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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 26

Remarks on this First Stage

Remarks on this First Stage.

This would end what I would call the first stage in this combined course.

Its aim is to give the children the power of making a series of simple sentences, or short theme, on a given subject, with certain simple elements.

It begins with a thorough and careful laying of the foundation of all writing, the duality of all sentences; proceeds by numerous steps, and gradually-lessening assistance from the teacher, from single simple sentences on separate subjects to a series on the same subject; from oral, through board, slate, and, if of age, paper exercises, in sentences produced by the aid of the teacher, till they come at length to produce a short page 29 series for themselves without assistance, in other words, a short composition. The road is more or less lengthy, according to the capacity of the children, but it must be carefully and thoroughly traversed to be thoroughly efficient. We must attain the end we aim at, the self-production of a little exercise on a simple subject, descriptive or narrative.

The chief aim has therefore been to produce a certain power of Elementary Composition, because this power is the means for prosecuting the whole of the subsequent more advanced course. Other things have been so far only incidental, and have only been taught where necessary and auxiliary to this end. But we have incidentally taught the other subjects of our course. In Grammar, we have explained, defined, and exercised on the noun, the verb, the pronoun, the adjective, and adverb. These words and parts of speech we have introduced in the order we saw best, but, after being known, we have used them freely. A certain amount of Analysis has also been given—viz., that there are two chief divisions of the sentence, and that each of these may be extended and qualified, the one by the adjective and the other by the adverb, and that the first element or subject, as well as other nouns, may have a substitute in the pronoun.

In contrast to the usual mode of procedure we make Composition the main aim in this first course, for these reasons :—
(1.)The writing of good English should be the great end and aim of all our teaching in the structure of the English language.
(2.)This elementary composition is quite within the power of even very young children, and may be graduated in difficulty, according to age and capacity.
(3.)It utilises a power they hourly use, that of making sentences in common speech, corrects and extends it, and therefore builds on the known and common.
(4.)The material for the work is abundant and simple.
(5.)It is the most thorough means of giving the elementary ideas of grammar and analysis, because the things are known and used before they are designated.page 30
(6.)It is the best basis for the efficient teaching of the after more formal course of grammar and analysis, in which, as already shown, the practical use of the grammatical forms must form a main idea; and it gives a practical ability in composition, which will be at command when the higher principles of composition come to be formally taught.
(7.)It can be done with very great pleasure to the children—a most important matter, especially in beginning a subject more or less difficult.
(8.)It is attended with a growing feeling of power over the subject, than which nothing is more valuable in any part of school-work.
(9.)Not least, it imparts to young children the ability of writing a composition on a subject, and of giving an account of anything, which may be all the composition the most of the children in our common schools will likely ever get. This is a most important consideration, and one that should insure the teaching of composition from the very first, by some such elementary course.
(10.)It will correct and improve the general style of their answering and speech at all times, and give them greater and readier insight into the meaning of all they read.
(11.)It will give pleasure to parents, by no means a mean element to be taken into account, who will appreciate such real practical ability in writing, of which they themselves feel the want, and sec the importance in common life.