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OUTLINE COURSE OF STUDY IN HISTORY.
AS USED IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS, PENTWATER, MICH.
BY STUART MAC KIBBIN, SUPERINTENDENT.
HE Pentwater School is organized in three departments: Primary, first four grades or years; Grammar, second four grades; and High School, or last three grades. The grades are numbered consecutively from lowest, No. 1, to highest. Five and one-half, the average year of entering school, added to the number of the grade will give about the average age of any grade.
History is taught in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and eleventh grades, and an optional course in English History is offered in the tenth grade. As soon as the high school is developed sufficiently for a four years' course, optional courses in Greek and Roman History will be offered in the tenth, English History in the eleventh, and the present eleventh grade course will be required in the new twelfth grade.
The sixth grade studies United States History, reciting twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday; length of recitation, thirty-five minutes; seventy minutes per week, out of a total recitation time of eight hundred thirty-five minutes; a total of seventy-eight recitations during the year.
The course is a study of the biographies of prominent Americans. Such biographies are chosen, in such order, and such matter presented as to give as complete an elementary view of National History as possible. The scholars learn about men of whom many have heard, when they lived, what they did, also some of the more important events and their dates.
The average child has no innate dislike for History. The method of teaching, and the subject matter usually taught, wholly unsuited to his mental development, creates an artificial dislike for the study. The child, from the time he first is able to understand discourse, delights in stories; but no story is interesting unless centered around an acting person, the hero or victim of the
narrative. At first the emotion of sympathy is easiest aroused, later, the child admires acts of personal achievement and success, and cannot read or hear enough of the deeds of adventurers, explorers, and soldiers. The reading of trash is in obedience to this law of childhood; a law the writers of juvenile literature and educators of childhood largely disregard.
It is intended in this grade to take advantage of this law. Incidents and facts, historically of no value, but of interest to a child, are read or related in the class. The lives of most of the actors in our Colonial History are made up of adventures and exploits, and may be made as interesting to a boy as an "Indian Story," and much history be taught at the same time. stories related in the History class, but the Language class for reproduction are largely concerning the characters studied.
Not only are these stories read in the
This year the following are the principal biographies studied: Columbus, De Soto, Cortez, Pere Marquette, who was buried but twelve miles from Pentwater, Hudson, The Cabots, Capt. John Smith, Miles Standish, including some account of the Puritans, King Philip, Roger Williams, John Harvard and the schools of Massachusetts, Lord Baltimore, Penn, Mather and the Salem Witchcraft, Putnam, including the wolf story, Washington, including French and Indian war and Revolution, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, Benedict Arnold, Hamilton, Boone, Lafayette, Jefferson, Fulton, Harrison, Jackson, with two latter war of 1812, Clay, Webster, John Quincy Adams, Calhoun, Scott and Mexican war, Jefferson Davis, Lincoln, not excepting almanac story, Grant, W. T. Sherman, Sheridan, Lewis Cass, General Custer, and Zach. Chandler, the last three being Michigan men. Others are introduced as circumstances may require. Also names of the Presidents and year of inauguration is learned. Probably objection will be made to the above list because it contains no names of literary men. Experience has proven that however proper it may be theoretically to teach of such men, it is useless, in a majority of instances, to try to do so. There is nothing in such a biography to interest a sixth grade scholar.
The superintendent furnishes the teacher a schedule of the biographies to be studied, the number of recitations to be given about each, varying with the importance of the person, and the points to be emphasized in each lesson. The teacher then writes
a short biography of the person, in plain, simple language. Monday and Wednesday the next day's lesson is dictated to the class. If more than one day is to be given to a biography, only the part to be recited the next lesson is to be dictated. At first this sketch was written on the blackboard and copied by the scholars, but the dictation method is believed to be preferable, because of the language exercise it affords. The teacher, when the dictation is completed, reads the exercise over with the class, explaining and illustrating and making sure that what has been dictated is understood. The lesson is then copied with pen and ink and preserved; the teacher taking pains to see that it is written correctly. This dictation is usually committed to memory. The next day at recitation the teacher sends a part of the class to the board to write sketches in review, or to draw maps, a part write on their slates. Individual scholars are called on to recite the day's lesson, and are thoroughly questioned to make sure they understand. Questions are asked which require thinking to answer, and very often such questions are left over till the next recitation. The class recites the lesson in concert. The teacher then, by questioning, leads the class to see what in the lesson is important and should be remembered if everything else is forgotten. This summary is written in the notebooks at the close of each biography and used for review. By this exercise the scholars are taught to summarize what they read, and the discipline proves valuable in other studies, notably geography. By the end of the year, very many of the scholars are able to summarize without assistance, and commit only a summary giving the biography in their own language.
The teacher also gives a part of each recitation to such miscellaneous work as she may judge of interest, descriptions of old manners, arms and costumes, modes of travel, customs, places, etc. Whenever necessary, maps are drawn; at first these are drawn on the blackboard by the teacher and copied by the pupil; later, the pupils draw their own maps in outline, the route or whatever it may be intended to illustrate being filled in from dictation. The instruction in geography is based on map drawing. Written examinations are held in history the same as the other studies of the grade.
The seventh grade recites in United States History, Monday and Wednesday, alternating with the sixth grade. Events or
periods are studied, and individuals are considered only as actors in these events, it being assumed that the scholars know who these individuals are, but there is considerable brushing up of biographical knowledge by means of sixth grade summaries. Such topics as, The Discovery of America, Conquest of Mexico, Settlement of each Colony, and History of Massachusetts, and Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York, Canada, the Colonial wars and Revolution, by campaigns as parts of a whole, are treated in this grade in the same manner as biographies in the sixth grade.
These two grades are seated in the same room and recite to the same history teacher. The time of recitation, Friday, is wholly under the control of the teacher, and the use to which it is put is determined wholly by circumstances; the work of the two grades is kept as nearly parallel, and a very profitable exercise for both grades is a review of biographies by summaries.
In connection with geography this grade receives some incidental historical teaching. Seven of the ten months of the year are given to a study of the geography of the state and United States, the states being studied in detail. In connection with each state, mention is made of a few of the noted men of that state, and attention is called to places of historical note.
In the language classes much attention is given to the reproduction of stories read by the class as an exercise in composition. An average of one exercise a week is given in the reproduction of some historical narrative.
The reading classes can also be made auxiliary to this history work, and still fulfil their function as reading classes, but this course is not yet fully developed. It is expected that by next year at least a third of the reading will be auxiliary to history.
The eighth grade studies United States History, recites daily throughout the year, and uses a textbook. The method of instruction combines a study both of biography and events. Lessons are assigned according to circumstances, sometimes by pages in the textbook, sometimes by general subjects or topics which the teacher outlines for the scholars, or they outline under her guidance, sometimes, though rarely, a topic is given and the scholars allowed to study it without guidance; this is done more for discipline in study than results in recitation. The grade also studies
English composition, Chittenden's Manual being used. The work is found to be a great aid to the history.
The first few weeks more attention is given to teaching the scholars how to study history from books than to studying it. The lessons are read over carefully by teacher and scholars, they reproducing, orally and written, and summarized for memorizing; these summaries being preserved, the scholars are gradually left to make their own summaries. A number of school histories, other than those used in the class are on the teacher's desk, with atlases and what miscellaneous works can be collected, and the scholars are encouraged to use them. They are given references to the books, not turned loose, and are expected to look up these references and recite on them. Occasionally matter is dictated to the class by the teacher. They are also taught how to use an index and look up information when no references are given. This reference work is of especial value in the study of biography, the scholars being required to write biographical sketches from material drawn from several sources. Maps are drawn to illustrate military campaigns, explorations and discoveries, routes of travel, and the growth and development of the United States. These maps are not copied, except that the outlines may be copied, but the details are drawn, at first from dictation, but they are taught to draw the maps from the information given in their histories.
A short sketch of State History and an outline of the organization of the Federal Government, and the more important provisions of the constitution completes the year.
The ninth grade studies General or World's History, recites three times a week during the year, Tuesday and Thursday being used for various purposes, to read maps, finish the regular recitations, review, or study, and receive individual assistance. The scholars provide themselves with textbooks, but they are expected to get their information by research, and not by studying a textbook. They keep notebooks and are required to take notes of what they read, and what is recited in the class, and receive a credit for these notebooks on their final examination.
The method consists of the statement of a subject or topic, it is outlined and references given for each subdivision; generally references are given by book and page, to save the scholar's time.