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WHAT TO DO. I. Find out what your predecessor has done.
II. Provide a regular time for composition during school hours every day.
III. Prepare every exercise beforehand.
IV. Exact promptness, neatness, and correctness of preparation at every exercise.
V. Commend when you can, where commendation is needed.
VI. When you find any individual style of expression and thought, encourage it; but direct it.
VII. Try to instill sincerity of expression and manner.
VIII. Study good models of writing all the time, yourself.
WHAT NOT TO DO. I. Do not use the word composition in a new class, at first.
II. Never ask children to write compositions at home.
III. Never depend on encyclopedias for material, nor allow your pupils to think that they may.
IV. Tolerate no affectation or insincerity of ideas, in class writing. If a pupil is habitually untruthful, see that he does not read aloud any statement about truth-telling.
V. Do not wear yourself out correcting papers. It is necessary that pupils should have daily practice. It is not necessary that everything they write should be corrected and returned.
VI. Do not make the mistake of giving much time to the writing of mere sentences—“sentence-building” sentences—nor lose sight of the fact that you cannot teach composition by writing disconnected sentences. Making a thousand finished boards, so long and so wide and so thick, will never teach a man how to build a house. Begin with continued discourse, with the first book-lesson the child has, and go on so every day. IT is perhaps needless to say much about the I teacher's preparation for each lesson; to his own interest and readiness, to freshness of subject and expedient, to personal enthusiasm, must be added definite preparation, else nothing but a half-hearted attention, resulting in weak effort and insipid outcome, can be expected.
Complete preparation, then, being assumed :
I. Prepare your class for work. Secure cleared desks, arranged writing materials, and the attitude of attention.
II. By means of a page, outlined on the board, give exact directions about the mechanics of composition : margins, beginnings of paragraphs, place of pupil's name, neatness, and folding, or not folding. Insist on uniformity and exactness in these matters. Do not allow a microscopic, or pinched, finger-stroke style of handwriting. In general, refuse to decipher indistinct writing of any kind.
III. Give clearly such instruction about what you wish done, and such examples of the work required, as will enable the slowest and dullest in the class to understand. Give these but once, at each new lesson.
IV. In primary classes take nothing for granted at the outset. Teach paragraphing at the first, simply by saying to each child as you see his work, and that it is necessary : “Begin a new paragraph.” Write often at the board before such pupils, until paragraphing becomes a matter of feeling and habit.
WORD EXERCISES. THIS exercise, one of the most interesting
T and suggestive to children, is available for the youngest classes as well as for High School Seniors, and all the way between. It is always new, and, giving an infinite variety of ways of saying, helps all sorts and conditions of mind at least to begin to express themselves in writing.
By means of this exercise any teacher can open the way to interest in composition writing; almost any class can be led, through it, to more advanced and more profitable writing. For disclosing to the child himself some of his own powers, and some of the pleasures of composition (that is, making), there is nothing better.
Select at random (well-considered random) five or six words from the reading-lesson of the day, any book that may be convenient, or from your own vocabulary, at pleasure. At first, let these be such words as the child uses, or knows how to