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THE following suggestions by the Board of School Supervisors in Boston will be found exceedingly helpful to many teachers :
During the short time given to English Literature in the High Schools, few authors can be studied, and only selections from their works can be critically read. The main purpose, then, of this brief course of study should be to form and cultivate a taste for good literature, to encourage careful and systematic reading, and to illustrate the principles which should guide in selecting authors and works to be read after leaving school. It should be the purpose of the teacher, while keeping the exercises in literature from becoming either mere tasks or pastimes, to make the lessons so interesting that they will be eagerly and vigorously studied, and will inspire a desire for a larger acquaintance with the best authors. This purpose, it is believed, can be accomplished, partly by leading the pupils to perceive the real intent of the author, his thoughts and feelings, the strength of his argument, the beauty and nobleness of his sentiment, and his clear, distinct, forcible, and happy expression; partly by giving a vivid account of his life and times and their influence on each other, and by exciting an interest in the lives of his most eminent literary contemporaries. Thus, by association and comparison, the study of a single author may be an introduction and an incentive to the study of the literature of his period.
While neither the thought nor expression should be slighted at any time during the study of the selections, more attention should, perhaps, be given to the thought the first year, and to the expression the second year. During the third year, the selections should be used not merely for exercises in the meaning, derivation, and use of words, or for enlarging the understanding or improving the taste; they should also be studied as specimens of literature, and should illustrate the intellect, the taste, and the genius of their authors.
At the outset, the whole of a poem, sketch, essay, or novel should be read by the pupils, either at home or at school. Having formed a general conception of the production, they should study carefully and read intelligently with their teacher those parts of it that are most interesting and instructive, and that represent the genius and style of the author.
* See page 119.
To the foregoing may be added the following, by the same judicious authorities: :
After the teacher has called attention to a few points in the life, times, and character of an author, the class should take some narrative or descriptive piece and read it aloud, special attention being given to reading it in such a manner as to express clearly the thought, with such modifications of the voice as the sentiment requires. This should be accompanied by such a running commentary by the teacher as will enable the pupils to understand the story, if it is a narrative, or to form a mental picture of the scene described. The commentary should not, however, be such as to interfere with the interest of the story or description; but simply what is necessary to a general understanding of the piece. It will often require an explanation of many words that are but vaguely understood by the pupils, and attention to such constructions as require elucidation. This having been done, it will be an excellent practice for the pupils to tell, orally, what they have read in their own language. This may be made a class exercise by having one pupil begin and others follow, each taking it up where his predecessor left off.
Let each pupil then write an abstract of it. The reading of the piece and the oral abstract which has been given will have secured such a knowledge of it that the pupils will be likely to express themselves with a clearness which can come only from a full and exact understanding of the author.
Having carefully read the narrative or description, some parts of it may be taken and subjected to such an analysis as will show the relations of the clauses, phrases, and words to each other. It may be well, too, if the pupils are sufficiently advanced, to show something of the relations of logic — the grammar of thought—to grammar, which has to do with words, phrases, and clauses.
This will involve a knowledge of the parts of speech, the inflections, and the principles of syntax, —and should therefore be preceded by some review of what the pupils may be supposed to have learned previously.
After this the attention may be directed more especially to subordinate matters, — to allusions, suggestions, manners, customs, historical references, and the like. If the selection is poetry, call attention to the metrical structure, which will involve the necessity, perhaps, of some study of prosody.
The most common rhetorical figures may be learned, as simile, metaphor, synecdoche, and metonymy, and the selection examined with reference to their use.
Then, the words may be examined with reference to their orign,
derivation, and formation. This, of course, will necessitate the use of an etymological dictionary, and a knowledge of the common prefixes and suffixes.
The pupils will then be able to understand what is meant by purity of style, and to apply their knowledge in examining this and other selections. The habit, too, which the pupils have formed of seeing the exact meaning of words, and the force of particular constructions, will aid them in writing clearly.
Then may follow an exercise involving all that has been done; viz., an exercise in criticism, or an estimate of the merits and faults of the selection.
If it is a narrative or a description, does it give us a distinct and consistent conception of the story told, or the object described, as a whole? Or is there something wanting, or but vaguely hinted at, which is necessary to a perfect understanding of the author? A careful examination in these regards will determine its quality with regard to completeness.
Is there more than is necessary to give such a conception, thing not so intimately connected with the subject as to render the conception more vivid and well defined, but rather to confuse? On the answer to this will depend its unity.
Then may follow an examination of the style. Are the words such as are sanctioned by "good use"?
Are the words well chosen to express the exact ideas of the author?
Is the constructiom of the sentences in accordance with the idiom and syntax of the language? This, of course, will involve some knowledge of barbarism, impropriety, and solecism.
How much of the preceding should be done in the several classes will depend on the pupils' power of appreciation, and the time devoted to the study.
Probably the Junior class will be glad to take another selection after having obtained such a knowledge of it as to be able to write a good abstract, to analyze some of the most difficult sentences, and give the grammatical inflexions and relation of some of the principal words, with some, but not a wearisome, attention to allusions, historical suggestions, etc.
The Middle class will be able, in addition to this, to subject the selection to such an examination as will involve some knowledge of rhetoric.
The Senior class may give some attention to each of the parts enumerated, with special attention to criticism.
But such study will not give pupils facility and accuracy in composition without much practice in writing.
We learn to skate by skating, and to write by writing. There is no
"Ships, ships, I will deserie you
I will come and try you,
What you are protecting,
What's your end and aim.
One goes abroad for merchandise and trading,
To an American visiting Europe, the long voyage he has to make is an excellent preparative. The temporary absence of worldly scenes and employments produces a state of mind peculiarly fitted to receive new and vivid impressions. The vast space of waters that separates the hemispheres is like a 5 blank page in existence. There is no gradual transition by which, as in Europe, the features and population of one country blend almost imperceptibly with those of another. From the moment you lose sight of the land you have left, all is vacancy until you step on the opposite shore, and are 10 launched at once into the bustle and novelties of another world.
In travelling by land there is a continuity of scene, and a connected succession of persons and incidents that carry on
Line 1. Voyage (Fr. voyager, to travel; voyage, a journey; Lat. via, a way), formerly a passage, journey, or travel by sea or by land; hence Irving says a wide sea voyage. It is now limited to travel by sea.
2. Preparative, that which prepares; a preparation.
5. Hemispheres. What meridian is the boundary line between the eastern and western hemispheres? See the atlases.