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for a corresponding element in the latter. And as a few elementary sounds, by their various combinations, produce all spoken words, so do a few letters, by their corresponding combination, produce all written or printed words.
This gives us a second and more difficult step in reading. It is to learn the sounds represented by the several letters, and to acquire the art of combining these rapidly into the one compound expression. And the difficulty of this task is immensely increased by the fact that many letters represent each several sounds, and that letters often become silent, or represent no sound at all. Add to this the difficulty of dividing words into syllables, and of placing the accent rightly, and it will be seen how much easier it must be to learn words as entire words, than to learn them by their parts or letters.
III. A third and final statement follows. In spoken language, not only does every word represent an idea, but there is ever running along with this artificial language of ideas a natural language of feelings and emotions, made up of inflections of the voice, peculiar qualities and quantities of sound, emphasis, skillful pauses, looks and gestures. By the aid of this natural language, not only are the thoughts contained in the words made vivid and clear, but new and finer shades of meaning are added, and all the varying passions and emotions of the speaker are made audible. For all these natural signs, printed language has no proper equivalents. The silent symbol lies motionless on the printed page, with the same unvarying form, whatever its connections.
To read, then, in the final and full sense, to translate printed language into impressive and eloquent speech, réquires that the reader shall himself be able to add rapidly, as he reads, all the signs of natural language, and thus lend, from the resources of his cultured taste and feelings, a new power to the written word. He must breathe the breath of a new life into the silent forms, and reanimate the lifeless words with that soul of feeling which the author felt, but could not prison in his page. To learn all this—to acquire this higher and grander part of read
ing—is a far different and more difficult work than to learn to call words at sight, or to spell out words by letters.
Taking this three-fuld statement of the problem of reading, the work of learning to read has three distinct parts and periods, viz: 1st, to call or pronounce words at sight; 2d, to construct words from letters; and 3d, to use correctly the inflections, emphasis, pauses, &c., of natural language.
To learn to read words as words, without waiting to spell them by their letters, and even without knowing the letters, just as children learn to speak words in talking, without knowing the elementary sounds which compose them, may seem to some a strange method of leginning the work of learning to read; but experience shows it to be the most easy and efficient, as reason proves it to be the most natural and philosophical. It has been used for several years in a considerable number of our best schools, and always with gratifying success. The process of teaching is exceedingly simple. Some familiar word, as cat, is shown to the pupil in a book, or neatly printed on the blackboard, and he is taught its meaning. He calls it cat, and learns to find it elsewhere among other words. At the next lesson be learns another word, as black, and then immediately begins to combine these words, and read them together, as black cat. At each succeeding lesson he learns additional words, and reads sentences made up of these and the words previously acquired. Care must be taken not to introduce too many new words at once, and to make the old ones familiar by repeated use. The pupil, by this plan, is introduced at once to words which interest him, instead of being kept for weeks learning dull and unmeaning characters. And knowing the words at sight, he does not lose his interest, while he is wasting his time and strength in spelling out the successive words of a sentence or story. This method of learning words may be profitably continued throngh an entire term, before spelling lessons begin.
With a considerable number of words familiarly known, the second part
of reading, the construction of words from letters, or the recognition of words by means of letters,—will proceed with increased facility. The forms of the letters will have become familiar to the eye, and, in most cases, their names also will have been learned by the pupil, as he learns the names of familiar objects at home, in hearing those names used by older people. Taking two words, which differ only in a single letter, as bat and cat, the pupil is easily led to notice the difference in sound between the letters b and c. A few exercises in spelling similar words beginning with these letters, as b-an, c-an, bar, c-ar, b-ane, cane, b-olt, coll, will now fix these sounds in the memory, and make them familiar to the tongue. By the same process, the entire alphabet may be learned, and the continued exercise of spelling words by sounds, will train the pupil to the ready production of these elements, and to the construction of words from them. The real orthography of our language is an independent study, and has no necessary connection with reading. Its use is rather the correct reproduction of the words when needed in writing.
In the study of the third department of reading, which is properly denominated Elocution, the work is of a higher character, but the rules for teaching are few and simple. Reading, in this higher aspect, is essentially an imitative art, and is to be learned by patient practice after good models. Its preliminary conditions are these: 1st, an ability to call all the words correctly, at sight; 2d, a clear knowledge of the meaning of the words; and 3d, a full understanding of the sense of the piece to be read. There can be no true reading where there is a failure in any of these conditions.
Let the teacher assure himself, by thorough examination, that each member of his class is perfect in these conditions; that they can properly pronounce each word; that the words are all well understood; and that the sense of the author is critically appreciated. He may then, and not properly till then, proceed to the full reading. Invariably, at least with the younger classes, the teacher should read first, to furnish the example for imitation. The class may then be required to read the same paragraph in concert. This will encourage the timid, urge forward the slow, and hold in check the hasty. The concert exercise is also valuable as a means of breaking up the dull monotone, too prevalent among readers; and it will give much more exercise in the given time to all the members of the class, than can be afforded in any other way. This is a point of no small importance, since it often happens in large schools that no more can be done than to go once around the class, each pupil reading a single short paragraph,- an exercise altogether too brief to be of any use as a reading lesson. If one-third, or even one-half, of the time, in younger classes, were spent in reading in concert, after the teacher's example, repeated as often as necessary, and under his supervision, all the class would be usefully drilled. After the concert reading, then individual pupils should be called upon to read alone, under the close criticism of the others. By this plan, the improvement will be rapid and sure. But it requires the teacher to be an excellent reader, since his example is the copy after which all will pattern.
The common method of requiring a class to read in turn, till each pupil has read a single verse, without example from the teacher, and with corrections interjected in the midst of the reading, is as odiously absurd as it is almost utterly useless,
The teaching of orthography deservedly occupies a considerable space in the work of our primary schools. Though it does not, by any means, necessarily precede reading, it is essential to a full and easy comprehension of written or printed language, and is absolutely necessary to him who would write language intelligibly and correctly.
The common methods of teaching orthography by the pronunciation and oral spelling of lists of unrelated words, have erred in these two essential particulars:
1st. They have addressed almost exclusively to the ear, that which is designed alone for the eye. The uses of orthography are to make the forms of words familiar to the sight and to, reproduce these forms correctly with the pen. In actual life we always spell with the fingers, rarely or never with the voice.
2d. In using long lists of words arranged solely with reference to their mechanical structure, as of one, or two, or three syllables, and their similarity of pronunciation, they have introduced to the pupil a multitude of words without meaning, thus attempting to make familiar in form, what was unknown in sense; teaching, in short, the spelling of an unknown language.
The following method of teaching orthography, which was described at some of the Institutes, has been tried with considerable success in several prominent schools.
The lessons are made up by the pupils themselves, and consist of words nearly related in meaning, being names of objects, actions, qualities, &c., of the same class. These lessons are prepared in writing, and the recitation is conducted by writing.
The mode of procedure is as follows: the parts of some object, as the human head, being chosen for the subject, the pu. pils are called upon in succession to name any part they may think of; thus one cries eyes, another forehead, and so on till all the parts they can name are given, or till enough words are gotten for a lesson.' In the latter case the list may be continued in the next lessons till completed. As each word is given, it is taken down upon their slates by all the class, in such spelling as each one chooses, and the pupils are then told to look up the proper spelling, of these words for the next day's recitation. At the time of recitation the class appear with clean slates and the words of the list are pronounced by the teacher. Each word after being distinctly pronounced by the whole class in concert, is written down by every pupil upon his slate. To train the articulation and make the pronunciation more distinct, the words may be spelled in concert by their oral elements. After all are written, each pupil at a signal passes his slate to his next right hand neighbor, (the pupils always standing or sitting in lines during the exercise,) and the teacher, or the last pupil on the left, taking the slate of the pupil on the