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MANUAL OF METHOD
THE USE OF TEACHERS.
I. SCHOOL organization, in the fullest sense of the term, includes everything which has reference both to the construction of a building suitable for educational purposes and to the internal arrangements necessary for carrying on the business of instruction. On the first of these subjects -viz. the plans and the erection of school-buildings-it does not appear necessary to enter at any length here, because such matters are generally left in the hands of an architect, and local circumstances often render it desirable to adhere to some particular style and dimensions. The following points, however, are briefly stated as worthy of notice.
Convenience ought never to be sacrificed to external appearance. School-buildings should be constructed according to those plans which are found best adapted for the methods of instruction which are to be pursued. But, whatever the shape or size of the building may be, particular care should be taken to afford the best possible means of ventilation. To secure this object, as well
as for other good reasons, the windows should be placed either in the roof or at a distance of at least six feet from the ground. The structure of the roof also deserves careful attention; as, by a judicious arrangement of rafters, cross-pieces, &c., much may be done to obviate the bad effects of reverberation and the echo of the children's voices. It seems almost needless to add that, if possible, a play-ground should be attached to the schools, in which the children may amuse themselves at stated times in the day with games and gymnastic exercises.
The situation of the school premises should be cheerful, and as far as possible removed from any noisy and unhealthy neighbourhood. Class-rooms, closets, and all other necessary offices should be liberally provided.
If the room be built to accommodate a mixed assemblage of boys and girls, arrangements must be made whereby it may be divided when requisite. A framed partition may be put up for this purpose, either removable altogether, or made to slide in a groove to the side of the room. The superficial area or space allowed for each child of the gross total number on the register should, on no account, be less than seven square feet. If the room be not very lofty this allowance can scarcely be considered sufficient.
On the subject of school-buildings much valuable information may be obtained from the Reports of the National Society, and from the Minutes of the Committee of Council, especially those for the years 1839 and 1840, though the requirements of the Committee of Council on Education with respect to school-buildings at the present time are much more stringent than those enforced a few years back. A very practical work, by the Rev. Charles Richson, entitled the School-builder's Guide,' has been published by Darton and Co., and may be obtained at the National Society's Depository.
II. On the Internal Organization of National Schools.Much of the success of a teacher's labours will depend upon the manner in which the school-room is furnished with forms, desks, books, and the other appliances necessary for facilitating the instruction of the children.
1. Desks, Forms, &c.-The old plan of fixing desks round the school-room, so that the boys might sit with their faces to the walls, is now very properly giving place to the more convenient arrangement of grouping them in parallel lines on raised planes, each successive desk rising a few inches above the preceding, as in Appendix A.
It is strongly recommended by many practical educationists of the present day that the children should be seated at such groups of parallel desks to receive all their lessons, instead of being occasionally arranged in squares or semicircles on the floor. This organization, however, appears to possess some disadvantages. For although most subjects may be taught with advantage in desks, there are also many which may be taught to greater advantage out of them; and as change of position during three hours' school-time is almost necessary for children, it seems undesirable to confine them in one place and posture. It has been observed that the plan allows them "breathing space, elbow-room, independence of attitude," &c.; but at the same time it sacrifices variety of position, already referred to, the emulation of taking places, and other advantages.
In many lessons, as, for example, reading, it seems desirable that what is read by each boy should be distinctly heard by the whole class; but this can scarcely be attained if the boys are seated in parallel desks. The back row will find it difficult to hear what is read in the front, and vice versa, unless the boys be encouraged to speak in a louder tone of voice than may be found convenient for adjoining classes.
In the opinion of the writer, it would require a teacher of more than ordinary tact and skill to prevent a system which allows so much freedom from restraint from degenerating into one of listlessness and inattention. Undoubtedly, however, the children may with great advantage receive a large portion of their lessons in parallel desks, and the particular subjects which are recommended for such instruction are the following:
Writing on paper or slates.
Lectures on familiar subjects.
Explanation of the principles of arithmetic.
Class squares and semicircles appear best adapted to those lessons which require that the children should come out individually to have their work inspected by the teacher, as in the practice of arithmetic, or to point out places in maps, globes, &c.
In Appendix B will be found a series of plans of school and class rooms, with a description of the arrangements ordinarily in use for fitting them with desks, &c.
2. Books.-The books necessary for a school may be divided into two classes: first, those for the special and exclusive use of the teacher; second, those which are to be used by the children.
With regard to the first class, it would be extremely difficult to recommend one particular book out of the many educational works which are now before the public as the best on each subject. The following list of books, selected chiefly from the National Society's catalogue, may, however, assist teachers in the selection of suitable manuals of National School instruction.*
*The religious books are selected from the catalogues of the National Society and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.