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SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS.
As the present is an age of experiment, as well as improvement in the modes of teaching, the author ventures to suggest the introduction, into our American schools, of a part of the explanatory system of instruction, so successfully practised in the Edinburgh Sessional School under the direction of Mr. Wood.* And he cannot better explain this system, in its application to the exercise of reading, than by presenting an extract from Mr. Wood's valuable work.
'Before entering upon the consideration of the reading department, it may be proper to premise some general observations, on that method of EXPLANATION, which has been so highly approved of in the Sessional School. Its object is threefold: first, To render more easy and pleasing. the acquisition of the mechanical art of reading; secondly, To turn to advantage the particular instruction contained in every individual passage which is read; and, above all, thirdly, To give the pupil, by means of a minute analysis of each passage, a general command of his own language.
It is of great importance to the proper understanding of the method, that all these objects should be kept distinctly in view. With regard to the first, no one, who has not witnessed the scheme in operation, can well imagine the animation and energy which it inspires. It is the constant remark of almost every stranger who visits the Sessional School, that its pupils have not at all the ordinary appearance of school-boys, doomed to an unwilling task, but rather the happy faces of children at their sports. This distinction is chiefly to be attributed to that part of the system of which we are here treating; by which, in place of harassing the pupil, with a mere mechanical routine of sounds and technicalities, his attention is excited, his curiosity is gratified, and his fancy is amused.
'In the second place, when proper books are put into the hands of the scholars, every article, which they read, may be made the means, not only of forming in their youthful minds the invaluable habit of attention, but also of communicating to them, along with facility in the art of reading, much information, which is both adapted to their present age, and may be of use to them the rest of their lives. How different is the result, where the mechanical art is made the exclusive object of the master's and the pupil's attention! How many fine passages have been read in the most pompous manner, without rousing a single sentiment in the mind of the performer! How many, in which they have left behind them only the most erroneous and absurd impressions and associations!
*See the Account of the Edinburgh Sessional School,' published oy Munroe & Francis, Boston.
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that we have now instanced. A certain portion of time should therefore be set apart for this examination: and, after those explanations have been given, which are necessary to the right understanding of the passage, such minuter investigations only may be gone into as time will admit. It is no more essential, that every word should be gone over in this way, than that every word should always be syntactically parsed. A single sentence well done may prove of the greatest service to the scholar in his future studies.'
In applying this system of instruction to the First-Class Reader, I would recommend that the pupils have the reading exercise for the day, previously assigned to them, in order that there may be an opportunity for them carefully to study the same, in reference to the examination that is to follow. In reading the book the first time, the examination should be general, rather than otherwise; let the pupils be questioned in regard to the general sense of the piece, and the meaning of prominent words in it. Explanation and illustration should be given by the teacher; such as the meaning of any passage, its allusions, figures, &c. may require. Care should be taken that the scholars do not forget these explanations; this may be prevented by recurring to them at subsequent examinations. In order to show the nature of this first examination, a specimen is subjoined.
In going through the volume the second time, a more particular examination should be instituted. Not only the same kind of questions, which have already been put, are to be repeated, but the pupils should be examined with reference to the analysis of words, their inflections and analogies; and also with reference to the rhetorical features of the composition, and the topics of general information suggested by the text.
Of this second examination, a specimen, such as our limits would allow, is also subjoined. Its nature and character, the extent to which it may be carried, and the interest, which it may be made to impart to the exercise, will at once be felt and appreciated by every intelligent teacher.
We will take for an example of the following examinations, an extract from the writing of the Rev. Sidney Smith.
APPEAL IN BEHALF OF THE BLIND.
The author of the book of Ecclesiastes has told us, that the light is sweet; that it is a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun.' The sense of sight is, indeed, the highest bodily privilege, the purest physical pleasure, which man has derived from his Creator: :-to see that wandering fire, after he has finished his journey through the nations,