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WRITING FROM DICTATION,
ADAPTED TO THE USE OF CHILDREN IN
WILLIAM EWART, M.A.
CURATE OF PIMPERNE, DORSET.
The practice of teaching children to write upon slates from dictation, is one which will be found advantageous in many respects. It is one of which they become themselves, generally speaking, extremely fond; and forms a pleasant relief from the reading and spelling lessons in which the greater part of the hours spent in school are usually employed.
The lessons contained in this book were originally compiled for a village school of seventy or eighty children; and, having been found to answer the purpose for which they were intended, are now published, in the hope that they may be of use to persons engaged in the work of education. The First Part is adapted to children from five to seven or eight years of age, so soon as they have learned to form the letters, and copy single words and short sentences from the black board. The Second and Third Part will be found useful for those who have made some progress in reading, and can spell words of two or three syllables with ease. The Lessons contained in the Fourth and Fifth Parts may be used for those of ten or eleven years old, who may be supposed to be gaining an elementary knowledge of Geography, English History, and Grammar. The Lessons in the two first parts may be also used as easy exercises in parsing, by the elder children. Those in the Fifth Part may be committed to memory, after having been written out. The great object in view has been, to make the Lessons as simple as possible; and to take care that the information given, without being too far removed from the comprehension of the children, might supply them with something to think of and talk about afterwards at home.
The great difficulty in a school of more than forty or fifty children is, no doubt, the employment of the younger ones while the teacher is engaged with the elder class. The practice of writing from dictation is one in which a large number of the scholars may be quietly and industriously employed, while a lesson is being gone through with one class alone. For this purpose, those in the first class, who may read best, should be employed to dictate in turn to the lower classes, so that they themselves may lose as little as possible of the instruction given in their own part of the school. (1.) The children being seated, the passage they are about to write should be read out to them slowly and distinctly. It should then be read a second time, word by word, very slowly, as it is being written; words of more than one syllable being properly divided. It should then be read over a third time, and a fourth, or fifth if necessary; but no child should be allowed to ask another, “How is that spelled ?" or, “What word comes next to that?" as this only leads to endless disorder and inattention. (2.) The whole lesson having been thus read and written down, the class should stand, and receive instruction in the punctuation of it. (3.) They should then read the whole lesson, sentence by sentence. (4.) The class should then sit in perfect silence, and the teacher, calling the children to him
one by one, should examine and point out the mistakes in each slate, separately. The class should then (5.) stand, and, the slates being put down, be examined in the subjectmatter and spelling of the lesson. To this may be added, in the higher classes, a grammar lesson; and, after a time, the children should be accustomed to insert the stops themselves. It will also be found a useful exercise to have the slates cleaned, and let the children write afresh, from memory, what they retain of the lesson. · It is believed that this exercise will be found of great service in teaching children to spell correctly. It requires closer attention, on their part, than a simple reading lesson does, in which one child reads and the rest listen until their turn arrives. Thus it produces a habit of quiet and close application, as well, or better than can be gained in any other way. The formation of habits of this sort is, in fact, the real object and true gain of education, and not the amount of information given to the learner. The practice here recommended teaches children to pay attention to every letter, syllable, and stop in the lesson; and a child may be shewn what nonsense it has made of a sentence by a trifling omission, when such an omission is pointed out on the slate. Even in good schools, one occasionally hears the Church Catechism said through with the omission of many of the monosyllable words; by which careless habit the children come at last to go through all their lessons in a slovenly and negligent manner. It is in attention to these and other particulars, that real benefit is derived at school; and the care of the teacher shews itself more in this, perhaps, than in any other way.
None of the lessons in this book convey direct religious