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quick, bonnet, pillage, commander. How the meaning of these words should be taught the children depends on so many varying elements that it would be futile to give any definite directions which should be followed by all. An actual “highland bonnet” might be shown the children in connection with some story of the Scotch, a picture of one might be found in dictionary or history; but inasmuch as historical accuracy is not here required and by way of preparation for a later part of the lesson, the children might be set to making during the construction period “highland bonnets” or even cocked hats of paper. With this as with the other words and phrases, any device that will result in an interested acquiring of the new knowledge is legitimate. The phrase “Peter leads the rear,” which no child is likely to appreciate at first, might well be left for the class to puzzle out for themselves during the reading: a pleasant sense of power follows such a mastery.
The more the children know of Scotch valor, of “Grenadiers,” of brave deeds, and the like, the more quickly, of course, they will understand the poem and the more fully they will enjoy it when it is presented. Words and allusions may be explained and an appropriate atmosphere created at the same time by stories, songs, pictures, or marching games. And these last will also create or revivify the experience that the poem presents. All the preparation, it may be said, is done without, as a rule, the children's knowing what it is for. If the teacher can not make it interesting and worth while of and for itself, she may, of course, frankly motivate it as preparation for a later reading lesson.
The younger the children the more help they will need before understanding the new and hard words. Not only must the teacher by various devices explain these words; she must also create occasions for the children to use them. This she may do chiefly through the use of pictures, games, and stories.
The wisest preparation for the teaching of a poem may begin days or even weeks ahead; it may be made during the period devoted to some other study or even casually during conversation. The point is that the more fully a reader understands words, the more quickly and fully will he acquire the thought and feeling expressed by them.
Following are some questions asked by one teacher by way of immediate preparation; the hard words had been taken care of in a previous lesson. These questions are given not as ideal; the same teacher would probably ask different ones with a different class at another time: but they may prove suggestive.
“Do you ever play marching? Do you like to? Show me how you march when you play soldier. (This to develop “Feet in time, alert and hearty.”)
“What did the soldiers wear? Suppose we wear those paper hats we made yesterday. What else did they have? What could we use for a banner? What for our music!
“All right. Now, let's march. Where are you going? What for? Ready: March! Now, Doublequick!
“What do soldiers fight for? (Develop here, “fame and pillage.”) After soldiers get them, what do they do? Play that you have fame and pillage; now what shall we do? Well, let's go home again."
The presentation was not made until the next day. Then the teacher herself read “in a most martial manner” Stevenson's poem, and as each phrase that had been used by the teacher the day before was read the children greeted it with smiles of recognition. With young children a poem should usually be presented by the teacher. In the first place she can by reading or recitation, preferably the latter, set a standard for the reading by the class. She can give correct pronunciations, the proper tempo or movement, and a better conception of the sense.
Relating to the Children's Selves
Much of the relating of the poem to the children's selves was done in the preparation for the “Marching Song." After the presentation the teacher asked: “Is this what you did yesterday? How did you like it? As I read the poem, did you imagine yourself one of the marchers? Who was the great commander? Who brought the comb and played upon it! ?
Who beat the drum? Who carried the banner? Who led the rear? Who cocked the highland bonnets? How many soldiers must there be in this play? If there are more, what may they be?”
There is little enjoyment of literature by young or old unless they feel themselves related in some way to it. With small children this relating must usually be of the most direct kind: they are the actors in the drama, or they have been, or they wish to be
The more the Ego is involved, the more enjoyment there will be. The most appreciative reader of “The Land of counterpane” imagines himself lying propped in bed playing with his leaden soldiers and ships and houses. It is interesting to turn through a collection of popular children's verse and note the frequent recurrence of the first person pronoun. Practically every poem in Stevenson's “Child's Garden of Verses” frankly centers about the Ego of the reader. A half-dozen of the better known ones begin
"In winter I get up at night."
When my mamma puts out the light.” “Up into the cherry tree
Who should elimb but little me?" “When I am grown to man's estate.” "I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me.”
The connotation, too, has been partly taken care of by the preparation; in the recitation it must be developed as much further as the teacher thinks wise.
The importance of connotation in literature has been emphasized sufficiently, perhaps, in the preceding chapter. Unless the words of the “Marching Song” connote a great deal more than they actually say, they are merely an historical account of what some children once did. For the further connotation the teacher may use stories, references to previously acquired knowledge or experience of the children, pictures, action, imitative or original, and the spirited tone of the poem. Any device that extends the meaning of the words toward a fuller appreciation of the poem is legitimate.
The surest preparation on the part of the teacher for awakening the fulness of meaning, the connotation, of a poem, is for herself to become thoroughly appreciative of it. Any primary teacher should retain enough of childhood to enter joyously into the swinging spirit of the “Marching Song”; other poems, however, may make greater demands. Stevenson's "Rain,” “Foreign Lands,” and “Windy Nights," for instance, are so delicately expressive of the child spirit that many an “Olympian” never passes into the kingdom of appreciation. To do this she must surrender herself wholly to the imaginative spirit of the poems; she must allow herself to be taken back-rather than go back-to the golden age of childhood. She must feel child-like, not childish. Unless she can enter thus into the heart of the poem, she would better lay it aside and prepare something else to present to the class. She is intended to be a help, not an obstacle, to them.