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The new education has transformed the methods of teaching spelling as of all other subjects. But the results obtained have been so unsatisfactory that a feeling has arisen that the methods demand revision. There has, in consequence, been a re-awakening of interest iu the subje ., and prominent educationists have begun to enquire into the cause of the bad spelling in our schools. I shall endeavour to bring before you some of the latest attempts that have been made to solve the spelling problem.
The new education has condemned oral spelling. Spelling is for writing, not for speaking, and is therefore to be learned through the eye, not the ear. With oral spelling has gone the spelling-match, which was such a prominent feature of the old schools. With oral spelling has disappeared also syllabication, and C-o-n s-t-a-n t-i n-o p-l-e, not to mention C-o-n, Con s-t-a-n, stan t-i, ti n-o, no p-l-e, Constantinople, is no longer heard. The alphabetic method of teaching reading has been relegated to an effete past, and cat is now cat, and not c-a-t, cat. The old-fashioned spelling-book with its columns of words without connection, and its long list of rules and longer list of exceptions has shared a similar fate. Words must be learned as parts of a sentence, for the sentence is the unit of thought, and dicta
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tion and incidental spelling have taken the place of the spelling-book.
One result has certainly been that spelling has been taught at hap-hazard, difficulties have been met, if met at all, as they happened to be encountered, and in no systematic and graded way, many teachers, not quite sure of what to teach, have been drifting and trusting to the pupils' reading, writing, composition and busy work incidentally to make them good spellers. To whatever cause it may be attributed, the fact is that spelling is the most unsatisfactory subject in our schools, a cry has arisen from those trained by the old methods, "Back to the Spelling-Book," and prominent educationists have begun to investigate. And instead of sitting down in their studies and evolving theories from the inner recesses of their consciousness, or making sweeping deductions from imperfectly understood psychological principles, the methods of modern inductive psychology are being brought into use, and a careful study is being made of the actual spelling of large numbers of pupils. Several statistical studies of the spelling problem have appeared. Dr. J. M. Rice, who made such a stir among the schools of the United States a few years ago by a series of articles based upon observations in the schools of nearly all the principal cities, and who is now engaged in a study of educational waste, has contributed two notable articles to the Forum Magazine on the "Spelling Grind." Dr. E. R. Shaw, of the New York University School of Pedagogy, has studied the question of oral and sight spelling, and Miss Adelaide E. Wyckoff has made a brief but very suggestive study of constitutionally bad spellers. While one must be very careful in estimating conclusions reached by these means, lest the evidence be vitiated, or misjudged, or seen through a preconceived theory, it is striking that the first two of these writers reach practically the same conclusion that many of the old methods had at least their place.
In the light of these studies, as well as in the light of some observations of my own and a careful study of methods, I shall consider the subject in three divisions:(1) The Psychology of Spelling.
(2) Methods of Teaching Spelling.
(3) Constitutional Bad Spellers, or what may be termed, The Pathology of Spelling.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SPELLING.
It is one of the discoveries of modern experimental psychology that some learn more quickly through the eye, others through the ear. In other words, some are eyeminded or visualizers, others ear-minded or audiles. While the number of visualizers is much greater than the number of audiles, the fact that a certain percentage of the pupils of any school are almost certainly ear-minded would sug gest the employment of methods comprehensive enough to make appeal to both classes. There is, then, a psychological deduction to be made in favour of some form of oral spelling. There is also the obvious fact that the more sense avenues can be employed in building up a mental image, the stronger that image will be, and the more clues there will be to its revival. Though the ear-gate may in most people be narrower than the eye-gate, the impression made through both will, in all, be surely stronger than the impression made through one only. Here, then, is another a priori principle in favour of oral spelling. And the truth of these deductions will, I believe, be borne out by systematic observation of children, by systematic oral and written spelling tests, and by the examination of pupils' mistakes.
Dr. Shaw tested "over 2,000 children with nonsense combinations of from three to ten letters in length. In the first part of the investi gation 140 visual presentations of these were made. From thirty to forty pupils were tested at a time, and the tests were so divided as to make no fatiguing demands upon the pupils. Each child wrote down what ho could recall of the 140 printed cards which were held up before him for a given length of time. The pupils were requested not to move their lips when looking at the combinations; and although we impressed upon them as strongly as we could that they must not use the r lips, we found that, though they started out with very commendable effort not to so, they soon lapsed into the use of their lips. When another strong appeal not to use the lips was made, many cases came under observation of children who, while inhibiting the use of their lips, were moving their hands or a finger, as if telling off the letters silently. After repeated observations by those who assisted in making the tests, it was agreed that at least ninety per cent. of all the children tested lapsed into aiding themselves by using their lips