Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

generally neglected. The pupil who is taught to call a word in a sentence a certain part of speech and to account for his answer by a “because,” followed by the definition of that part of speech, is less likely to use real thought in arriving at his conclusion than the pupil who answers that the word performs a certain function, "therefore”, it must be a certain part of speech. The “therefore” form of answer is usually correct, and discourages or at least reduces the tendency to substitute guessing for thinking. The inethod of giving definitions first, with subsequent practice in picking out the parts of speech, is not only an abuse of Formal English Grammar, but a pedagogical sin as well. By the inductive method, the pupil, instead of accepting merely the teacher's word for the information, takes actually a part in producing the information.

One of the most characteristic errors in the written work of students is the substitution of a dependent clause for a real sentence. The fault can be traced usually to the deductive method of teaching what a sentence is. The student accepts the teacher's word or the book's word for what a sentence is, without taking any part in making that definition. Naturally enough he may misunderstand the teacher or the book, or may become confused, especially when he is alone; but whenever he himself has worked out that definition or helped in its construction, he understands much better what it is and may be depended upon to write a grammatical sentence.

It means almost nothing to a pupil to be told to use “I” in the nominative case, singular; “my” or “mine”, in the possessive case; "me”, in the objective case, etc. Far better and more instructive is it to give him a number of simple sentences, as: “I have a pen.” “That is my pen.” “That pen is mine." "Give me the pen.” In such sentences, the pupil himself will discover the work of the different forms, and will be better repaid for having done so.

The deductive method of teaching what complement the verb "to be" should take has done more perhaps to confuse the pupil than any other instruction in grammar; for whenever a pupil is taught deductively that “to be” never takes an object, he considers it his consecrated duty to keep an objective case as far away as possible from any form of “to be.” Never can he be induced to use such a sentence as, "I took it to be him.” His

[ocr errors]

spontaneous objection to such a sentence is that “to be” never takes an object, which fact, of course, no one disputes. But the pupil who has been taught inductively, by having presented to him a number of sentences, containing “to be” or forms of “to be," will discover for himself that the case that succeeds "to be" or any form of “to be” is the same as the case that precedes it; and such a pupil may be depended upon to use correctly the complements of “to be."

Still another grave abuse of Formal English Grammar is the attempt to teach the subject without the aid of literature. Disconnected sentences, having no connected thought, make poor illustrations, because they fail to arouse the interest that the analysis of connected thought in simple literature will awaken. If a pupil is to understand the changes in word forms, shadings in the uses of moods, and effectiveness of word order, he must make a grammatical study of the words upon the printed page. For obvious reasons, the first sentences that are chosen for analysis must necessarily be disconnected. But after a pupil has studied grammar for at least a year, and especially when he has reached the high school, real literature should be used as material. This is perhaps the best way of having the pupil appreciate the larger grammatical structure that extends beyond the sentence. In this way, grammar is correlated with literature. Take, for example, the first stanza of the Concord Hymn:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood

And fired the shot heard round the world. Several questions correlating the literature with the grammar might be asked to let the pupil appreciate the real relation between his literature and his grammar. What is the subject of the sentence? What is the predicate? What is the construction of "by the bridge"? Who are meant by the "embattled farmers” ? What part of speech is “that” ? and several other questions of like nature.

The objection that the literature is mutilated by such analysis is without foundation; for there can be no genuine appreciation of a thought that is not understood, and there is no better means of arriving at the thought than through grammatical analysis.

Much of the supposed appreciation, by students, of the literature studied in school is too often an appreciation borrowed from the teacher or from the editor of the text-book. The student often gives respectful audience to the teacher's appreciation of a work of literature, or reads the editor's appreciation, and then later reproduces such opinions, without modifications, as his own. But if the pupil is led, at an early period in his study of Formal Grammar, to use his knowledge of analysis to interpret the literature set before him, he is more likely to develop an independent.judgment of his own.

The gravest abuse, perhaps, of Formal English Grammar is the attempt to teach the subject without the assistance of the pupil's own composition. The mere learning of grammar, even with stereotyped examples tacked on, will neither make a correct writer nor enable a pupil to appreciate grammatical accuracy. To be of any utility, Formal English Grammar must be studied in and through sentences composed by the pupil himself.

The composition may be oral or written or both, but at all times composition must be employed, if instruction in grammar is to become worth while. In a sense, oral composition is of much greater importance than written composition, because a person talks much more often than he writes. Very few writers produce more than three books a year; whereas the child of kindergarten age says enough in one week to fill a volume of considerable bulk. It is obvious, then, that if a pupil is ever going to use correct grammar, he must begin by using it in his speech. This is a point generally overlooked by teachers. Since the pupil speaks more often than he writes, the real practice work in Formal Grammar must begin with his oral composition. A pupil then must be given an opportunity to talk in the classroom. For this purpose, a simple story or one chapter of a longer story may be assigned for the pupil to read outside the classroom. Say, for example, that the story of Rip Van Winkle has been read. The teacher, by asking questions, gives the pupil a chance to talk. Invariably the teacher will hear such grammar as: “Rip, he went up the mountains”; or "Rip, he was a lazy man”; or “Rip, he fell asleep.” The opportunity is at once presented for correcting this mistake. On the next day, the very same mistake will be repeated, possibly by the same pupils; for the error will hardly be overcome in one day. It may not be made so frequently, but

it will surely be repeated. After persistent correction, however, this error will disappear. Another characteristic error is the use of "taken”. Some pupil will tell his teacher that “Rip taken his gun.” “Seen” is another word commonly misused. These mistakes, however, may be corrected in the same way. In short, many of the common errors in English Grammar can be corrected by a skilful use of oral composition. And in this connection, it may be wise to urge that questions be avoided that can be answered by a “because” clause; or if such a clause is used, the independent clause also should be insisted upon. Too often are pupils permitted to answer questions, by giving merely a dependent clause beginning with "because”, which sometimes dwindles into "cause", then degenerates into "cuss".

Written composition, as well as oral, must be employed, if Formal English Grammar is really to be taught. The task of correcting papers is slavish, to say the least, but practice must be given in writing correct grammar. It may be said that the teacher often augments her burden by attempting to correct every error in the composition. If a pupil has been studying a certain principle in grammar, his composition ought to be corrected and marked almost wholly for the application of that principle. At no time, of course, should incorrect spelling be permitted to go unnoticed, but by no means should the paper be marked for principles that have not been reached in the class. There is no objection to underlining such errors, but correction at that time is premature. The teacher must not think that she is to make a finished product of that pupil, but rather to feel sure that he understands and can put into practice the few principles which she has taught him. Then, again, it is not necessary for such a composition to be labelled an English exercise, for the paper written for a history exercise, or a geography exercise, or for any other exercise, will serve the purpose just as well, and will have an additional value of letting the pupil know that there is not a special brand of English Grammar to be used in his so-called English exercise; but that accurate grammar is to be employed in all his exercises.

It would seem, then, from our discussion, that Formal English Grammar has its uses and its abuses. Let us hope that the teaching of Formal English Grammar will conform more to the uses than to the abuses.

Initiative in Education

BY FRANK A. Manny, DIRECTOR OF THE TRAINING OF TEACHERS,

BALTIMORE, MD.

I

[ocr errors]

TN France when once I questioned a teacher of

mathematics because he customarily dictated to his students the demonstrations of propositions in

geometry and solutions of problems in algebra, the JUNIORI OMNIUMIE

reply was made, "But if I let them work these out for themselves they will fall into error and

make mistakes which will waste their time. By JUMIEMNOMNOTHIC

this means we save them from the great waste which must come when students do the original work that is told about in America."

We are better off in the schools of our country in opportunities for initiative yet, in this matter, too, there are certain fallacies which blind us to more effective organization. In swinging away from conditions in which the teacher does the thinking and the pupil merely follows, we have come to over-emphasize the individual's separate activity. We have thought that there is some virtue in leaving him to continued unaided efforts to bring raw materials into form. The result usually is that when he becomes discouraged we give him help on the very parts upon which he needs most to exert himself. In other cases he is left in laboratory and shop to flounder on in the mere doing which brings about very little advance either for him or for the project. This is where we seem to justify our foreign and American critics who consider that initiative is necessarily wasteful. Their remedy is on the line of the still too common high school physics course in which the students are set to work in order that they may think Carhart and Chute's thoughts after them.

Real initiative involves primarily intelligent participation in processes. This includes (1) some undertakings involving raw materials very near to the condition in which nature produced them; (2) many experiments in which the worker enters into the labors of others and uses as material that which is the result of what other men as well as nature have put into it; (3) still

« ForrigeFortsett »