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INTELLIGENT and intelligible reading de1 pends primarily on understanding the author's meaning.. Every child should be helped in learning how to study his reading lessons in the light of this fact.
The first reading lessons of every new class should be studied aloud by the teacher with the class, at its regular recitation time, until all have learned how to prepare themselves. Most children imagine that reading a lesson over tivo or three times as mechanically and rapidly as possible is studying. No lesson to be read aloud should be given until after two or three days' or a week's lessons in learning how to study.
What is commonly meant by “elocution”the showy, theatrical, unnatural, posturing, grimacing recitation of pseudo-tragico-sentimental or sensational “poems which contain enough action”-should have no place in the school-room ; but reading should never be sacrificed to arithemetic, graminar-so-called-or anything else, as is generally the practice, especially in the upper grades of city schools. A good vocabulary, distinct enunciation, pure tones, correct pronunciation, and natural expression and attitude are within the compass of public school training and should be among its distinct aims and achievements.
Light reading from some well-written, entertaining book may alternate with reading-book lessons, if reading books must be used at all.
Most graded reading-books are really “over the heads ” of average school children, owing to the lack in the child's vocabulary, which contains few words other than those of the play-ground and of every-day life at home. It would be well if other books could be substituted for many or most of these, but since, in most public schools, they are prescribed, they must be kept ; a careful and wise use of them may make them valuable. Keep in view the fact that good reading is the expression by the voice, and its adjuncts in expression, of an author's thought. Attending by rule to slides and pauses, inflection and emphasis will never make good readers any more than fitting sentences to diagrams will make the construction of the English language understood by anybody. When a youth knows the laws of English construction, he may briefly show this by use of a diagram; to begin the other way is an absurdity. When a child understands a thought, and knows perfectly
the words that express it, he will pause, emphasize and gesticulate correctly, that is, naturally. Exercises from Reading-Books :
I. Select from the reading-book in use in the school a simple narrative lesson which has been read by all the class. Write upon the board the first paragraph, as thus: “One day Willie's father saw a boy at the market with four little white rabbits in a basket," etc. (McGuffey's First Reader, Lesson LIV.)
“One day.” What other words could we use that would tell the time in which something has happened?
“One morning, one evening, one time, yesterday, this morning, last night, this afternoon, yesterday afternoon, etc.” (Write the answers given in columns.)
“ Willie's father.” Whose father? Give some other names.
“ John's, Mary's, Kittie's, Annie's," etc. (Write as above, and treat in the same way the following.)
“What other of Willie's friends or relations might have seen a boy?”
“ Brother, uncle, sister, aunt, cousin, mother, grandfather."
“Saw whom? Might have seen ? "
“A man, a girl, a woman, a child, a youth, a lad, an Indian,” etc.
“At what other places might the boy have been seen?"
“In the street, on the road, in the woods, in the field, in the lane, in the yard, by the gate, in a wagon, in a store, in a grocery, on the sidewalk," etc.
“Saw a boy with what else might the boy have had ?”
“Chickens, doves, ducks, white mice, fish, kittens, puppies, peaches, pears, boxes of candy, squashes, dolls,” etc.
“ How many ?”
“A great many, three, five, ever so many, six, a few,” etc.
“Of what color?”
“ Black, black and white, yellow, gray, red, etc."
“In what else might they have been?”
“In a box, a bag, a cage, a hamper, in his hands, in his lap, in a hat, in a cap, in a dish.”
Repeat this exercise several times, taking a new paragraph at each lesson. Then with the words and phrases taken in the order of the original paragraph, write, with the assistance and suggestions of the class, a new paragraph, modeled on it.
“One morning Mary's grandfather saw a girl by the gate with six white mice in a box."
Follow this with others made from the same exercise. Sometimes try to see how many variations of the story in the given paragraph can be
made, using the words and phrases suggested by the class.
II. After some degree of readiness in changing and suggesting has been attained, take a suitable short story in the same way, going through the whole of it at the board, in several successive lessons. (Lessons LIV., XLVII., XXVI., McGuffey's First Reader ; Lessons XVII., XVIII., XXIV., VI., Appleton's First Reader ; Lesson LXVI., McGuffey's Second Reader; Lessons 86, 88, and 75, California Series, First Reader ; Lessons 38, 39, and 59, Second Reader.)
Finally, require the pupils to write the whole, each using the changed phrases and words, so as to make a new story.
Select at another lesson a new story and require the pupils to do all the work, each writing his own story as above.
Many of the short, simple poems in the First and Second Readers may serve the same purpose.
III. Without saying anything about verbs, or using any other technical terms, begin as early as in First Reader lessons, to change the tenses of verbs in sentences, thus (Lesson XXV., Appleton's First Reader):
“Harry has seen the nest."
“How would you say that Harry is looking at the nest now ? ”
“ Harry sees the nest.”