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CHAPTER X Technical Principles of Speech That so little attention is paid to the use of the voice, in either our homes or our schools, is a deplorable deficiency in our education. Our children may speak in piping, shrill, rasping tones, and may go on speaking that way until they reach maturity, and little is said or done about it. A lamentable feature is that there appears to be little likelihood of improvement with the next generation. The young are inheritors of our vocal delinquencies. They learn to pitch and manage their voices largely by imitating their elders and their associates, and we are passing on to them, not only our bad habits, but also our indifference to the value and charm of well modulated speech. Were our children to hear better voices in home and school, the next generation would not incur the censure of cultured people of other nations who value excellent speech more than we do.
Though it may not be possible, under existing conditions in our schools, to carry out any very extended program of voice work, something at least should be done in connection with reading lessons, and possibly with certain classes in English, to help the student to a better knowl. edge of the use of his own voice, and to render him more sensitive to the difference between well-used and badly-used voices.
Training the Voice Whenever practicable, a few minutes should be devoted to vocal and breathing exercises throughout the course, preferably at the beginning of the recitation period. If five or ten minutes are spent on vocal drill in alternate class hours, the interest may be sustained better than when the drills are insisted on at every recitation. The various breathing exercises and vocal drills should be reviewed at frequent intervals. Good use of voice does not depend on a great number of exercises but on a few thoroughly mastered and persistently practiced.
The teacher should take the exercises with the students and should have them so well in mind that no reference to the text is necessary.
Enunciation and Pronunciation
Even though the classroom may afford but a limited opportunity for vocal training, this objection does not hold against practice for the attainment of clear and pleasing enunciation. Every recitation and reading lesson offers occasion for some kind of discipline in careful speech. Instead of the familiar admonition, “ Speak a little louder, please,” the student, whose speech is faulty and indistinct, should have the difficulty and the remedy pointed out to him. If vowels or consonants are inaccurately formed, the aid of a teacher is more valuable than printed directions. Showing the student how the organs of speech are placed for making certain sounds, like I or r, when this instruction is coupled with practice in making the sounds, is usually productive of good results. Habits of correct and distinct speech are acquired only by persistent effort.
III. PROGRAM OF RECITATIONS AND
In offering the following program the author does not assume that it is adapted to all circumstances and conditions. Perhaps few teachers will find strict adherence to the plan here outlined practicable. The time devoted to the subject, the size and character of the class, the teacher's own views and purposes, are all factors in determining the method of conducting the work and the nature and the length of assignments. The program has been prepared in the hope that it may afford suggestions and help the teacher in planning the work of a class in oral reading meeting twice a week throughout the year.
Possibly the program will prove valuable chiefly in showing that lessons in expressive reading and speech may be assigned with as much definiteness as in any other subject and that the Handbook contains plenty of material for
full year's course.
Some assignments may prove to be too long for certain classes. If the assignment is concerned with problems in reading and involves too much work, time may be saved and better preparation insured by apportioning certain problems to different members or sections of the class. Whenever the program does not seem to be suited to a particular case or class, the teacher should follow the needs and best interest of the students, not the program.
Occasional papers in which problems and selections are analyzed, paraphrased, or criticized, and certain principles and chapters are discussed, may be found worth while. Such assignments have been sparingly made in the pro
gram, since the need of them and their character and frequency, will depend largely on the conditions under which the work is carried on.
No mention of conferences has been made for the reason that provision for them is wholly optional with the teacher. But whenever possible, personal conferences with students should be arranged for as frequently as conditions and time permit. Such conferences should be devoted principally to breathing and voice, especially in the early part of the course, and to such problems and exercises in reading aloud as, in the judgment of the teacher, are suited to the needs of the individual and will best serve to strengthen him at his weak points and help him to overcome faults and mannerisms.
Breathing and vocal exercises should also form a part of the class work whenever practicable. Assignments, covering Part III of the Handbook, have been included in the program. Five or ten minutes should be given to vocal exercises in concert, preferably at the beginning of the recitation period of alternate meetings.
Principles involved in the assignment of problems in the program are referred to by sections.
Introduction 1. Recitation: The instructor explains briefly the nature
and purpose of the work. An interesting narrative, not too difficult for sight reading, may be provided for reading aloud, each student being called on to read twenty lines or more at sight. Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow (pp. 2329) affords good material for such exercise. If preferred, the instructor may occupy the hour in reading to the class.
Assignment: Study the Introduction (pp. 1-11) and write a brief synopsis of it to be handed in at the next meeting. Prepare one or two minute talks on some topic relating to oral expression suggested by the Introduction.
2. Recitation: Brief talks on Introduction, followed by general discussion. Continue sight reading.
Assignment: Twenty-five or thirty lines, selected by the student from a favorite story, to be read aloud before the class, the reading to be preceded by a brief account of the author, the story, and such explanation as may be necessary to make the reading clear and interesting. See sections 2, 3
(pp. 16-17). 3. Recitation : Readings with introductory comments. Students should stand before the class for this work.
Assignment: Study Chapter I (pp. 15-23) and be prepared to discuss in brief talks any of the sections of the chapter. Bring sentences illustrating change in meaning brought about by change in the manner of speaking sentences (section 1, pp. 15-16). Also bring sentences showing how the intended meaning may be perverted by wrong utter. ance (section 4, pp. 18-21).
Chapter 1 4. Recitation : Brief talks on Chapter I, and general discus
sion. Read sentences illustrating effect of utterance on their meaning.
Assignment : Certain members of class to prepare short talks on topics relating to life and work of Irving : e.g. (1) an account of his life; (2) the time in which he lived ; (3) his interests ; (4) his publications; (5) a personal de scription of him. Members to whom no topics are assigned prepare orally the adaptation of the Legend of Sleepy Hol
low (pp. 23-29) for class reading. 5. Recitation : Talks on Irving. Reading from the Legend.
In the reading the student may assume that the story is his own and that he is telling it to a group of friends.
Assignment : Review sections 3, 4, 5, 6 (pp. 17-23) and apply the suggestions to the further oral study of the Legend. (Preparation should be so thorough as to enable the students to read the lines with conversational naturalness and directness and with eyes frequently lifted from the book.) Study Chapter X, sections 42, 43 (pp. 281-85) and write a brief summary of it to hand in.