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Shall we have is to be gained mainly by writing spelling lists?
sentences, rather than by the memorizing of isolated words. Without question the novice should first learn to write his words separately; if he attacks a sentence at the outset he may be overwhelmed by the complexity of it. He should have gained some freedom in handling the individual words of a sentence before he attempts to employ them as a unity; but he must not leave any word he has attempted to learn until he can use it readily in its usual connections.
It is certainly a wasteful, ineffective method to introduce a new list of words every day, so that a large number may be learned in a year. I have tested pupils who have been taught in this way, and I have found that lists learned last week, say, may be almost entirely forgotten this week. They are not used; that is the trouble. They may be impressed consciously for an hour or for a day, but they are not fixed for good. They can be made secure only by a generous repetition in a variety of familiar situations. They must be got into the muscles, as it were, and not left merely as unused visual images, which may soon fade into nothing
It will hardly be doubted that it is advisable to choose for spelling drill those words and phrases
How shall we that the child is seeing and employchoose words
ing most frequently every day in the for spelling?
regular work of the school. One objection to the old-type spelling-book was that the lists of words offered were compiled without regard to what the pupil was studying in any grade. But even when the spelling lists are made up from the other studies being pursued at the time, there is still danger that if they are learned as lists they will be readily forgotten. It seems to be a law of the human organism, as true of the mind as of the body, that when a member or an idea is not used it is likely to degenerate. If you tie up the arm, the muscles will soon begin to decline. Let a person lie on a bed for two months, and he may discover that he can not walk when he makes the attempt. The muscles necessary for locomotion not being put to service, they become weakened, and begin to go out of busi
So in mental function; any image or idea which is not utilized in daily adjustment is likely to be eliminated readily. Nature seems to proceed on the doctrine that what is not necessary for use might better be got rid of as speedily as possible. Any one who has observed the changes taking place in his own memory must have noticed how this law applies to things which he once had at his tongue's
end, but which, on account of not being used, have been forgotten, partially or completely.
Further, when one develops any power of muscle
of mind, he can employ it in the way in which he has acquired it, but not in a different manner. One who has developed his muscles in a blacksmith shop can not use much if any of this special strength in vaulting, say. If one should wish to learn to vault a pole, he ought to get up his muscle by practising on this particular activity, and not on something altogether different therefrom. The same principle is true in respect to mental training. A ticket agent told the writer recently that the moment he enters his office he can answer any question pertaining to the time-table of his railroad, the price of tickets to the remotest cities of the United States, and so on. "But,” he continued, "when I am away from the office, and a man asks me a question about the time any train leaves, or the price of a ticket, I can not remember the simplest matters often. I do not
I understand why when I leave this office I seem to forget all the details of my business.” The explanation appears simple enough. We tend to recall anything in connection with the circumstances under which it was originally learned, so that if we change the circumstances, we are apt to forget for the time being
Now as to spelling. In real life we hardly ever need to spell isolated words. We practically always are required to write them in sentences. But if we have learned them in isolated groups, even though they have been chosen from the regular studies, the chances are we will not be facile in spelling them as they will be used in daily life. Even if we require pupils to learn words in groups, we ought to follow this up with the requirement that they write them in typical sentences in which they will be likely to occur in the emergencies of real life. In this connection it should be noted that a pupil's spelling vocabulary can not keep pace with his reading vocabulary. Reading is a much simpler and more expeditious process than spelling. A pupil ought to progress far more rapidly in mastering words in reading than in spelling. If an attempt be made to keep his spelling up with his work in reading, geography, language, and other subjects, harm will result either to his spelling or to the subjects upon which it is based.
It is a rule of pedagogy that through repetition any impression may be permanently fixed. Teachers Harmful drill who acquire their art by learning in spelling rules rather than by observing children in the school-room often take this rule literally and seriously. Such teachers commonly assign a lesson like this: "Write each word in your spelling lesson twenty times.” One teacher whose methods the present writer has been studying, applies the rule referred to very vigorously in the matter of spelling. If a pupil misses one word in a lesson she requires him to write it twenty times; if he misses two words he must write each word forty times; three words, sixty times; four words, eighty times, and so on. Recently a child in her room missed seven words in a lesson, and he was required to write each word one hundred and forty times after school. This made a total of nine hundred and eighty words that had to be written without an intermission by this unfortunate pupil. When he completed his task he was quite unstrung. He went to his home and cried over the affair for a long time. He was in such a nervous state that he could not restrain himself. An examination of the papers upon which he had written nine hundred and eighty words showed that during the last quarter of the task he frequently misspelled words. He might write a word correctly twenty-five times, and then the letters would be interchanged, and in some cases letters were omitted and others added. Now, will the reader please notice particularly that after the pupil had written the word correctly twenty-five times, he was likely then to misspell it? What good