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INTERMEDIATE AND GRAMMAR
THE INTERMEDIATE AND GRAMMAR GRADE PERIODS
In each of these nascent periods important physical and mental changes are occurring in the child. During the intermediate period the brain assumes its normal size, the sensation-centers are knitted together, and the nerve-connections increase in number and function. Compared with the preceding period, it is characterized by relatively slow growth, and yet there is an abundance of “excess" energy. The period is formative in the sense that the wandering, involuntary, passive attention tends to give way, under proper guidance, to the definite, active, voluntary attention, and in the sense that moral habits, habits of honor, and those referring to the commoner virtues, as well as habits of study, receive an impetus or trend that likely leads to their fixation.
Characteristics of the Period The child at this time in his life, has great powers of endurance. It is the time for storing reserve energy. Although his conduct and character are variable and inconstant, they are greatly influenced by pressure. In referring to this period, President
“Never again will there be such susceptibility to drill and discipline, such plasticity to habituation, or such ready adjustment to new conditions. It is the age of external and mechanical training. Reading, writing, drawing, manual training, musical technic, foreign tongues and their pronunciation, the manipulation of numbers and of geometrical elements, and many kinds of skill, have now their golden hour, and if it passes unimproved, all these can never be acquired later without a heavy handicap of disadvantage and loss. The method should be mechanical, repetitive, authoritative, dogmatic. The automatic powers are now at their very apex, and they can do and bear more than our degenerate pedagogy knows or dreams of."
During the primary grades, imitation and example are prominent; during the intermediate grades, authority and precept are prominent. This does not mean that all the material given the child is or must be intrinsically uninteresting. Quite the contrary is true: it ought to be all the more interesting; but unless the child finds it so, he must be required to master enough of the rudiments of the subject to furnish a basis for interest. When he has no will, it must be supplied by his experienced teacher and parent.
Aims in Training As more than three-fourths of all our experiences function as habit, we readily recognize the extreme importance of fully utilizing this period. The mind must be stored with subject matter, although the memory is not yet highly associative. Whatever impressions are received should be deepened by repetitions. All drill subjects and drill phases of other subjects should be rendered as nearly automatic as possible. The mechanics of reading begun in the preceding grades must now be made habitual. The child must now acquire the dictionary habit, the skills used in articulation and pronunciation, the proper emotional response to the different kinds of reading material; and an abundance of worthy literary selections should be committed.
*Hall: Youth, p. 5.
The skill the child has in interpretation should increase as the mechanics of reading become more automatic. While all reading is interpretation, selections that require effort for interpreting will increase in number and difficulty as the child passes through these grades. By the time he has reached the grammar grades this sort of teaching has become the kind to which he devotes almost sole attention.
Physical and Spiritual Changes The physical disturbances occurring during the grammar period and immediately following it are shown in the increase in size and in height. There is an enlargement and functioning of all the organs, an elongation of the vocal cord, increase in the volume of the heart, etc. The whole system is undergoing a change. Nervous centers, glands, voluntary and involuntary muscles—everything is affected. There is an influx of new sensations—the mind fills with hopes, dreams, tempestuous passions, and new ideas. The spirit of independence is germinating, egoism is giving way to altruism, social impulses are becoming dominant, and the reasoning powers are coming into use. The very worst things are liable to happen at this time of greatest of dangers. Ideals are now in the process of formation, and they may be either high or low.
Extent and Character of Reading
An increased interest in reading is characteristic of this period. The first impulse to greater interest in reading comes at the eighth year; it increases steadily to twelve years, and then takes a rapid rise to fourteen, reaching its height at fifteen. An investigation of books used by boys shows that they use books of travel, adventure, and biography; while girls prefer fiction. The thirst at this time must be satisfied and parents and teachers can well afford to spend much time and thought upon the selection of reading material for so important a period. The material selected should present a wholesome phase of life, should be good literature, and should be adapted to the age of development of the children. This leads us to say that the indiscriminate use of a public library is probably an exceedingly dangerous thing. Some responsible person should see that children have access to only the proper kind of books.
During the intermediate period the mind is furnished with a multitude of images, notions, concepts, which are to be used now in interpreting more difficult literature. They got the basis before, the “apperceptive mass” by which they interpret
The longer and more complex literary masterpieces, given as complete selections, should be used now for study. The time has come when much home study and collateral reading may be required and when children may be permitted and encouraged to read along lines in which they are specially interested.