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School Books, at the present day, are multiplied to such an extent, that it seems incumbent on the compiler of a new one to show clearly his reasons for adding to the number. The following work has consumed much time, and required no little labor: the compiler, therefore, in exhibiting what he considers its peculiar advantages, is, at the same time, discharging a duty to himself and to the public.
A leading object of this work is to enable the scholar, while learning to read, to understand, at the same time, the meaning of the words he is reading. A little reflection will show, that when these processes are going on at once, they will mutually assist each other; if, for example, when the pupil is taught to read, he is enabled, at the same time, to discover the meaning of the words he repeats, he will readily make use of the proper inflections, and place the emphasis where the sense demands it. The monotonous, sing-song mode of reading, which is common in sehools, and which is often retained in after-life, is acquired from the exercise of reading what is not understood; and, from the same cause, it is believed, the scholar often carries from the school a permanent disrelish for books. That disgust, with which he frequently throws aside his books, at the close of his school, is to be attributed, very much, to his habit of reading lessons above his comprehension.
The bad effects resulting from this practice have led teachers to adopt one of the only two modes, which have, as yet, been invented for avoiding them. They either place in the hands of their pupils books reduced to the level of their capacities; or, if the compositions are more elevated, direct them to seek definitions from the pages of a common dictionary,
The design of the present volume is to unite the advantages of both these plans. The difficult words are rendered intelligible by the definitions; and by learning the definitions, the minds of the scholars are exercised, and their knowledge of language increased.
The common mode of teaching the definitions of words is also very objectionable; the pupil is obliged to commit to memory the definitions of a certain number of insulated and unconnected words, in 3 ą dictionary; this is a mere exertion of the memory, and that it is a tedious, and often a most fruitless labor, both teachers and pupils will, we believe, concur in admitting. The difficulty grows out of the fact, that, by this exercise, the association of ideas is not called in to the assistance of the memory: and, when the pupil strives to recover the evanescent idea, there are no associated circumstances-no train of ideas, on which he can rely for assistance.,
The plan of the present work relieves the scholar from this difficulty. It presents the word to be defined in connexion with others, and supplies a train of ideas, with which the word itself may be associated. For example, let us suppose, that our pupil meets the original word with its definition in any of the interesting extracts which follow; will not that definition be retained in his memory a longer time than if he had acquired it from a dictionary? In the latter case, the pupil has only the appearance and the sound of the word to aid his memory; and if these do not recall the lost idea, it is gone forever; in the former, the memory derives assistance not only from the sound and shape of the word, but from the interesting circumstances of the story occurring to his recollection, and from the definition, supplied by recalling the idea, which the original word represented.
In regard to orthography, the compiler would observe, that the plan of spelling from the reading lessons brings before the mind of the learner many derivatives, and inflections of words, which are no found in the dictionary,-besides, it occurs to him, as he thinks it must to every instructer of youth, that, when a child is taught to spell words without knowing their meaning, it is a dry and laborious task; one which affords to the scholar neither pleasure nor mental improvement, and which requires to be often repeated without perceptible benefit. If, when the pupil is taught to spell a particular word, he is taught to pronounce, read, define, vary its meaning, trace it to its root, or follow out its derivatives, as the case may be, it would seem, that he must retain a clearer idea of its orthography than when he has repeated it by rote from the columns of a spelling book or dictionary.
In some cases, perfectly easy words are transferred to the right hand page, not with a view to be defined merely, but to be connected with synonymes of difficult explanation ; so that the plain words may act as interpreters, and furnish to the pupil a more extended acquaintance with language : in other cases, a word has been defined by a number of words nearly synonymous,
in order that the scholar may exercise his judgment. in making the selection, and thus cultivate a habit of discriminating between different shades of thought.
A large number of words have been marked to be varied, or thrown into sentences, in which they shall exhibit a variety of significations. This exercise will illustrate the importance of attention to the situation of words, and to the various thoughts, or shades of thought, which the same word may be made to convey.
It is also intended, that the mind of the pupil shall be frequently turned to the etymology of the language—not only as being in itself a profitable and interesting exercise, but as enabling the scholar to arrive at the derivations and compositions of words, which are not found in the dictionaries.
Walker's pronunciation has been adopted, as it is now the generally received standard ;—and his mode of teaching it has been followed, from a belief, arising from the compiler's own experience, that it is more simple, and that it leaves more permanent impressions, than the later systems.
But to place the subject in a clearer light, we will give an instance combining the several advantages, which we conceive to belong to the plan we have delineated. Let us take the phrase,
“ The converse of friends."
In the first place, the word converse' may be pronounced both as a noun and a verb; kon'verse, kon-verse'.
In the next place, it may be defined by communion,''social intercourse,' 'familiarity,' &c. and thus, ever after, the meaning of these words will be associated together. Again-it may be varied as a verb, * to commune with,'' to talk;' and, as a noun, that which is directly con
trary.' After this examination, he will very easily spell it; and, lastly, he may be required to enumerate its derivatives, as-conversableness, conversable, conversably, conversation, conversant, conversative, conversion, conversive, conversely.
From such a varied process, the scholar will derive much pleasure ; he will settle in his mind the exact meaning of the word—his stock of language will be enlarged, and the range of his ideas extended. In short, by making a complete analysis of a sentence on this plan, he will have gone through a process, which has brought into exercise nearly all the faculties of his mind; and to bring out, in their proportion, the powers of the young scholar—to lead him to think, and to investigate every thing that meets his notice-ought to be the great end of every branch of instruction.
It was observed in the Preface to the first edition of this work, that, “ should the plan of this work be favorably received by the public, it will probably be followed by another volume, in which the design will be so far extended as to embrace the explanation of phrases and figurative language.” The compiler has occasion gratefully to acknowledge the favorable reception of this work; he has, therefore, been encouraged to commence the contemplated volume, which will shortly be published.
See the 20th
page. “At this, George fell into a profound silence, while his *pensive looks showed that his *youthful soul was *laboring with some *idea never *felt before."
As the two words idea and showed would be liable to be pronounced incorrectly, their pronunciation is given on the right hand page.
1st. Let the scholar PRONOUNCE all the words, to which the pronunciation is given, distinctly and slowly, even to a fault.
It will be found an interesting and profitable exercise for the whole class to pronounce each word, simultaneously, after the teacher or monitor. 2d. READ the left hand page in the usual manner, without
any regard to the right hand page. This the scholar will be able to do without any hesitation, having previously pronounced the most difficult words. 3d. DEFINE, in the following manner ; Teacher. George fell into a *profound silence, Scholar. George fell into a deep silence, Teacher. While his "pensive looks showed,
Scholar. While his thoughtful looks showed, &c. Or, for the sake of despatch, the scholar may read the text (i. e. the left hand page) independently of the teacher, using the definitions instead of the words which have the star before them, as in the following example:
At this, George fell into a deep silence, while his thoughtful looks showed, &c.
4th. - SPELL the words, which, on the right hand page, have the point before them.
In pronouncing words for the scholar to spell, it is recommended to the teacher previously to read the phrase containing the word ; for example, the possessive,“ body's," on pp. 14 and 15, being pronounced alone, might be mistaken for the plural, bodies ; but if the phrase, any body's name," be given, the scholar will readily perceive his mistake. 6th attend to ETYMOLOGY in the following manner :
" Thoughtful" is a derivative word, and is derived from think. Some of its other derivatives are thinking, thinkest, thinker, thought, thoughtful, thoughtfulness, thoughtless, thoughtlessly, thoughtlessness, &c.
6th. - VARY the words which have this mark [-] before them. Thus, the word “ felt ;"
To felt is to make cloth of wool without weaving.
Howard felt for the miseries of others. The first four exercises, Pronouncing, Reading, Defining, and Spelling, may be attended to by all scholars who make use of the book.
The last two, Derivation and Variation, are designed only for pupils more advanced.