Teachers of pupils in the primary grades have a tremendous responsibility. On them is placed the difficult task of giving a proper fundamental foundation of READING. A child without such a foundation is a pathetic figure.
A person needs only a little understanding of words and he will discover the English language presents many problems. He cannot be satisfied with sight or memory reading. He must have some way of attacking new “fields.” Why not introduce him to PHONICS?
Phonics is the study of sounds. The phonetic ideal is a language in which every spoken sound is represented by one letter and only one. No language has reached this idea, although Spanish, Italian, and German are closest to it.
The words of the English language follow no set rules. One reason is that English language follows no set rules. One reason if that English has borrowed so much from other languages. Accent marks are usually dropped but the pronunciations are kept, e.g., café. A second reason is that ideas about correct pronunciation have changes. Hundreds of years ago printers decided on English spelling but speech has continued to change the sounds. Around 1700 the word “join” was pronounced “jine” to rhyme with “dine.” “Been” has been pronounced bin, ben, and bean. “Soot” was pronounced “sut” (but).
Long ago educatory were phonic-minded. Then, for a time, phonics were more or less incidental. Recently, however, the pendulum is swinging back to systematic phonic lessons. I agree with those who advocate acquainting the child with various ways of attacking words. I think it has been proved that phonics help the child read more accurately, enunciate more clearly, and attack strange words more effectively. Let no one think a simple task awaits those who desire “A Johnny who can Read.”
There are many ways to attack words. Ear training is a necessity. Children must learn to hear initial and final sounds. Later medial sounds can also be distinguished. Digraphs (ch, sh, wh), consonant blends (sn, scr, wr), and endings for base words are parts of words that appear time and again in reading material. A child must master the difference between wh and th. If not, he will continue to say, “when” instead of “then,” “where” instead of “there,” etc.
Every vowel has various sounds. For the young pupils, knowing the long and short sounds is sufficient. Many exercises should be given to train the eye and ear to detect these differences.
Knowledge of family words (words having the same endings, as ake, all, ail) proves of value in attacking words. It is worthwhile to take an extra ten minutes at the end of a science lesson to find family words on a certain page. It is surprising how many words of this type are encountered. It is also beneficial to dictate sentences with family words (Keep the sheep away from the deep water). Words that rhyme with a certain word can also be dictated (train, sprain, pain, chain). When a teacher checks these papers, she can readily detect which pupils are unable to write the sounds they hear.
Children enjoy receiving lessons with pictures of various objects made by the teacher. Under the pictures they must write the first letter of each word. At times similar pictures can be used and the pupils must write the first two letters of the words that name the objects.
It is important to use the new words of a lesson in unfamiliar surroundings. Hence, it is worth the effort to make original stories, or sentences, on the board. Pupils enjoy discovering their new words in unique settings. New words may also be listed on the board. The class will undoubtedly by happy to add words that rhyme. Or, parts of new words on the board may be completed by adding initial or final consonants or blends. Prefixes and word endings should be pointed out at various times because it is essential for a child to recognize base words. Compound words present another form of attack.
An instructor, thinking she has given sufficient drill and having used various methods mentioned above, is often disappointed when a paragraph test is given. By this I mean writing out original stories of one paragraph for each method of word attack. In one paragraph endings are called for because blanks must be filled in when this type of work is given. In others a child is requested to furnish the necessary blends, endings, prefixes, or digraphs. Though this method may be another way for the teacher to detect unexpected weaknesses, it is a means to teach the child that much effort is required in the learning of speech sounds. Having no difficulty in recognizing or associating sounds with parts of words he sees in printed form, a certain child may need many lessons before he can independently furnish the symbols required in the blanks. After having had a few of these tests, many children are fascinated by them. To a few this type seems to remain a drudgery.
I came across a sentence recently which made me think that the English language must be saddled with more than 13% irregularly spelled words. “Though he pulled through a cough and hiccough, he still had a rough night on a bough” contains six different sounds spelled the same.
Good readers are not only desired in the schoolrooms but also in the church. Good readers do not make good society members but good society members are usually good readers. Catechism instruction is a means to help children take their places in the midst of the church. Does it take much imagination to know reading is a very important tool?
Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 3 April 1959
This topic has been treated before, but since it was the one I had selected and worked on, will you bear with me, please?
We need but mention that a person is an individual and we know he or she is different from anyone else. An individual is one who exists as an entity. Is it not one of the wonders of God’s works that, among the millions of persons on the face of the earth, no two are alike? The word “differences” refers to the state or quality of being other or unlike. How well we know, then, that the above topic will not allow a teacher to “treat them all alike.”
The schools in this area do not have kindergarten classes. A child must be six years of age before January 1 if he is to be enrolled in September. The first days prove tiring to the beginner but if a child’s physical condition is good, it does not take him long to become adjusted to his day’s activity. He soon learns he is a full-time member of a classroom as well as a home.
Various characteristics reveal themselves during this adjustment and later. Some children have remarkable motor habits. This means skill in coordinating eye and hand movements, ability to focus the eyes well on printed lines, and to move the eyes from left to right. Others must be dealt with very cautiously because of difficulties in this respect. It is a revelation to a teacher who directs the hand of a child who is trying to make a certain letter or figure when she discovers that the hand of the child is rigid and wet with perspiration.
It is simple for children of school age to identify familiar animals, as cats, dogs, rabbits, etc. However, tracing broken-line sketches of these same animals serves to reveal differences in how adept a child is at coordinating visual and muscular activity. Sometimes improper coordination may be due to forcing a child to use the hand he does not naturally prefer; sometimes it is due to the need for an eye examination. Coloring the contours is another way to discover dissimilarities.
In a small child the attention span is limited. It is important for a teacher to have wellorganized lesson plans. This does not mean, however, that the plans should never be altered. A certain plan may stimulate interest one day and prove to be a failure the next. Older children also need variety in their assignments. They do much better work if the lessons are not monotonous.
Some pupils are able to follow directions with little difficulty when these are given clearly and simply. Others soon show by their facial expressions the distress they are experiencing. The latter is not only true of small children. Older children, too, often need clearcut instructions. Confusion reigns in the minds of children who do not grasp things readily. On the other hand, an instructor must be careful not to encourage inattention during assignment time. Day-dreaming is a sweet pastime for some.
Little children cannot be expected to adhere to any particular mode of expression or to speak fluently and grammatically. Nevertheless, there must be progress through the years. Oral reports should be given. Portions of Scripture should he recited in front of the class. Though children like to follow the way of’ least resistance, they must he taught that proper sentence structure and the making of paragraphs are a must. Word pictures are a form of art. How abilities vary, only a teacher knows.
Some pupils should be encouraged to contribute freely as a lesson is in progress; others must he tactfully discouraged. Some recoil when an idea must be expressed; others bubble over with eagerness. These tendencies are neither developed nor curbed in one or two weeks.
In our Edgerton school we do not have a large number of pupils in each grade. This is due to the fact that the enrollment consists solely of children of our nineteen families. It is an inspiration to have our people willing to walk in this oft difficult way. However, when the Lord instills a desire, He also opens the way. May we go on in His strength wherever we have established our schools.
Originally published in:
Volume 18 Number 3 April 1958
Dear Young People:
A pertinent article appeared in the Beacon Lights of December, written by Mr. A. Heemstra, This editorial gave me the desire to write a few words from “this side of the border”.
We have gone through a year of varied experiences and reactions. I am of the opinion that you are interested in learning about them.
Many of you were undoubtedly enthused about our church in Hamilton. May I assure you, young people, that we, too, were enthused. When we were convinced that the Lord’s hand was leading us to labor here, everything, except the church, seemed to lose significance. The change was tremendous in many ways but we were desirous to acquaint these immigrants with the truth which we have learned to love as a Protestant Reformed denomination.
I accompanied my husband on many visits. Though we often heard remarks that made “our ears ring” as far as the Reformed truth is concerned, our enthusiasm continued unabated for four and one half months. We opened our home for catechism, society, and visiting. Many enjoyable hours were spent. We brought people to and from church (often I had eight or nine passengers in our car). During the winter we would huddle around little coal stoves to discuss the truth. At times we ate with the people. And we were glad we had come!
Gradually, however, fear clutched at our hearts. We began to realize that many things could be enjoyed if only the line between the Liberated (as they revealed themselves around Hamilton) and the Protestant Reformed Churches did not have to be crossed in our direction. Some agreed with many of our views but others often made very strange remarks. You will be interested, I am sure, in some which I heard personally. And I assure you that these remarks were uttered by members of our congregation here. For example: If we had known, when we were organized as a church or joined this church, that we could neither interpret the Confessions and Scriptures as we see fit, nor convince others of our convictions, we certainly would never have become members; Do not stress anything of your doctrine or of ours, and we will have peace; There is no use doing more immigration work if we have not the liberty to say to our children: that is what the minister says but this is the way it is; You (to my husband) bother yourself too much with the Confessions; Why do you say (also to my husband), “Protestant Reformed”, and not simply, “Reformed”, when you speak of your church.
You may say, “How easy it would have been to give in to this trend and have a large congregation.” But you think amiss! If you had been there, I am sure your reaction would have been: For the sake of the truth, as proclaimed by our churches, we crossed the border; we surely cannot give that up, too!
Our hearts are “large enough” to welcome hundreds from across the ocean but not at the expense of our churches and truth and history. I recall a day when I attended Christian High School in Grand Rapids at the time we were “put out” of the church. A student who went home for lunch came bounding up the steps upon his return saying, “Hey Kids we’re out!” The same penetrating love for our churches has been brought to the fore due to our recent experiences.
Little does anyone know the anxious moments we have had nor how high our spirits soared at the least sign of re-encouraging remarks.
We trust that as our churches are again being weighed in the balance for purity of doctrine, we will pray for strength to let the truth be our guide. Also as young people!
With Christian greetings,
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