« AnteriorContinuar »
being treasured up in the memory. In such circumstances, the mind makes a desperate effort to grasp everything, and fails to secure anything. The disappointment is painful, and disgust and aversion are liable to ensue.
The same caution is necessary in teaching children or beginners any branch of learning whatever. An aversion to being taught is frequently imbibed while learning the alphabet. But this probably arises, in most instances, from the circumstance, that so many new characters, of various forms, are presented to the
eye in such rapid succession, that the child, finding it impossible to distinguish and remember them, gives over the attempt in despair, and becomes listless, inattentive, and averse to the task. If the letters were presented one at a time, and each rendered familiar before a new one was introduced, they would be learned with ease and with pleasure. Geometrical lines, surfaces, and solids, are, however, better adapted to the faculties of a young child, as being in their forms more regular, and less complicated, than the alphabetic characters.
I have dwelt chiefly on the kind of instruction suitable for children, because it requires more skill to teach them than to teach older students, and because, if a fondness for learning is imbibed in childhood, and correct intellectual habits are then formed, the grand point is gained; the future improvement of the pupil is almost secure; that fondness and those habits can seldom fail to remain, to stimulate and guide the researches of future years. That the intellectual and moral character is frequently determined by early impressions, is a remark, trite indeed, but so important, that it ought to be repeated, again and again, in the ears
of every parent and guardian, and teacher of the rising generation,
Have I digressed from my subjeet? I think notat least not far. The result to which we come is, that a most powerful means of stimulating the student is, to teach him in a judicious and skilful manner. Do this, and avoid all counteracting influences, and he will love to learn. The exercise of the faculties, and the acquisition of new ideas, are both naturally sources of pleasure to the mind. This pleasure, once tasted, will be again desired. This desire, which gains strength by fruition, is a stimulus, pure in its nature, safe in its operation, salutary in its influence, and powerful in its effects.
But there are many teachers who do not afford their pupils a proper opportunity to exert their faculties. Iụstead of setting their pupils to thinking and investigating, they, as far as possible, do all the thinking for them; thus making them almost entirely passive in the acquisition of ideas, The teacher who wishes to stimulate his pupils to the highest degree of exertion should guard against this course, He should never do for his pupils what they can do for themselves. He should never tell them a thing which they can find out for themselves. And when they must be assisted, he should afford them only so much assistance that they can do the rest themselves. In a word, he should, as far as possible, in all the branches, pursue that inductive method which, we hope, will effect a greater advance in the intellectual improvement of the rising generation than can be effected by any other cause.
2. In connexion with the preceding remarks, we would recommend to aim at variety and novelty in the objects which are presented to the attention of the
student. This is peculiarly necessary in the case of children. One great reason why they soon become weary with reading or committing words and sentences which they do not understand, is, that the charm of novelty is wanting. No food being afforded to the mind, the lesson consists merely of a succession of unmeaning sounds, which fall with dull monotonous sameness on the ear. It is in general advisable that a student should attend to different branches of study at different hours of the day. When he begins to be weary with application to a single branch of learning, to exchange it for another serves as a relaxation to the mind, and may frequently answer that purpose as well as modes of relaxation of a less profitable nature. Caution must be used, however, as already suggested, against dissipating the mind by directing it to too great a variety of objects in a day. And it may be added, that seldom, if ever, should two studies, that are entirely new, be commenced at the same time. But not a day, and, if possible, not a lesson should be suffered to pass, without the acquisition of some ideas, which the learner feels to be new. Too often, indeed, the learner is taught in such a way that he cannot distinguish new ideas from old ones; and too many teachers never think of enabling their pupils to make the distinction.
3. A student is stimulated to exertion by guarding against a wandering mind, and keeping the attention directed to the proper object. In order that this may be the case during the time of recitation, the questions should be so managed, that individuals cannot answer unless their attention be unremitted. This may be done, partly by expressing questions in such language that they cannot be understood without having attended to
the previous questions and answers ; partly when one pupil has failed to answer a question, or has answered it wrong, by calling on another to answer without repeating the question ; partly, by analyzing the ideas, and making each question and answer as short as possible, so as to pass rapidly round the class; partly, when one pupil has committed an error in some part of his answer or performance, by calling on another to specify the error, and to show why it is an error; and partly, by calling on individuals to answer questions, or to correct one another's errors, not in the order in which they stand or sit, but promiscuously. And minute as the circumstance may appear, the teacher will find it useful, in many cases, to announce a question previously to calling the individual by name who is desired to answer it. The putting of questions promiscuously, and refusing to repeat a question which has been once distinctly announced, may be made a powerful means of keeping alive the attention of a whole. class, or even of a whole school, during an exercise which concerns the whole. It frequently happens, that when one individual of a class is performing his part of an exercise, the others, or some of them, instead of listening to his performance, are studying that question or that part of the task which seems likely to come to them. Some effectual means must be taken to defeat all calculations of this kind, as it is of the highest importance that every individual in a class should listen attentively to the performance of every other individual.
4. And in order to stimulate them to exertion in preparing for recitation, no one should be able to calculate what part of the exercise he shall be called on to perform.
Some teachers always, at a recitation, begin at one end of the class ; so that those who stand at that end know to a certainty that the first part of the lesson will come to them, and those wtio do not stand there are almost equally certain that it will not come to them. I have even seen a class of little fellows, when paraded in due order on the floor, begin and spell each his word in rotation, and run through a column of the Spelling Book in rapid and unbroken succession, without needing the voice of the teacher, or even giving him an opportunity to speak. If one of the band had happened to be absent, I suppose his word must have been omitted,
5. The inducement to study lessons thoroughly will be much increased, if each scholar is allowed to try but once in spelling a word or answering a question. It is, I fear, a general practice to try twice, when the first attempt proves to be an error; and some hasty spirits will try three or four times almost in a breath, before the teacher has opportunity to put the question to another, or to advise them to pause and consider what they are saying. This habit of guessing is truly a lamentable one.. “ Think before you speak,” is a maxim worthy to be frequently inculcated in school, To a pupil who manifests a propensity to disregard this maxim the teacher might say, “When I ask you a question, you either know how to answer it, or you do not. If you know, you can, by proper care, answer correctly the first time, If you do not know, then be honest enough to say so, and let some one tell that does know; for the art of guessing is a branch which I do not teach." To limit each pupil strictly to a single answer, except in special cases, not only affords a stimulus to exertion,