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ing in the child's past experience; he has never seen, or heard, or conceived of any thing having any relation to it.
When we consider the length of time spent in this way, with no useful result, we are led to wonder at ourselves and all who have had the care of children since this system came into vogue. The same time would enable a child, if circumstances favored, to learn to speak the French language with ease, and with greater propriety of pronunciation than, I believe, grown people ever acquire ; to speak his own language with ease, grace, and exactness; and to write all the words in it, except those anomalous and difficult, with correctness and in a plain, legible hand.
The next step forward by the oral system, is this : the child learns that written letters correspond somehow with spoken letters; and he acquires the power of learning bis spelling lesson by study. Gradually he discovers that certain sounds are usually spelled in certain ways; so that when he hears a word he can give the names of its letters by its sound. Here the system ends; this is its utmost limit.
Unless the learner has a good ear, a strong tendency to exactness, and the power of close observation ; unless his home influences are favorable, and his course of spelling is continued until he has considerable maturity of mind, this system will not do so much, or any thing near so much, for him. But granting so much, abundant evidence as well as the clearest reasoning show that very little is accomplished towards the desired end; that is, an ability to write all the words in the language by habit, without mistake, spontaneously, and without any difficulty, stop or stay. The knowledge which he has acquired is of little or no use when he writes; for no one, to enable himself to write the letters of a word, repeats their names; no one, when writing the word name, for instance, says n-a-m-e, any more than an artist, when painting a tree, says leaf, branch, shadow, as he puts them on the canvas. I have had pupils who could spell well orally, and who could not spell at all when they wrote. I remember one young man in particular, who could spell, orally, every word in his spelling lessons, yet when he wrote them he would make mistakes wherever it was possible. I have no doubt that every teacher has noticed many similar instances. The celebrated Report on the Boston Schools, which excited so much discussion, disclosed no fault in those schools, if I recollect right, so great or so general, as the bad spelling of the scholars ;-a disclosure disheartening, no doubt, to the teachers, as showing the last result of many years of instruction, and pregnant with information to those who wish to study the merit of the oral system.
Moreover, the knowledge which is acquired by this system is peculiarly liable to be lost; for it depends, for preservation, on the verbal memory, and that faculty diminishes as we grow older. This decay is perhaps shown more plainly in spelling than in any thing. For as the verbal memory is the lowest of the intellectual faculties, so the mere memory of the letters in a word, and their relative position, must be its lowest exercise. We who have been taught by this system, have sufficient testimony, from our own experience in regard to ourselves, and from the experience of others, that it is very difficult to maintain a respectable degree of accuracy in spelling. A lady told me, not long since, that once she could spell every word she thought of; but that now, when writing, she could make out to spell correctly only by constant reference to a dictionary. Another said, that when she wrote without thinking of the spelling she did well enough, but that when she had to think how to spell a word, although she used to be a good speller at school, she never could remember the spelling; and, having nothing to go by, she was as likely to go wrong as right. I have in my mind a pupil of my own, who was among my best spellers; and who, though improving in other respects, has, in the six years which have passed since she was at school, become very imperfect, if not absolutely deficient in spelling. Yet, on questioning her, I found that she was not aware that she did not spell as well as any one. I have observed the same deterioration in others, and the same unconsciousness of it, which makes it remediless; and I believe it to be a good general rule for all taught by the oral system, that the older they grow the worse they spell.
Rejecting this system, and considering it established that spelling should be taught by writing, I have only to speak of several methods, which may, however, with some variation, be applied to either system.
One of these, which is practised in many schools, is to give words from the reading lesson to be spelled. Several advantages are claimed for it. It dispenses with the spelling-book; which is very much in its favor. For the expense of furnishing all children now learning to spell, and all who will learn hereafter, with two or three spelling-books apiece, it would be very well worth while to get rid of. This method puts the spelling-books on their merits. Unless there is in their use a clear gain, worth the money spent for them, they should not be used. Another advantage is, that it enables the teacher to select the hard words. By the common mode of teaching, about as much time is spent on those words which no one misses, as on those which are frequently missed. If, therefore, the time spent on the easy words can be given to the hard ones, that is clear gain, and should be counted in favor of the method. A third advantage is, that it teaches children to pay attention to the spelling of words as they read them; for, as they are liable to be called on to spell any word in their reading lessons, they will pay attention to the manner in which words are spelled, and will get into that habit. An objection which goes to balance these advantages is the want of system of this method. It begins no where and ends no where. And it would be impossible, after spelling any length of time, for teacher or scholar to be sure that the art of spelling was mastered. The same objection, among others, can be urged against the course of those teachers who give no stated instruction in spelling, depending on the effect of correcting the spelling of the compositions, transcripts, translations, and abstracts of their pupils. Whatever may have been the effect of this plan with some who have tried it, I feel confident that it would generally fail. Correction of misspellings by the teacher does not prevent the pupil from making them; and in many schools would have but a slight tendency that way.
The method of Mr. Alcott, in a school composed chiefly of young children, was to converse with his scholars on the meaning of every word spelled ; so as to create an interest in it, and make them perceive its connection and use. They wrote, or rather printed, for they had not learned to write, these words from their spelling-book, until they knew them, and then spelled them orally from dictation. Such a method requires a great deal of knowledge and a high degree of skill in the teacher; for he must not be satisfied with giving them information, he must make them active recipients of what he gives them. Whoever reads the account given of Mr. Alcott's spelling lessons in the Record of a School, will, I think, desire to emulate him, even though with little hope of attaining his success; for very few have his skill in conversation, or his power of finding a common ground between his pupils and himself. He found it in the intellectual and moral nature of his children; and by means of their consciousness of these, he made them not only understand but also feel and thoroughly appreciate the nature and use of the words of their spelling lessons. It seems to me that such a method, applied by one competent, is nearly perfect, as far as
The method which I have followed for the last two years has several advantages. It dispenses with the spelling-book; it does not consume much time; I have found it interesting to my pupils, and it is thorough and efficient. I do not see why it may not be