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GUIDE BOOKS TO ENGLISH
ADA VAN STONE HARRIS
ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, ROCHESTER, NEW YORK
CHARLES B. GILBERT
LECTURER ON EDUCATION, WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY
SILVER, BURDETT AND COMPANY
NEW YORK BOSTON
THE aim of language instruction to young children should be to secure fluent and accurate expression of thought, both oral and written. Its steps are three :
1. Arousing thought and the desire to express it, by giving an abundance of interesting matter to think and talk and write about.
2. Encouraging the children to express their thoughts freely, both orally and in writing.
3. Giving them a working knowledge of the principles of correct expression.
The first of these steps requires an abundance of "food for thought." This must be good food, natural food, appetizing food. Its natural sources are the whole of the children's environment, material and spiritual,—the world of nature about them; the world of the imagination, especially as manifested in literature and the other arts; the world of men and women of the present and the past; the games and common activities of their own daily lives, and, in particular, life in the school. The studies of the school curriculum furnish the best and the most available material for language instruction. With this bountiful supply ready at hand, teachers and text-books waste time and scatter interest by going continually afield and bringing in unrelated material to serve as "language lessons."
The second step follows naturally. If thought has been roused through interest, the desire to express is sure to follow. This desire should be encouraged to the fullest extent. In the earlier stages, freedom and fluency should be culti
vated continually, and little check should be placed upon the flow of expression.
If interest is keen, thought active, and expression untrammeled by fear of correction, the necessary instruction in principles follows easily and naturally, and is effective.
Without these essentials, all attempts to teach "language" are efforts to make bricks without straw, and are formal and barren. The children's minds are burdened with many verbal statements of rules and definitions, but the language they use goes on in the same old ways of meager vocabulary, inaccuracy, and error.
Much oral expression should always precede written work; indeed, in the earlier years it should receive the major share of attention and time, inasmuch as we talk much more than we write, and commonly much more inaccurately.
Children learn to use good English, first, through hearing and reading good English, and, second, through using it.
The sources of their first knowledge of correct form are the correct speech of their teachers and others with whom they converse, and the good literature that they read. In the language lesson the literature is necessarily the chief reliance. Much reading prepares the children's minds for the study of form. This study at first should consist in observing definitely the correct forms used, and afterward in a statement of the principles discovered.
The forms thus learned become the children's own for habitual use through much practice. This practice should include the reproduction of good models, retelling and rewriting stories and descriptions while they are fresh in mind from reading. It should include also an infinite amount of free but correct expression by the children of their own thoughts, both orally and in writing. Much and varied observation and much and varied expression are the two essentials of the formation of correct habits of speech.
Young children, in studying the elements of language, whether words or combinations of words, should study functions only.
The functions of words, what they do in expressing thought, should first be carefully studied in literature, and the knowledge thus gained should be constantly utilized in practice. This will enrich reading and enlarge the vocabulary of the reader.
The "grammar" in this book is purely functional. No attempt is made, for instance, to define a sentence, because a comprehensible definition that is true is impossible at this stage of development. But the functions of sentences, what they do, may be taught, and should be known by those who use them.
The principles above outlined the authors have endeavored to follow in the preparation of this book, as is shown in the following TWELVE FEATURES:
1. The study of the principles of language expression is wholly inductive, based upon use in literature and in practical affairs. Hence
2. Material for thought and expression receives first emphasis.
3. This material is abundant, is varied, and is organized so as to produce definite results.
SOURCES OF MATERIAL
4. Good literature is constantly used for study as literature, and as the source of the principles taught.
5. Choice pictures are utilized both for arousing thought and for cultivating taste.
6. The school course of study is much used in lessons, suggesting to teachers the most convenient and natural source of language material.