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2. Significant facts in her career.
. 3. Her position among novelists.
4. Her best known novels. Note.—At the bottom of every one of her stories there is a problem of the conscience or the intellect. Here the problem is of the former class. II. Theme Subjects.
1. The Novel : Its evolution. 2. Representative Writers of the Victorian Era. 3. Dolly Winthrop, a Character-Sketch. 4. The Glorious Wartime. 5. Important Historical Events of George Eliot's Era. 6. Weaving vs. Farming. 7. Silas Marner's Early Life. 8. A Glance through the Window of the Stone Cottage. 9. A Day in Raveloe or Christmas in Raveloe. 10. Dunstan's Story. II. Lessons Learned from Silas Marner. 12. The Stone Cottage: Two Aspects. 13. An Evening at Rainbow Inn. 14. Aaron. 15. The Problem and Moral of the Novel.
Individual Work in Composition
MARGARET ALTON, TROY, N. Y.
HERE are probably few subjects more difficult to teach successfully than the composition part of first-year English in the high school. Girls and boys come to this work with practically no power
of original thought, with small conception of why we should divide our thought expression into paragraphs and sentences, with no understanding of why we do not say everything in exactly the same way, and, above all, with the vaguest idea possible of why they are to study the subject at all. To do away with this apathetic mental condition, to rouse the mind to activity is not easy, but must it not be done if the work is to be of value?
How is this to be done? In other words, how are we to succeed in teaching English composition ? Commonly our practice would seem to say: Give out a subject for an essay, limiting the number of words; look over the work handed in, marking every error; require the first draft to be corrected ; if it is not right this time, cause it to be rewritten again. But we must agree, those of us who follow this practice, that poor, careless, thoughtless use of pencil and paper results, -we are requiring our students to waste time and material.
More and more, in my own experience, I am compelled to look at classes not as a whole, but as made up of individuals,each with peculiar gifts and peculiar problems to be solved. And I believe that we shall succeed in making our first-year students thinkers and writers of clear, interesting sentences and paragraphs in so far as we know our girls and boys individually,-know their failings, know their excellencies. We do not find these out, usually, because we try to make every single person say exactly the same thing on exactly the same subject, and then we ask that every error made be corrected at once.
However, the " discovery” method is easy and pleasant and satisfactory. An essay or two at the beginning of the term, written, under no restrictions or limitations, on a subject chosen at will from a full list of well-considered subjects, will be of great value to the teacher. How? Each student will choose something that he is interested in; he will write himself into his essay,-his way of thinking, his limitations, his understanding of words, his use of sentences, etc. ; every common deficiency, every excellence, will appear. When these pages are read it is as if a mirror were held up before the minds of this new class; one may read clearly what is there, and may discover what needs to be put there. During the reading, notes like the following, placed under the proper student's name in a note book, will be of the greatest value: A writes fluently, expresses himself often with too many words, avoids commas and even periods at times in his effort to make words keep pace with thoughts; B uses fair punctuation, never misses a period, and seems to understand or feel where a sentence naturally ends—his sentences, however, are simple and monotonous, the value of connectives being almost an unknown quantity ; C's sentences are varied in form and pleasant to read,-his thoughts seem to come slowly or else he is afraid to express himself. And so on throughout the class. The note book forms the basis for further work and judgment.
After this first attempt at an essay the object of all writing must be, it seems to me, to focus all effort on one excellence and one error at a time, until the student himself begins to examine his own work critically and to know just what he must guard against. Very short themes are necessary at first. Time must be spent in thought and in careful scanning of expression, not in multiplying words. If the writing is all done in the class-room, the teacher can, by passing from desk to desk, induce this careful expression by calling personal attention to such points as transition from clause to clause or from sentence to sentence, the value of a long sentence as compared with that of several shorter ones, the use
of commas, etc. The whole object of the work in the first year will be to open the eyes of the boys and girls, first to their weakness, and second to the way to make strength come through weakness. There are many ways of making this awakening a pleas
Perhaps the class is reading Irving's Sketch Book. A student, not being satisfied with some sentence in his paragraph, asks the teacher for a suggestion. Knowing well where Irving is particularly good and simple in his sentence structure, the teacher may direct the student to a certain paragraph where he will find a variety of forms from which one may be selected. This is particularly helpful when one is working for easy transition or for a list of clause positions. After having been directed in this way and having found just what he wants, the student falls naturally into that best of habits in English study,—the looking to our good writers for guidance.
One will readily understand that this individual critical work will be aided and strengthened by class exercises in unity, variety, emphasis and transition. Anything that will strengthen the power of recognizing what is good, and making companions of several good things in order to choose the best, is valuable work.
One other suggestion may be made here. The reading aloud to one's self of what one has written helps greatly in gaining a critical mind. The voice seems to bring out little deficiencies that would otherwise escape us. Shall we allow this in class time? Certainly, if the class is in earnest. One who is trying to advance will be very careful of how he hinders others, and if he uses his voice while others are working, he will speak softly; the others, knowing what he is doing, will not be interrupted in the least. Only get students working for and interested in their own advancement, and silence or speech in class will regulate itself.
\HE Great West has been many times written about by Eastern
people who have visited it. And much that lies beyond the Mississippi is still an unknown West to many who write. A month on the Pacific Coast, among teachers and in schools, will reveal a good many interesting facts; interesting in part, because surprising, and not less because of their significance.
Primarily, this section has had a generous constitutional and statutory recognition of free, superior and public schooling put into her several systems. As systems there are few better specimens of school legislation than may be found upon the Pacific Coast. Their houses are superior in both construction and appearance. Many of these have ample and choice equipments. Two normal schools visited are exceptional in this latter respect, among American normal schools. One state association has been attended by the writer, having 1,500 members present. Many–a surprisingly large per cent—of the teachers throughout the section, are college graduates. A larger proportion yet have had professional training. They constitute here a picked class. In the training of one corps of nearly two hundred teachers, thirty states were represented, and twice as many institutions. They are a vigorous body, alert, progressive, far better acquainted with what is going on in the older East than is the East with them and their work. In many respects one of the best equipped normal schools I know is a thousand miles west of the Mississippi. There is a sensible training, an excellent course, and a well-prepared body of young men and women.
Washington has an admirable state system, one that provides in a sensible way for all schools, but particularly for the weaker ones. Some of the older states might well profit by her example. Under the influence of this encouragement, high schools are rapidly springing up in all of the smaller cities and towns, and are being extended and equipped where they have before existed. Laboratories and libraries are growing. There is coming to be a closer articulation with the colleges and universities. These have given secondary education a sensible encouragement. Washington has now more than thirty high schools affiliated with its state university.
There is no need to write of education on the far Western coast in any apologetic terms. The interests of these states are identical with those of the older sections in all important respects. They are work