« PrejšnjaNaprej »
In the intermediate grades the consciousness of self, which has been surely developing, becomes more or less dominant. Everything tends to be thought in terms of self; and those elements of life that widen the horizon, that show possibilities of new kinds of activity, particularly physical, are extremely attractive. Consequently stories of heroism and adventure appeal strongly, to girls as well as to boys.
Myths and Legends.
This appetite must be satisfied. Unless the school furnishes the literary food that is craved, the children will find it in low and sometimes vicious forms. Inasmuch as the child mind is at this age not complex, it is gratified with the stories of primitive life, myths, legends, and ballads. Particularly suited for use in the intermediate grades are some of the classic myths and the stories of King Arthur and of Robin Hood. To those who object that these are not true, it must be answered that they are really more true than history; for, in more or less primitive minds, they have been continually modified by human interest, until they come to us essentially true, even though treating of beings who never were. It is eternally true that youth, personified in our story by Theseus, when challenged by a difficult task strives and strives to accomplish it, that he has a strong heart to right the wrongs of the world, that he is helped by others because of his high purpose, and the like. And through such stories developing childhood sees ideals that pull it forward continuously into larger and higher spheres of life.
As Preparation for Later Reading More than all this, the stories of gods and heroes must be known early so that they will become a part of the accumulated ideas by means of which the reader interprets other literature. The literature that the children will read during all the remainder of their lives is shot through with references to mythology. Whether these references adorn or dim the web depends almost wholly on this early training. Later in life when confronted by an allusion to Ariadne or Europa, a reader may carefully get from a book the bare facts or even the entire story, but he will surely miss the joy that comes from chancing on an allusion that recalls the time when he reveled on the hills of Helicon or with tensed muscle followed Robin Hood on his adventures. This spontaneous joy contributes as few other things can to the pleasure that the later literature gives. So the study of gods and heroes in the intermediate grades not only gives prompt return; it also stores up riches for the days to come.
The senses, which have been so keen in the elementary grades, will, unless exercised by the teacher, respond in the later years with less exact images when stimulated by literary symbol. This is probably due to the fact that percepts have become more complex, and hence the word "horse," for example, does not any more so promptly or so completely bring before the mind's eye the well-known family servant and friend. The word means more; it appeals to the physical senses less. But whatever the cause of the dimming of sense images, they are necessary in appreciating many passages of literature, and they can be kept active and made richer if they are systematically exercised. A teacher must be interested in developing the intellect of his pupils, of course; but he should keep alive for them also the prompt and complete use of their senses. This is particularly important in the intermediate grades; for if sense images are frequently demanded, there is likely to be set up a habit that will persist in more or less lively fashion all through life.
The chief emphasis in the intermediate grades is to fix good reading habits. That being true, suitable books should be furnished in numbers, and in class the teacher should know how to pass over minutiæ that will not add to the appreciation of the major elements in poem or story. In the story of Theseus,
for instance, there are a number of geography
To know exactly where Troezene was will not add in the least to one's enjoyment of the story, and so it should be passed over without reference to map or history. In the last paragraph but one are a number of names of persons and things that are involved in the later history of Æthra. But for the appreciation of this particular story one does not need to know the details of any of the stories to which reference is made. These stories may be read or studied later with greater interest, perhaps, because of these references; but here they should be passed without study. Sometimes it is undoubtedly necessary for appreciative enjoyment that a reader shall refer to a map or follow up a reference. But that is not always the case.
Having already learned how to get for themselves the thought from the printed page, children often in the intermediate grades read voraciously. If the subject matter is fascinating, this is good, in that it of itself sets up good eye-movements. For the sake of tastes, the literature read should be of acceptable standards. And regarding reading itself, that habits of carelessness shall not be formed, there should be considerable demand for summaries and discussion. A child should go as fast as he pleases —and that, when the matter is interesting, is as fast as he can-provided he is getting the essence of what he goes over. Otherwise it is not reading. To be sure that he does get substance, someone, as a rule parent or teacher must stimulate reproduction in oral or written form, analysis, discussion, or comparison with matter previously read. An ideal to be desired is that readers shall spend less time on the page and more time thinking and talking of what they got from it.
Reading at Home Some oral reading should be regularly continued during the intermediate years. Preferably this should be done under supervision; but as the class period is crowded, the teacher has little time to give to this phase of the work. Here is where the home can help. Perhaps a large majority of parents give some time each day to assisting their children in the preparation of lessons. Not infrequently they hinder more than help the teacher of arithmetic, geography, or nature study. But every parent can help the teacher of oral reading by listening interestedly each day while the child reads aloud to him. The only demand that he needs to make is that the child read in a distinct, pleasant voice so as to give the sense of the passage.
The story taken for illustration in this chapter is the first part of Charles Kingsley's version of “Theseus," and hence should be considered as a mere introductory chapter for the adventures that come later. The entire story, with two similar ones, is found in Kingsley's “The Heroes; or Greek Fairy Tales," of which there are many editions. The