OF KNOWLEDGE. As instruction in much that is useful to be known is provided for in the last mentioned of these treatises, and also in the INTRODUCTION TO THE SCIENCES, it has not been judged necessary to infuse any miscellaneous information in the present work.
The principal object in view is to bring the child a step forward in the art of reading and spelling, and so prepare him for methodic intellectual culture in the books which follow. At the same time, in order to amuse, and induce reading for the pleasure it communicates, the subjects of the lessons are of that species of narrative which uniformly delights the infant mind, bearing in each case a reference to the moral perceptions of the pupil, or tending to encourage in hi a love of the beautiful in nature. We may add, in the language of Mrs Barbauld—a few of whose pieces we have adopted—“The task we have undertaken is humble, but not mean ; for to lay the first stone of a noble building, and to plant the first idea in the human mind, can be no dishonour to any hand.”
With respect to the precise purpose of the work—advancement in the art of reading—a few observations and directions seem necessary. According to the old methods of instruction, it was considered sufficient if the child could read over his part of a lesson without blundering, and also spell correctly any word that might be put to him. The consequence was, that many children were dismissed from school with the character of good readers, who knew little or nothing of
the meaning of what they had read; all they had learned was to name certain printed symbols or words by rote. Such acquirements, it may well be supposed, could have no effect in improving either the intellectual or the moral faculties of the young. The modern improved plan of instruction in English, which we desire should be carried into effect in connexion with these treatises, is something very different.
First, It is necessary that the child should be taught to read—that is, to apprehend at a glance the appearance the written symbols of his native language, and to pronounce these symbols according to the most approved manner. Connected with reading, and an important part of the means of acquiring the art, is spelling, or the anatomisation of the language, as it may be called, into its constituent syllables and letters. For orthography, the use of separate books, under the appellation of spelling-books, does not appear strictly necessary. In the present and other volumes of the “ Educational Course,” the reading lessons furnish words sufficient for the purpose, the teacher only having the duty of explaining the principles on which the syllabic divisions of words may in general be ascertained. In order to lead on the child by easy and progressive steps, certain words in the early lessons in the present volume are divided into their component syllables.
The following are the established rules on the subject of spelling, which we copy from the treatise on English "GRAMMAR, by Mr D'Orsey, in the present series :—“1. Never divide words of one syllable—strength, alms, farm. 2. Never separate letters of the same syllable-un-speak-able. 3. Divide generally according to pronunciation-de-light, ho-ly, ex-ist, un-der, de-throne, ab-stain, parch-ment, pref-er-able, la-menta-tion. 4. Divide compounds into their component partslamp-post, pen-knife. 5. Keep the root whole in derivatives -touch-ing, preach-er, lov-est. 6. Divide words in tion, cious, cian, sion, thus-mo-tion, vi-cious, mus-i-cian, exten-sion.
Spelling has two meanings-1. Naming letters singly, by their powers, grouping them into syllables, and these again into words, so as to read a language. 2. Putting down letters on paper in proper number, order, &c., so as to produce a combination expressive of sound, and thus write a language. Spelling, in the first sense, is communicated by the ordinary elementary instruction which a child receives on entering school. Spelling, in the second sense, cannot be acquired by the common practice of repeating columns of words. Constant practice in reading, writing from dictation, copying pieces from good authors, composing and correcting original essays, and performing systematic grammatical exercises, may be safely recommended as the only certain modes of attaining accuracy in spelling."
The teacher, in the early stages, has chiefly to do with the first kind of spelling, and, as his pupil advances, the second is gradually introduced. At a very early period, however, writing is an important auxiliary. Let the teacher write on the black board the successive letters forming a word, the pupil telling the teacher what letters to put down. When the word is finished, let the teacher ask the class “Is this word correct?” All are eager to give opinions, but no one is allowed to speak except one selected. Should he fail, a second is applied to, and so on, till the word is made right. Many advantages attend this plan. It impresses the intimate connexion between form and sound; gives a correct, extensive, and permanent knowledge of spelling; and has a powerful effect on the general intellect, inducing a habit of prompt and accurate perception. If well managed, it may afford valuable instruction, in a most amusing form, to fifty or a hundred boys at once ; indeed, to as many as can see the writing on the board. This is a practice extensively pursued in Germany, Holland, and Switzerland, and adopted with great success in the High School of Glasgow, and other large seminaries.
Second, The child must be taught to understand the meaning of the words (symbols of ideas) in his lessons. Professional skill, good temper, and general intelligence, are required in any master who undertakes this important duty. The method pursued, as laid down in the best normal seminaries, is both elliptical and explanatory. A lesson is first read, each member of the class reading a few sentences or paragraphs, and in the course of which the master gives a number of explanations and illustrations of the subject; his different observations may be described as a kind of lecture preparatory to future examination. The books are now laid aside, and the teacher commences the task of probing the pupils' memory, by repeating sentence after sentence from the lesson, omitting one or more words, or, it may be, half words, which are to be supplied by the children. To vary the plan, an advanced pupil may be asked to supply the omissions. Besides supplying the omitted words, the pupils are asked, singly or collectively, to explain meanings,