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THE School Board of London has issued a pronounced, the children being left to learn

valuable Report on Methods of Teach- the actual sounds represented by the letters. ing Reading, to the teachers of each of the by a process of unconscious induction. As schools under the board. It has been pre- the names of the letters do not, in the majorpared by the School Management Committee, ity of cases, correspond with the sounds of the who have been nearly a year engaged in mak-letters, and as many letters represent a variety ing the necessary inquiries and collecting evi- of sounds, it is clear that the Alphabetic dence, and was laid before the board at its method is false in principle, and must be last meeting before the Easter vacation. tedious in operation. It seems to be synthet

As a preliminary step to making sugges-ical, but, in reality, is not, the aggregate of tions for the improvement of the methods of the names of the letters composing a word teaching reading, the sub-committee ap- affording but a slight clue, except in the case pointed for the purpose of instituting inqui- of words that are spelled phonetically, to the ries on the subject, thought it expedient to pronunciation of the word. It is urged in ascertain from teachers who had distinguished favor of this method that by it children are themselves by their success in teaching read-taught to spell as well as to read; but expeing, what were the methods which they re- rience seems to show that spelling, so far as spectively employed.

it is not phonetic, is learnt by the repetition We found that though there are some three of the visual impressions made by words as. or four methods of teaching reading recog-wholes, rather than by remembering the sepanized as distinct in formal treatises on the rate letters of which the words are composed: subject, these so-called methods are mainly The Phonic method begins, not with the differentiated, not by the way in which read- names of the letters, but with their actual ing is taught, but by the way in which the powers, and then advances from the true alphabet is taught, and that none of the sounds of the letters of which a word is comteachers whom we examined used any of posed to the pronunciation of the whole word. them exclusively.

It is a genuinely synthetic method, but reIt may, nevertheless, tend to clearness if quires for its complete application an ex-the leading characteristics of these methods tended alphabet and a reformed spelling. are briefly indicated.

With our present alphabet the same letter The Alphabetic method begins with the may represent many different sounds; and letters of the alphabet, and then proceeds to with our present spelling many letters are sicombinations of the letters into syllables and lent, and many sounds are represented in a words. Every word is first spelled and then variety of ways. There is no reason, how

ever, why the Phonic method should not be distinct articulation, purity of pronunciation, and a advantageously applied to our written lan- good style of reading from the outset. Much labor

is would be saved in the upper departments of a school guage as it stands. By the use of diacritical:

if more pains were taken to prevent the formation of marks the existing alphabet may be virtually | bad habits in these respects in the lower. extended, and by other typographical expe

The usual method of teaching to read, foldients the silent letters may be easily indi- Llowed by our teachers, is as follows: cated. This method was successfully em

1. The teacher reads a paragraph by himself. ployed by the late Mr. Robinson, a teacher

2. The children read it simultaneously. at Wakeneld, and was admirably exemplified 3. They are then called upon to read it individu. before us by Mrs. Harper, who employs it in ally. a large school under the Leeds school board. It is clear that if the class be large (and It has the great merit of cultivating the many of our classes contain from sixty to habit of distinct articulation, and of impart- seventy children), the children get little or no îng to the ear accuracy and delicacy in the practice in independent reading. We would discrimination of sounds.

strongly recommend, therefore, that in the The look-and-say method is analytic, be- first three standards the reading classes should ginning with a word as a whole, and then not contain more than thirty children. In proceeding to decompose it. The children proportion as children get over the mechan. first learn to identify and pronounce words ical difficulties of reading, and become capaat sight, and then, by analysis and compari. ble of reading with pleasure to themselves, ·son, master the powers of the letters compos- the size of the class may be increased. But ing them.'

| in the earlier stages abundant individual pracIt is obvious that these methods may be tice is indispensable to rapid progress. The - used in combination, and, on inquiry, we children in these stages have to acquire the found that they are so used. Teachers who power of recognizing with the eye words use the alphabetic method endeavor to di- familiar to the ear, and to pronounce words rectly teach the powers of the letters as well strange both to eye and ear. The former · as their names; those who use the Phonic can only be acquired by the frequent repetiw method are compelled to teach large numbers tion of impressions on the visual memory; of words by the look-and-say method, and the later by constant practice in decomposing those who teach words as wholes, decompose words into their syllables and elementary the words into their phonic methods in order sounds, and then reconstructing the words to teach the powers of single letters, so as to from their elements. enable children to read words they have not In the upper stages of reading the most - seen.

common defect is lack of intelligence. This The method of teaching the alphabet that is a defect which, of course, cannot be cor- seems to be most successful is as follows: rected by any special method of teaching

1. The forms of the letters are taught, i, e., chil. reading. The intelligence of a school will dren are taught to identify them. This is done by depend on the character of its teaching as a requiring the children to observe how the letters are formed, to “ match " the letters, to form them out of

whole. Whatever exercises the mental powsuitable pieces of wood or paper prepared for the pur.

ers of the children, whatever enlarges their pose, and to reproduce them on the blackboard. I knowledge, whatever extends their vocabu

2. The names are associated with the forms for lary, will, at the same time, contribute to the purposes of reference; not to be used in spelling | improvement of their reading. While. howwords on the “alphabet" plan.

ever, we recommend a fair proportion of With regard to this stage we would sug-readi

suge reading lessons which are intended to convey 1. That for some time the children should be con

information, we are of opinion that it is fined to one alphabet, either capital or small letters,

highly undesirable in the lower standards to print or script, the introduction of two or three only attempt to teach, through the reading lesson, serving to multiply difficulties.

subjects that severely tax the attention. The 2. That the letters should be classified in the order difficulties presented by reading itself are quite of the simplicity of their outline.

3. That advantage should be taken of the laws of enough for the teacher to cope with, without association to connect the forms of the letters with the going out of his way to encounter extraneous common objects which they resemble, even a remote difficulties. The first object of teachers should resemblance being often quite enough to satisfy the be to get children to take an interest in readactive imagination of children, and to powerfully | ing, and this can only be done by making -assist the memory.

4. That, from the beginning, the children should reading a source of pleasure to them. The be required to reproduce the letters in simple outline. attractions of the subject matter should be

5. That teachers should take special pains to secure heightened to the greatest possible extent; the


mechanical difficulties which stand in the way | taken to prevent the blurring of the vowels of enjoyment should be reduced to a min- in the unaccented syllables of words. The imum. When reading has become, by con- difficulties of our spelling are greatly instant practice, a, comparatively speaking, un-| creased by the mispronunciation even of conscious process, then the reading lesson those few words which are phonetically repremay be used for other purposes.

sented. If children are allowed to say savOne of the greatest difficulties which ele: idge for savage, noine for nine, winder for mentary teachers have to encounter in the window, singin' for singing, caoud for code, higher stages of teaching reading arises from elemunt for element, and pint for point, it is the limited vocabulary of the children. The not surprising that they misspell these words language which children of the poorer classes when they come to write them. speak and the language they read are two The time devoted to the teaching of reading different tongues. The difficulty of learning varies very considerably in different schools. to read is consequently doubled. The words Bearing in mind the vast importance of get. which the children have to read are new to ting over the mechanical difficulties of readthe ear as well as to the eye, and call up no ing as soon as possible, so as so enable chilideas in their mind. It seems highly desir- dren to read with pleasure to themselves, and able, therefore, to extend the vocabulary of to employ this acquired power as an instruthe children by every means in the teacher's ment for the acquisition of knowledge, and power. In every lesson, no matter what the the cultivation of their higher faculties, we subject is, each new word should be care- would strongly urge that more time should, fully explained, written on the blackboard, as a rule, be devoted to reading in the infant's and used in new combinations. Definitions schools and in the lower standards. are of less value than actual examples of the We are also of opinion that the reading in mode in which a word is employed. This is, schools would be vastly improved if more of course, the natural method by which we time was spent by the pupil teachers in acquirlearn words. Columns of disconnected ing the art of reading aloud. It is not surwords with dictionary equivalents set over prising that the style of reading adopted by against them are of little use to children. | the children is vicious, when the example set The words must be set before them in their them by their teachers is not good. Whatliving organic relations with the other words ever 'pains the head teachers take to improve of a sentence.

the reading of the pupil teachers will bear We would strongly recommend the system- abundant fruit in the improved reading of the atic learning and reciting of poetry as a val children. uable means of cultivating the imagination, Thus far we have confined ourselves to imrendering the ear sensitive to rhythmic con-provements in the methods which are already structions, improving the delivery, and ex- at work. We do not think it desirable to tending the vocabulary. The amount of introduce any uniform method to supplant poetry required to be learnt by the Code is them, or to hamper our teachers in any way utterly inadequate for the object we have in in teaching subjects for which they are perview. It is, perhaps, needless to remark that sonally responsible. Whatever names may the poetry should be learnt from the book, be invented for designating methods of teachand not by Parrot-like vocal repetition. ing reading, it is clear that ultimately these Reading is primarily a visual exercise, and methods must rest on the same fundamental no opportunity should be lost for familiariz laws of the human mind. Their only real ing children with the look of the printed difference will be the extent to which they

utilize the laws or violate them. Of far more Purity of pronunciation and distinctness importance than the method is the intelligence of articulation should be carefully cultivated of the teacher who employs it. at all times in school; but they are so essen . There is one way, however, in which it is tial to good reading that we would recom- conceivable that learning to read might be mend short exercises, preliminary to the greatly facilitated, viz., by diminishing the reading lesson, for their special cultivation. number of difficulties that have to be overTeachers should strive to eradicate the com-come. mon London blunders of substituting oi for i, We have already pointed out that in the

for a, i for e, adding k to final ng, the Phonic method, as taught by the late Mr. Comission of the aspirate where it should be Robinson, the difficulties which spring out of sounded and the insertion of it where it has our defective alphabet are, to a great extent, no proper place. Great pains should also be avoided in the earlier stages of teaching read


ing by the employment of typographical ex- | the spelling of the words is not altered, and pedients. It also tends to remove vulgarisms the new letters so closely resemble the old, and provincialisms by exhibiting to the eye that a person who is entirely strange to the the correct pronunciation of each word. This type finds no difficulty in reading it. In spite method is so reasonable, and has proved so of some inconsistencies in the employment of successful, that we think it ought to be tried the modified characters which Mr. Leigh has as an experiment in some of the schools of devised, we would recommend the adoption the Board. It would not require any altera. of his books in one or more of our infants tion in our accepted spelling, and the diacrit- schools as an experiment. ical marks which it employs could be dis-/ Mr. A. Sonnenschien, in conjunction with pensed with, once the children had got over Professor Mieklejohn, has devised a method the chief mechanical difficulties of reading. of teaching reading which we think well

We are also of opinion that the method worthy of trial in one or more of our schools. of teaching reading on the phonetic system It may be called a syllabic method, as disshould be tried in one of our schools. By tinguished from literal or verbal methods. this method the difficulties to be overcome One obvious merit in it is the gradual way in are still further diminished. The words are which the difficulties of reading are introduced. spelled as they are pronounced; no letters As the success of these experiments will have more than one sound; every sound has largely depend on the enthusiasm and energy a separate letter; digraphs and trigraphs are of the teachers who try them, we would sugdispensed with; and all silent letters are struck gest that the conduct of them should be asout. This method has been tried with con- signed to teachers who, of their own free will, siderable success by Dr. John W. Martin, in are willing to undertake them. Ireland. It is stated that when children can We cannot conclude this report without read books in which the phonetic spelling is expressing our thanks for the valuable assistemployed they readily learn to read books in ance we received in our inquiries from the the ordinary spelling; and that they pick up teachers of the board whom we consulted, the ordinary spelling with equal readiness. from A. Sonnenschien, Esq., J. Mackenzie, We can well believe that the ripened intelli- Esq. (Her Majesty's inspector's assistant for gence of children who had learnt to read the Finbury division), Dr. John W. Martin, words phonetically spelled would very rapidly Mrs. Harper (head mistress of the Woodhouse enable them to read words in the ordinary Board School, Leeds), and G. Christian Mast, spelling? but we are not so entirely satisfied Esq. We have also to express our obligations that they would quickly forget the spelling to to Dr. Edwin Leigh, of America, for various which they had been accustomed, and ac- books and papers, conveyed to us through quire a capricious spelling that was perfectly Sir Charles Reed, on his system of “ Pronew to them. This is a point, however, nouncing Orthography." which can only be determined by experience; and we strongly urge, therefore, that the experiment should be fairly tried in one or more

THE FREE-SCHOOL SYSTEM. of the Board's schools.

The following is the first chapter of the Report of It will be observed that we express no

ess 1o the French Commission to the Centennial Exposiopinion on the expediency of rendering our tion, made to the Minister of Public Instruction. The spelling uniformly phonetic, that being a translation is by R. K. BUEHRLE, Esq., Superintendquestion with which we have not to deal. | ent of the schools of Reading.-Ed.] We simply recommend that the experiment “IT is in a republican government that one should be tried of teaching children to read I needs the whole power of education." words spelled in the ordinary way by first | This judgment of Montesquieu has, perhaps, teaching them to read words spelled phonet- never found a more splendid application than ically.

l in the subject whose study we commence. A third endeavor, in the same direction, If, indeed, there is a people which has at all has been made in America by Dr. E. Leigh, attended to this power of education," which whose reading books retain the ordinary spell- has intimately united its own national destiing, but are so printed as to indicate the pro-nies to the development of its schools, which nunciation of the words. He has extended has made public instruction the supreme guarthe alphabet by slight modifications of the antee of its liberties, the condition of its forms of the present alphabetic characters, prosperity, the safe-guard of its institutions, and prints the silent letters in hair-type. The that is, most assuredly, the people of the chief recommendation of these books is that United States.

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