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I. GENERAL SUGGESTIONS
EXERCISES IN EXTEMPORANEOUS AND IMPROMPTU
EXTEMPORANEOUS and impromptu speaking will add much to the interest and effectiveness of a course in oral reading and, whenever practicable, it should be introduced as a part of the regular work. Occasional short talks will provide a pleasant change from the regular reading lesson; they will give the student the ability to think on his feet without thinking too much about them, and they will help him to relate himself easily and directly to others. “Conversation,” said Emerson, “is the laboratory and work-shop of the student. The affection and sympathy help. The wish to speak to another mind assists to clear your own. Every time we say a thing in conversation we get a mechanical advantage in detaching it well.”
The talks may be on subjects relating to the text assignments, such, for example, as those suggested in lessons of the program, or on topics of local or general public con. cern, or they may be drawn from the student's own experience. Whatever the subject, it should be one in which the student's interest is keen and fresh.
So far as possible, the principles of the chapter under discussion, or last assigned, should be observed in the speeches. Thus, the first round of talks mentioned in the program, and relating to Irving and his work, may be criticized principally for clearness of thought and expression, the second round, for principles of grouping, the third for conversational variety and directness, and so on.
Outlines of extemporaneous speeches should be carefully prepared and handed in for criticism in matters of clear. ness and logical arrangement. These should be returned with suggestions for needed improvement or revision. Students should become thoroughly familiar with the revised outline, should follow it in speaking, and should speak without notes.
To write out a speech in full often helps the student to clarify his thought and to acquire a vocabulary suited to the subject, but speeches so written out should not be memorized. The student should have practice in choosing his words when standing before others. The style of speech may not be altogether elegant or smooth, but at least it will have the virtues, - which memorized speeches rarely have, - of directness, naturalness, and spontaneity.
Occasionally, at the beginning of the recitation period, the teacher may announce some subject for general impromptu discussion. The subject should be simple, of course, and one with which all members of the class are familiar. Topics relating to student affairs or to events of current local interest afford good material for such impromptu speeches.
Subjects for impromptu talks may be assigned now and then to individual students. These topics should be written on cards or slips of paper of uniform size and placed on a desk or table in front of the class. Each member of the class, when called, may draw a slip and speak for a minute or two on the subject drawn. This is a profitable exercise and never fails to arouse interest.
In the study of oral expression it should be remembered that extemporaneous speaking and reading aloud involve the same mental processes. When reading aloud is tedious and dull, a comparison between the style of speech in direct conversation and that which obtains in the reading, will result in material improvement in the reading, provided the difference in the two styles is recognized as being the result of difference in directness and clearness of thinking. Any advantage gained in expressing one's own thought is gained for expressing the thought of the printed page when that thought is made one's own.
Notes on Problems The problems in this Handbook should not be considered merely as illustrations of certain technical principles, but as means by which certain principles of expressive speech become evident when thought is clear and its significance is strongly felt. Accuracy of thought analysis of the problems will be apparent in the vocal analysis shown in the reading. The problems should not be treated as exercises for mere mechanical expertness.
Each set of problems should be studied not alone as illustrations of the principles of the particular chapter they stand under, but also as exercises in the principles of all chapters previously studied. Thus, the adequate rendering of problems in rhythm involves, as well, correct grouping, emphasis, and significant pitch variation.
The Meaning of Preparation All illustrations and problems are to be prepared orally. Students should understand at the outset that preparation means thorough analysis of the thought of every phrase and line and such vocal preparation of every passage as shall enable the reader to render its meaning and spirit accu. rately and truthfully. Every assignment involves definite problems in thought and speech, and not until these problems are understood and mastered is the lesson prepared. Cursory, slip-shod reading, reading done with the mouth open and the mind shut,” should not be allowed to pass unchallenged.