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Teaching young children.
interest the younger children in their work, and yet no effort can be, as the Germans say, more "rewarding." The teacher of children has this advantage, that his pupils are never dull and listless, as youths are apt to be. If they are not attending to him, they very soon give him notice of it; and if he has the sense to see that their inattention is his fault, not theirs, this will save him much annoyance and them much misery. He has, too, another advantage, which gives him the power of gaining their attention-their emulation is easily excited. In the Waisenhaus at Halle I once heard a class of very young children, none of them much above six years old, perform feats of mental arithmetic quite, as I should have said, beyond their age, and I well remember the pretty eagerness with which each child held out a little hand and shouted, "Mich! Bitte!" to gain the privilege of answering.
§ 6. Then again, there are many subjects in which children take an interest. Indeed, all visible things, especially animals, are much more to them than to us. A child has made acquaintance with all the animals in the neighbourhood, and can tell you much more about the house and its surroundings than you know yourself. But all this knowledge and interest you would wish forgotten directly he comes into school. Reading, writing, and figures are taught in the driest manner. The two first are in themselves not uninteresting to the child, as he has something to do, and young people are much more ready to do anything than to learn anything. But when lessons. are given the child to learn, they are not about things concerning which he has ideas and feels an interest, but you teach him mere sounds-e.g., that Alfred (to him only ■ name) came to the throne in 871, though he has no
Value of pictures.
notion what the throne is, or what 871 means. The child learns the lesson with much trouble and small profit, bearing the infliction with what patience he can, till he escapes out of school and begins to learn much faster on a very different system.
§ 7. We cannot often introduce into the school the thing, much less the animal, which children would care to see, but we can introduce what will please them as well, in some cases even better, viz., good pictures. A teacher who could draw boldly on the blackboard, would have no difficulty in arresting the children's attention. But, at present, few can do this, and pictures must be provided. A good deal has been done of late years in the way of illustrating children's books, and even childhood must be the happier for such pictures as those of Tenniel and Harrison Weir. But it seems well understood that these gentlemen are incapable of doing anything for children beyond affording them innocent amusement, and we should be as much surprised at seeing their works introduced into that region of asceticism, the English school-room, as if we ran across one of Raphael's Madonnas in a Baptist chapel.*
§ 8. I had the good fortune, many years ago, to be present at the lessons given by a very excellent teacher to the youngest class, consisting both of boys and girls, at the first Bürger-schule of Leipzig. In Saxony the schooling which the state demands for each child, begins at six years
* This remark, I am glad to say, is much less true now (1890) than when fust published. Indeed some purveyors of books for children are getting to rely too exclusively on the pictures, just as I have noticed that an organ-grinder with a monkey seldom or never has a good organ. Of large pictures for class teaching, some of the best I have seen (both for history and natural history) are published by the S.P.C.K.
Dr. Vater at Leipzig.
old, and lasts till fourteen. These children were, therefore, between six and seven. In one year, a certain Dr. Vater taught thera to read, write, and reckon. His method of teaching was as follows:-Each child had a book with pictures of objects, such as a hat, a slate, &c. Under the picture was the name of the object in printing and writing characters, and also a couplet about the object The children having opened their books, and found the picture of a hat, the teacher showed them a hat, and told them a tale connected with one. He then asked the children questions about his story, and about the hat he had in his hand-What was the colour of it? &c. He then drew a hat on the blackboard, and made the children copy it on their slates. Next he wrote the word "hat" and told them that for people who could read this did as well as the picture. The children then copied the word on their slates. The teacher proceeded to analyse the word "hat, (hut)." "It is made up," said he, "of three sounds, the most important of which is the a (u), which comes in the middle." In all cases the vowel sound was first ascertained in every syllable, and then was given an approximation to consonantal sounds before and after. The couplet was now read by the teacher, and the children repeated it after him. In this way the book had to be worked over and over till the children were perfectly familiar with everything in it. They had been already six months thus employed when I visited the school, and knew the book pretty thoroughly. To test their knowledge, Dr. Vater first wrote a number of capitals at random on the board, and called out a boy to tell him words having these capitals as initials. This boy had to call out a girl to do something of the kind, she a boy, and so forth. Everything was done very smartly, both
Dr. Vogel and Dr. Vater.
by master and children. The best proof I saw of their accuracy and quickness was this: the master traced words from the book very rapidly with a stick on the blackboard, and the children always called out the right word, though i rould not follow him. He also wrote with chalk words which the children had never seen, and made them name first the vowel sounds, then the consonantal, then combine them.
I have been thus minute in my description of this lesson, because it seems to me an admirable example of the way in which children between six and eight years of age should be taught. The method (see Rüegg's Pädagogik, p. 360; also Die Normalwörtermethode, published by Orell, Füssli, Zürich, 1876), was arranged and the book prepared by the late Dr. Vogel, who was then Director of the school. Its merits, as its author pointed out to me, are :—1. That it connects the instruction with objects of which the child has already an idea in his mind, and so associates new knowledge with old; 2. That it gives the children plenty to do as well as to learn, a point on which the Doctor was very emphatic; 3. That it makes the children go over the same matter in various ways till they have learnt a little thoroughly, and then applies their knowledge to the acquire ment of more. Here the Doctor seems to have followed Jacotot. But though the method was no doubt a good one, I must say its success at Leipzig was due at least as much to Dr. Vater as to Dr. Vogel. This gentleman had been taking the youngest class in this school for twenty years, and, whether by practice or natural talent, he had acquired precisely the right manner for keeping children's attention. He was energetic without bustle and excitement, and quiet without a suspicion of dulness or apathy. By
First knowledge of numbers. Grubé.
frequently changing the employment of the class, and requiring smartness in everything that was done, he kept them all on the alert. The lesson I have described was followed without pause by one in arithmetic, the two together occupying an hour and three quarters, and the interest of the children never flagged throughout.
§ 9. Dr. Vater's method for arithmetic I cannot now recall; but I do not doubt that, as a German teacher who had studied his profession, he understood what English teachers and pupil-teachers do not understand, viz., how children should get their first knowledge of numbers. Pestalozzi and Froebel insisted that children should learn about numbers from things which they actually counted; and, according to Grubé's method, which I found in Germany over 30 years ago, and which is now extending to the United States, the whole of the first year is given to the relations of numbers not exceeding ten (see Grube's Method by L. Seeley, New York, Kellogg, and F. L. Soldan's Grube's M., Chicago). In arithmetic everything depends on these relations becoming thoroughly familiar. The decimal scale is possibly not so good as the scale of eight or of twelve, but the human race has adopted it; and even the French Revolutionists, with all their belief in reason," and their hatred of the past, recoiled from any attempt to change it. But in accepting it, they endeavoured to remove anomalies, and so should we. Everything must be based on groups of ten; and with children we should do well, as Mr. W. Wooding suggests, to avoid the great anomaly in our nomenclature, and call the numbers between ten and twenty (ie., twain-tens or two-tens), "ten-one, tentwo, &c." Numeration should by a long way precede any kind of notation, and the main truths about numbers should