« AnteriorContinuar »
any art are difficult to most learners. The will of the novice must hold him to patient toil if he wishes to master the art and appreciate its production by others. The preparation for the lesson is of no less importance than the lesson itself. Any selection for study will awaken thoughts and emotions according to the temperament and experience of the students. When inclination is their only guide, do young people prepare lessons in literature as cheerfully as they do in science, Latin, or algebra, where the work for them to do is definitely outlined ? Do they not skim over it, feeling quite sure the teacher will do the greater part of the work when the class meets ? The exercises given in this text for preparation of lessons will direct and stimulate the activity of students in such a way as to cultivate the idea of self-help. The lesson plans cannot detract from the function that the living personality of the teacher must perform in the class-room.
These exercises will develop the child's ability to comprehend and assimilate what an author has written. Through failure to apprehend that what is plain and easy for them is difficult for learners, teachers frequently take it for granted that pupils understand many things which they do not really grasp. Thoughts and emotions are felt as wholes when they are communicated directly. There is no analysis. The spirit of the selection is in the consciousness of the speaker who manifests it in voice, gesture, look, and emotion. It radiates from the speaker's personality as the glow of an incandescent thread emits a beautiful light through a delicately tinted bulb. But, when thought and emotion are communicated indirectly, especially when so subtle a medium as written or printed language is used, the case is different. To comprehend and feel the spirit of any literary masterpiece, the reader must understand in every detail the language that the author has used. A close analytical study is imperative. Then, when the student has assimilated the thought and appropriated the feeling as completely as he can, he, standing in the author's stead, may attempt the direct, oral expression of his interpretation of a poem. Then these knowledge elements that he has acquired one by one will surge into his soul involuntarily ; his spirit will be unfettered and free to speak itself forth; and if he have any artistic intuition, his words will have wings of fire, and the spirit of poetry will steal into the hearts of his hearers as subtly as the spiritlike air entwines itself among the crystal molecules of water.
Intimately associated with the analytical processes leading to thorough understanding should be the synthetic operations of self-expression, which yield practical results more evident and often more highly valued than the foundation of knowledge which must be laid first. To tear down is comparatively easy ; to plan and build up is difficult. To enjoy or to analyze another's work requires much less effort than to image and express one's own artistic aspirations; yet the teacher should always give the greater credit to creative work, even though it be imperfect. The desire to produce, to give being and permanence to one's conceptions of life and art, is a nobler impulse than the wish for emotional gratification which flies only too swiftly with the passing moment. The tact of the teacher will be severely tested in securing such answers to exercises relating to the selection being studied as will show that the pupil is gradually acquiring real power of thought, imagery, and expression. The work in written composition affords an opportunity for putting together and conserving that which the student has gained
from his own meditation and the helpful hints of his teacher. When properly studied, this synthetic work will yield a threefold delight : the pleasure of unhampered individual effort, the joy arising from original production, and the deep satisfaction of accomplishment. With just pride the learner can say of his essay, “ The work is
The written compositions should reveal steady improvement in expression and literary taste. Written expression will afford an excellent criterion as to the effectiveness of all the work in English literature.
It is desirable that the course of study develop in young people such a facility in understanding our literature and such a love for its beauty and power that they will endeavor to know more of its wonderful range and its possibilities for inspiring and profitable enjoyment. The young student should be proud of our literature, for it reflects human life, past and present, as a mirror reflects an image; it preserves and vivifies the most beautiful of the myths of other lands; it contains the essence of science and philosophy without their tedious terminology ; it exemplifies and emphasizes the principles of accepted ethical foundations ; it furnishes food for thought, ideas that may be applied by each one to his own life and environment; it presents all phases of life, but in such a way as to cause us to love the good in human experience and to abhor the evil; it does not treat of sharply defined facts and laws which are always the same, but of human life which is infinitely varied ; it makes possible through the imagination a multiplication of the experiences of life; it binds us anew to Nature, to Mankind, and to God, and this triple bond of love is religion, which is the consummation of life.
NOTES TO TEACHERS
The teacher of English Literature will, of course, adapt any textbook to the needs and circumstances of his school. The text-book is an instrument to use, not a master to be servilely obeyed. It should guide and stimulate the self-activity of the pupil, and relieve the teacher of some, not all, of the burdens the conscientious instructor must carry. The following hints will be found helpful :
Each pupil should have access to an unabridged dictionary, and be supplied with an academic dictionary for constant use.
The General Exercises should be taken up as soon as the student has read the whole or an integral part of the selection. During the second reading, new words should be mastered as used; and the Special Exercises, for detailed study, should bring to view the artistic element of the selection and the finer shades of meaning of passages.
The exercises are not intended to be used verbatim in the class-room. With only the text of the selection before the students, the teacher should conduct the lesson in his own way. The chief value of the exercises is that they will prepare the learners to meet most of the questions the skilled teacher would ask. If students cannot answer every question, the fact that they have made efforts to prepare the exercises will give an apperceptive basis for class-room instruction ; while if left to their own devices during the period of study for preparation, they will often be routed by the first question. The form of questioning should be correct, and students ought to express in full the thought stimulated by the exercises.
Oral reading and written composition are the final tests of the understanding and appreciation of a selection. The scientific teacher requires careful preparation of the lesson, and secures permanent results through an interest that reveals itself by the learners' holding the idea before the mind until it has found clear and definite statement. When students manifest a good degree of æsthetic feeling in their attempts to clothe ideas in fitting words, they are on the highway which leads to beautiful literary interpretation.
INTRODUCTORY LESSONS IN ENGLISH
FEATHERTOP: A MORALIZED LEGEND
“DICKON," cried Mother Rigby, “a coal for my pipe !"
The pipe was in the old dame's mouth when she said these words. She had thrust it there after filling it with tobacco, but without stooping to light it at the hearth, where indeed there was no appearance of a fire having been kindled that morning. Forthwith, however, as soon as the order was given, there was an intense red glow out of the bowl of the pipe, and a whiff of smoke from Mother Rigby's lips. Whence the coal came, and how brought thither by an invisible hand, I have never been able to discover.
“Good !” quoth Mother Rigby, with a nod of her 20 head. “ Thank ye, Dickon! And now for making