Imágenes de páginas

propositions, in which every diversity of reasoning finds its place.

Now, throughout this long progressive line, the pupils, after having studied the examples supplied by our direct instruction, are always called upon to invent propositions on phrases analogous to those they have analyzed. Sometimes a slight hint is given to them; at others they are left entirely to their own resources.

In the exercises of conjugation, which are always by propositions or phrases, direct instruction takes the lead; but it will often do no more than designate the verb which is to be declined through the different persons of a given tense, and thus leave to the pupils the invention of the thought.

Exercises in vocabulary allow still more scope for thought, for in them the pupil has only one word set before him, and is called upon to find others of the same family, or else of a contrary or of an analogous sense. Then all these words are immediately to be inserted either into a proposition or phrase. The teacher, in order to give the tone required by direct instruction, will invent in his turn, and it is probable that children who are by nature imitative, will follow his lead, whilst inventing for themselves.

These exercises, whether in vocabulary, syntax, or conjugation, will be principally viva voce; but written compositions, which will be adopted at a later period, will allow more time for reflection, and will, in this point of view, be more advantageous. Oral exercises, however, excite a wholesome emulation, and are, moreover, much more expeditious. And there is this further advantage in them, that the teacher can instantly correct any mistake, or remove any difficulty, and both these circumstances are very essential.

Composition. These connected exercises are denominated compositions, because the pupil is called upon to collect upon a given subject, several congruous thoughts; to place them side by side and bind them up so as to make them into

one series.

In the sketch which we have given of our plan of instruction, we included under the head of composition, narrative, letters, descriptive pieces, dialogues, and short treatises in an epistolary form. And to the latter, which are essentially reasoning, we would wil. lingly add a few fables or parables, to call forth the imagination, in order to cultivate all the faculties simultaneously. We shall, of course, make all these compositions subservient to the great purpose of our direct instruction, which will furnish us with ample materials.

The pupils will be powerfully assisted in their compositions by their recollection of the direct instruction they have received. This I ascertained in the course of many years' experience at my old school, where they frequently reproduced not only the ideas, but the very words, which was a result that I had both desired and foreseen: and this was no mere mechanical process, for the pupil had to make his selection out of a host of recollections, and the arrangement of all the parts of his composition was left to himself. I am here speaking of the more advanced pupils. It was enough for me to point out in a few significant words the subject they were to treat upon; for example, the various points which were to be comprised in their description of an object, or in the little epistolary treatise. As for dialogue I had but to designate the subject, leaving to them the choice of the interlocutors and other circumstances; and two pupils would often work together at the same dialogue. It

a written conversation, and afforded them much amusement.

These compositions cannot, of course, be attempted till the pupils have made some progress in syntax;

and it will be seen in the sketch we have given of our plan, that the first occurs at the end of the propositions, as a recapitulation of what has gone before. At first all the words which are to be used are given, but by degrees more and more will be left to the invention of the pupils, in measure as they have acquired ideas and expressions ; for without this precaution, they would only produce a bad work with much labour, and the correction of it



would be as tedious to them as to the teacher. Whereas we ought to procure for them the pleasure of success, and thus inspire them with courage, strength, and power.

Our pupils are not ripe for lessons in literature, and it would be vain to attempt to give them the theory of each kind of composition. We must content ourselves with a few bints before their compositions, and then enlarge on these hints in our corrections of the faults that will occur. Thus all will be useful and practical.

At the end of our course we shall call upon our pupils to draw up a summary or abstract. Composition developes a theme, and an abstract reproduces the theme. The second process is the very converse of the first, and it gives full exercise to the understanding. Besides being of great use in after-life, where we are often called upon to give an abstract of a narrative or conversation, it teaches how to distinguish what is essential from what is incidental, a thing from its adjuncts.

Pupils can only succeed in this work after they have learnt how to make a composition from a theme; therefore it is obvious that the abstract must come last in our series.

We think it would also be very advantageous to have vivâ voce compositions. The theme should be written on the black board, with spaces left for the details which are to be added. At first these details should be hinted at by questions, such as who? what? where? why? how? wherefore ? &c. As syntax trains the pupils to answer these questions, composition will thus soon become easy to them; and this assistance is useful, not to say necessary, at first. It would also be desirable to do the same with regard to the first abstracts. For this purpose passages should be selected from books in the hands of the pupils; and the points should be written on the black board which are to be summed up in few words.

EXERCISES IN SYNTAX. We comprise under this head all that grammarians denominate grammatical and logical analysis. The latter takes the phrase to pieces in order to point out the propositions which compose it; then each individual proposition, in order to define its parts, viz., the verb, subject, object, &c. This is what we call analysis of construction. Grammatical analysis goes more into detail, and considers each individual word, in order to assign its class, gender and number, if a noun, pronoun, adjective, or article ; or its tense, mood, person and number if it is a verb. This is the analysis of words. The agreements required by grammar are also included in their analysis; in the phrase that of the tenses; in the proposition, that of the verb with its subject, of the adjective with the noun, &c.

Orthography requires this analysis of words, and we would by no means exclude it from our course of language, but we only insist on its not exceeding its due bounds. It is but of small service in the developement of the mind, because it only exercises the judgment of children on trifles, such as mere signs and their written forms, which are, in fact, nothing, whilst their attention should be directed to things, which are all important. We look upon these exercises on words as a necessary evil, which must not be needlessly aggravated; and children themselves will show what are the due limits to be observed, for if these are exceeded, their attention will flag. Their minds naturally revert to the things which interest them; and this is the secret of half their blunders in writing and even in diction.


Answer to Objections which have been, or may be made, to the

proposed Plan.

I SHALL close this Book with an examination of the objections which may be urged against its contents; not that I am afraid of them, nor do I suppose that competent judges might not decide for themselves upon the merit of my work, for to them the work itself will carry its own justification. But this examination will give me an opportunity of adding a few observations which may not be superfluous.

I shall divide these objections into two classes; those which refer to the difficulty of combining in one and the

course of language direct instruction with the requirements of grammatical teaching, and those which impugn the very idea itself.

I shall give due force to both kinds; but I say again I, do not fear them.



The advocates of system shall speak first. Taking the march of the exact sciences as the general rule for all teaching, and casting a glance at what is required in a grammatical point of view by syntax, conjugation and vocabulary, they maintain that the direct instruction which we propose will be so diluted as to be almost annihilated, and that we shall only produce confusion in the minds which we profess to form. “ Your direct instruction," say they, “will be given piece-meal, instead of being, as it ought to be, in regular sequence. There will be a grievous medley of subjects, frequent and wearisome repetitions of the same ideas, and a continual forestalling, in the stead of that exact progression which is indispensable, if you would base your direct instruction on reason, and impress it with full conviction on the mind of youth.” We will then consider these four points separately.

Our Teaching given piece-meal. It is obvious that our direct instruction, being in outward form subordinate to the requirements of the different parts of our course of language, must undergo considerable subdivision. In the chain of syntax, it can only appear successively in propositions first, and then in phrases, which must be graduated and detached, and at the same time limited to one particular form. The same thing applies to conjugation, in which there will be also the additional limits imposed by the nature of the verb,

« AnteriorContinuar »