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they become familiar, and focus it on the thought. In the whole conduct of the reading lesson, and in the directions for its preparation, let the teacher have this question, as a guide, constantly before her: Where am I directing the pupil's thought primarily?”
If the assignment is short and of a kind familiar to the children, it may be given orally; but if it is at all long or of a new form, let it by all means be written. It is demoralizing to teacher and class alike when there is misunderstanding as to what the assignment was. If the assignment is written on the board, preferably before the class begins, it may be copied by pupils during the study period. But it is economical of time and far better in every way for the teacher to own a mimeograph of some kind and give each child a correct copy of the assignment.
Spelling and Reading As the assignment in reading frequently involves familiarizing the pupil with the difficult words of the lesson, it cannot be discussed in detail without showing certain important relations existing between spelling and reading. This relation may be thought of in two ways; viz., spelling as an aid to reading, and reading as an aid to spelling. In either case, spelling should begin at the time or soon after the child enters upon the study of reading selections as wholes. In reading, spelling is not concerned with differentiating letters, but with seeing words as wholes, recognizing and writing them as such. But this involves, of course, clear perception of the details of forms, whether as letters or merely as marks.
Should spelling be viewed as an aid to word recognition, which, with many, is thought to be the preferable view, the words selected for study should be those which will occur in some future reading lesson. They should be spelled and used orally in sentences similar to the ones used in the reading lesson, and then written and rewritten from memory. In this way, spelling assists in clearing the path of difficult words in reading.
Should reading be thought of as an aid to spelling, a view with which we are not here deeply concerned, the difficult words that have been developed in the reading lesson should be written in simple sentences and special attention given to the spelling. In this case, reading prepares the way for spelling.
It remains to be said that the spelling of all difficult words in reading need not be taught. For many words will be met in the reading lesson which are never in the written or spoken vocabulary of the child. Only such words should be chosen for serious study as will be used by the child in his daily life. Of course all words will be understood, but a careful study of the more difficult ones is hardly desirable unless they are necessary to some future language or reading work.
Time of the Assignment The question of how much time shall be devoted to the assignment sometimes arises. The answer
is, Just enough to make it clear and definite, to remove the obscurities and certain difficulties, and to create enough interest to insure further study. Sometimes this can be done in a few minutes; at other times it will require a whole recitation period. Neither the time element nor how much the teacher says is so important as the suggestiveness of what he says and does. The assignment is the place for raising problems for the children to solve and for creating an interest in those problems. Haste and slovenliness are always to be avoided as being destructive to energetic effort on the part of the pupils.
Another question which sometimes arises is, When shall the assignment be made? There is no rule which can be established to govern the time for making the assignment. Sometimes it should be at the opening of the recitation; at other times it must of necessity be at the close. In either case, ample time should be given it. Individual assignments, however, such as telling a pupil that he will be held responsible for the pronunciation, meaning, or spelling of some word at the next recitation, may be made in the midst of the recitation; indeed that is the most appropriate and effective time to make them.
The Importance of the Assignment The importance of the assignment can scarcely. be overestimated. Teachers need to appreciate the necessity of exercising as great care and skill in it as in the recitation proper. They must see that they select the phase of the material that is suited to the ability of the children, that they correlate it with the old, and that by the nature of the assignment they make it inviting. To send children away from class day after day with nothing but text-book assignment leads to verbalizing of the worst sort. When they return to class they naturally recite the text and do precious little thinking. However diligent they may be in preparation or eager in recitation, it is a case of false industry.
If, on the other hand, the teacher constantly strives to awaken the maximum amount of mental effort in all the children in their seat work, as well as in the recitation, there cannot fail to be permanent profit. Then and only then will the pupils return to the class with a feeling that they are masters of the lesson, with the spirit of a returned explorer, anxious for a test which will establish the truths they have so earnestly sought. The high water mark of teaching is realized when the teacher so handles the subject in class that each pupil gives his undivided attention and delighted participation every minute, and when he is so skilful in making his assignment that each pupil is caught up by the enthusiasm of investigation and, in his own small way, becomes a real scholar in his attitude toward his problems. We must acknowledge that this ideal can never be fuily realized, but it is always worth striving for.
Ås has been shown earlier in the book, dramatic presentation of the reading material in the primary grades is in many ways exceedingly helpful. Strangely enough, teachers often, after that point, stifle the dramatic instinct of children until the high school undertakes to present a “sure enough" play at the opera house. No wonder that often becomes drudgery!
It has seemed wise, however, in many schools to continue the dramatic element of the reading lesson, somewhat modified perhaps, straight through the grades. In cases where this is done, there is a unanimous and enthusiastic opinion that it is well worth while. It has also been undertaken with profit in the upper grades of schools where no dramatic work at all, or practically none, had preceded. In this latter case, however, it has to be initiated very carefully, or the already too self-conscious upper-grade child will flatly rebel at what he considers foolishness.
The Simplest Form It is hardly worth while, unless the speeches are exceedingly short, for any memorizing to be done.