2. Articles and objects from ancient times or from other lands may occasionally be secured to show the children. Even if such objects may not date back to Bible times, they are still useful as a vantage point for the imagination. A modern copy of the old-time Oriental lamp, a candelabrum, a pair of sandals, a turban, a robe, or garment such as the ancients wore—these accompanied by intelligent description of the times and places to which they belonged are all a stimulus to the child's imagination which should not be overlooked. The very fact that they suggest other peoples and other modes of living than our own is an invitation and incentive to the mind to reach out beyond the immediate and the familiar to the new and the strange.
3. Pictures can be made a great help to the imagination. In the better type of our church schools we are now making free use of pictures as teaching material. It is not always enough, however, merely to place the picture before the child. It requires a certain fund of information and interest in order to see in a picture what it is intended to convey. The child cannot get from the picture more than he brings to it. The teacher may therefore need to give the picture its proper setting by describing the kind of life or the type of action or event with which it deals. He may need to ask questions, and make suggestions in order to be sure that the child sees in the picture the interesting and important things, and that his imagination carries out beyond what is actually presented in the picture itself to what it suggests. While the first response of the child to a picture, as to a story, should be that of enjoyment and interest, this does not mean that the picture, like the story, may not reach much deeper than the immediate interest and enjoyment. The picture which has failed to stimulate the child's imagination to see much more than the picture contains has failed of one of its chief objects.
4. Stimulate the imagination by use of vivid descriptions and thought-provoking questions. Every teacher, whether of young children or of older ones, should strive to be a good teller of stories and a good user of illustrations. This requires study and practice, but it is worth the cost—even outside of the classroom. The good story-teller must be able to speak freely, easily, and naturally. He must have a sense of the important and significant in a story or illustration, and be able to work to a climax. He must know just how much of detail to use to appeal to the imagination to supply the remainder, and not employ so great an amount of detail as to leave nothing to the imagination of the listener. He must himself enter fully into the spirit and enthusiasm of the story, and must have his own imagination filled with the pictures he would create in his pupils' minds. He must himself enjoy the story or the illustration, and thus be able in his expression and manner to suggest the response he desires from the children. Well told stories that have in them the dramatic quality can hardly fail to stir the most sluggish imagination and prepare it for the important part it must play in the child's religious development.
Skillfully used questions and suggestions can be made an important means of stimulating the imagination. Such helps as: Do you think the sea of Galilee looked like the lake (here name one near at hand) which you know? How did it differ? What tree have you in mind which is about the same size as the fig tree in the lesson? How does it differ in appearance? Close your eyes and try to see in your mind just how the river looked where the baby Moses was found. Have you ever seen a man who you think looks much as Elijah must have looked? Describe him. If you were going to make a coat like the one Joseph wore, what colors would you select? What kind of cloth? What would be the cut or shape of it?—Hardly a lesson period will pass without many opportunities for wise questions whose chief purpose is to make real and vivid to the child the persons or places described, and so add to their significance to him.
5. Dramatic representation can be used as an incentive to the imagination. Children easily and naturally imagine themselves to be some other person, and often play at being nurse or school teacher or doctor or preacher. Nearly every child possesses a large measure of the dramatic impulse, and is something of an actor. It is great fun for children to "tog up" and to "show off" in their play. And not only is all this an expression of imagination actively at work, but such activities are themselves a great stimulus to the imagination. The child who has dressed up as George Washington and impersonated him in some ceremonial or on a public occasion will ever after feel a closer reality in the life and work of Washington than would come from mere reading about him. A group of children who have acted out the story of the good Samaritan will get a little closer to its inner meaning than merely to hear the story told. The girl who has taken the part of Esther appearing before the king in behalf of her people will realize a little more fully from that experience what devotion and courage were required from the real Esther. A class who have participated in a pageant of the Nativity will always be a little nearer to the original event than if their imaginations had not been called upon to make real the characters and incidents.
USING THE MEMORY
The memory should play an important part in religion. Gems from the Bible, stories, characters, and events, inspiring thoughts and maxims, and many other such things should become a permanent part of the furnishing of the mind, recorded and faithfully preserved by the memory.
Laws of use of memory.—The laws by which the memory works have been thoroughly studied and carefully described, and should be fully understood by every teacher. Further than this, they should be faithfully observed in all memory work. These laws may be stated as follows:
1. The law of complete registration. The first act in the memory process is fully and completely to register, or learn, the matter to be retained. The retention can never be better than the registration of the facts given into the memory's keeping. Half-learned matter easily slips away, never having been completely impressed on the mind. It is possible to lose both effort and efficiency by committing a verse of a poem barely up to the point where it can doubtfully be repeated instead of giving it the relatively small amount of additional study and practice which would register it firmly and completely. Whatever is worth committing to memory should therefore be carried past the barely known stage and committed fully and completely.
2. The law of multiple association. This only means that the new facts learned shall be related as closely as may be to matter already in the mind. And this is equivalent to saying that the material learned shall be understood, its meaning grasped and its significance comprehended. To understand for yourself the value of association, make this experiment: Have some one write down a list of ten unrelated words in a column, and hold the list before you while you have time to read it over just once slowly and carefully. Now try repeating the words in order from memory. Next, have your friend write ten other words which this time form a connected sentence. After reading these words over once as you did the first list, try repeating them in order. You find that you have much trouble to memorize the first list, while the second presents no difficulty at all. The difference lies in the fact that the words of the first list were unrelated, lacking all associative connections with each other, while those of the second list formed a connected chain of associations.
It is possible to give the child biblical or other matter to memorize that has little more meaning to him than the list of unrelated words have to us. For example, this text is required of primary and junior children in a lesson series: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." And this: "Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need." It is evident that younger children could by no possibility understand either of these beautiful passages, and hence in committing them will only be learning so many unrelated words.
The same is true of church catechisms. The memorizing of such material will be difficult and unpleasant, and no value will come from it. The most likely outcome of such ill-advised requirements is to discourage the child and make him dislike the church school and all its work. It is not to be expected that the child will understand the full meaning of every bit of matter suitable for him to memorize; this will have to await broader experience and fuller development. The material should, however, be sufficiently comprehended that its general meaning is clear and its significance understood.
3. The law of vividness of impression. The relation of vividness of impression to learning has already been discussed in another chapter. In no one of the mind's activities is vividness a more important factor than in memorizing. Matter committed under the stimulus of high interest and keen attention is relatively secure, while matter committed under slack concentration is sure to fade quickly from the memory. Songs can therefore best be committed under the elation of the interesting singing of the words; a verse of poetry, when the mind is alert and the feelings aroused by a story in which the sentiment of the verse fits; a prayer when the spirit of devotion has been quickened by worship. To insure full vividness the imagination must also be called upon to picture and make real such parts of memory material as contain imagery.
4. The law of repetition. For most minds memory depends on repetition. The impressions must be deepened and made lasting by being stamped again and again on the mind. The neurons of the brain which do the work of retaining and recalling must be made to repeat the process over and over until their action is secure. It is therefore not enough to make sure that the child has his memory material committed for this particular Sunday. If the matter was worth committing in the first place, it is worth keeping permanently. If it is to be kept permanently, it must be frequently reviewed; for otherwise it will surely be forgotten. It is to be feared that much, if not most, of the matter memorized by the pupils in many church schools lasts only long enough to show the teacher that it has once been learned, and that not many children know in any permanent sense the Bible passages they have committed. In so far as this is true it would be much better to select a smaller amount of the choicest and best adapted material to be found, and then so thoroughly teach this that it is permanently retained.
5. The law of wholes instead of parts. Many persons in setting at work to commit a poem, a Bible passage, a psalm have a tendency to learn it first by verses or sections and then, put the parts together to form the whole. Tests upon the memory have shown, that this is a less economical and efficient method than from the first to commit the material as a whole. This method requires that we go over all of it completely from beginning to end, then over it again, and so on until we can repeat much of it without reference to the text. We then refer to the text for what the memory has not yet grasped, requiring the memory to repeat all that has been committed, until the whole is in this manner fully learned. The method of learning by wholes not only requires less time and effort, but gives a better sense of unity in the matter committed.
6. The law of divided practice. If to learn a certain piece of material the child must go over it, say, fifteen times, the results are much better if the whole number of repetitions are not carried out at one time. Time seems necessary to give the associations an opportunity to set up their relationships; also, the interval between repetitions allows the parts that are hardest to commit to begin fading out, and thereby reveal where further practice is demanded. Where songs, Bible verses, or other material are committed in the lesson hour, provision ought to be made for the children to continue study and practice on the material at home during the week. The so-called cramming process of learning will not work any better in the church school than in the day-school lessons.
7. The law of motivation. Like other activities of the mind, memory works best under the stimulus of some appealing motive. The very best possible motive is, of course, an interest in and love for the matter committed. This kind of response can hardly be expected, however, in all of the material children are asked to commit. It is necessary to use additional motives to secure full effort. The approval of the teacher and parents, the child's standing in the class, and his own sense of achievement are some of the motives that should be employed.
A very powerful motive not always sufficiently made use of is the wider social motive that comes from working in groups for a particular end. For example, a school or class pageant based on some biblical story or religious event has the effect of centralizing effort and stimulating endeavor to a degree impossible in individual work. Hymns and songs are committed, Bible passages or other religious material learned, stories mastered, characters studied and their words committed under the stress of an immediate need for them in order to take one's part in a social group and prove one's mastery before an audience of interested listeners. The church school can with great advantage centralize more of its religious memory work in preparation for such special occasions as Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, or other church celebrations or pageants.
1. What reasons can you give why children should be taught to think in their study of religion just as in the study of any other subject? Do you find a thoughtful attitude on the part of your class? What methods do you use to encourage reverent thinking in religion?
2. One thinks best in connection with some question or problem which he wishes to have answered. Do you plan in connection with your preparation of the lesson to bring out some definite problem suited to the age of your class and help your pupils think it through to a solution?
3. What evidences can you suggest from your class work which show that children readily think upon any problem that interests them? Have your pupils asked questions showing that they are thinking? When such questions are asked, how do you treat them?
4. What lessons of recent date in your work have you in mind which especially required the use of imagination? Can you judge the degree to which the descriptive parts of the lessons appeal to your pupils as real?
5. How successfully do you feel that you are applying the principles for the use of the imagination? Do you definitely seek to apply these principles in your lessons? Which of these is probably the hardest to apply? What is your method of seeking its application?
6. Are your pupils good in memory work? Do you ever give them material to memorize the meaning of which is not wholly clear to them? What help do you give the children when you assign them memory work? Do you instruct them how to memorize what you assign? To what extent are you following the laws of memory as stated in the chapter?
FOR FURTHER READING
Betts, The Mind and Its Education.
Dewey, How We Think.
Coe, Education in Religion and Morals.
TYPES OF TEACHING
One of the surest tests of the skillful teacher is his ability to adapt his instruction to the child, to the subject matter, and to the occasion—that is, to the aim. Teaching must differ in its type with the age; the primary child and the older youth require different methods. It must differ with the kind of material to be presented; a lesson whose chief aim is to give information must be differently presented from a lesson whose aim is to enforce some moral or religious truth. It must differ with the occasion; a lesson taught a group of children who have had no previous study or preparation on it will demand different treatment from a lesson which has had careful study.
Types of lessons.—Several clearly recognized types of lessons are commonly employed by teachers in both school and church-school classes. No one of these lesson types can be said to be best in the sense that it should be used to the exclusion of the others. All are required. Several may even be employed in the same recitation period. The teacher should, however, know which type he is employing at any given stage of his instruction, and why he is using this type in preference to another type of teaching. The following are the chief lesson types that will be found serviceable in most church school classes:
1. The informational lesson; in which the immediate aim is to supply the mind with new knowledge or facts needed as a part of the equipment of thought and understanding.
2. The developmental (or inductive) lesson; in which the aim is to lead the child through his own investigation and thinking to use the information already in his possession as a basis for discovering new truth or meaning.
3. The application (or deductive) lesson; in which the aim is to make application of some general truth or lesson already known to particular problems or cases.
4. The drill lesson; in which the aim is to give readiness and skill in fundamental facts or material that should be so well known as to be practically automatic in thought or memory.
5. The appreciation lesson; in which the aim is to create a response of warmth and interest toward, or appreciation of, a person, object, situation, or the material studied.
6. The review lesson; in, which the aim is to gather up, relate, and fix more permanently in the mind the lessons or facts that have been studied.
7. The assignment lesson; in which help is rendered and interest inspired, for study of the next lesson.
THE INFORMATIONAL LESSON
The child at the beginning is devoid of all knowledge of and information about the many objects, activities, and relationships that fill his world. He must come to know these. His mind can develop no faster than it has the materials for thoughts, memories, ideas, and whatever else is to occupy his stream of thought. He must therefore be supplied with information. He must be given a fund of impressions, of facts, of knowledge to use in his thinking, feeling, and understanding.
To undertake to teach the child the deeper meanings and relationships of God to our lives without this necessary background of information is to confuse him and to fail ourselves as teachers. For example, a certain primary lesson leaflet tells the children that the Egyptians made slaves out of the Israelites and that God led the Israelites out of this slavery. But there had previously been no adequate preparation of the learners' minds to understand who the Israelites or the Egyptians were, nor what slavery is. The children lacked all basis of information to understand the situation described, and it could by no possibility possess meaning for them.
The use of the information lesson.—It is not meant, of course, that when the chief purpose of a lesson is to give information no applications should be made or no interpretations given of the matter presented. Yet the fact is that often the chief emphasis must be placed on information, and that for the moment other aims are secondary. To illustrate: When young children are first told the story of God creating the world the main purpose of the lesson is just to give them the story, and not to attempt instruction as to the power and wonder of creative wisdom, nor even at this time to stress the seventh day as a day of rest. When the story of Moses bringing his people out of Egypt is told young children, the providence of God will be made evident, but the facts of the story itself and its enjoyment just as a story should not in early childhood be overshadowed by attempting to force the moral and religious applications too closely.
It even happens that the indirect lesson, in which the child is left to see for himself the application and meaning, is often the most effective to teaching. The same principle holds when, later in the course, the youth is first studying in its entirety the life of Jesus. The main thing is to get a sympathetic, reverent, connected view of Jesus's life as a whole. There will, of course, be a thousand lessons to be learned and applications to be made from his teachings, but these should rest on a fund of accurate information about Jesus himself and what he taught.
Danger of neglecting information.—It should be clear, then, that in advocating the informational lesson there is no thought of asking that we should teach our children mere facts, or fill their heads with mere information. The intention is, rather, to stress the important truth often seemingly forgotten, that to be intelligent in one's religion there are certain, fundamental things which must be known; that to be a worthy Christian there are certain facts, stories, personages, and events with a knowledge of which the mind must be well furnished. There can be little doubt that the common run of teaching in our church schools has failed to give our children a sufficient basis of information upon which to build their religious experience.
Informational instruction may be combined with other types of lessons, or may be given as separate lessons which stress almost entirely the informational aspect of the material. In the younger classes the information will come to the children chiefly in the form of stories, and the accounts of lives of great men and women. Later in the course, Bible narrative, history, and biography will supply the chief sources of informational material.
THE DEVELOPMENTAL LESSON
It is a safe principle in teaching not to give ready-made to children a fact or conclusion which they can easily be led by questions and suggestions to discover for themselves. Truths which one has found out for himself always mean more than matter that is dogmatically forced upon him. The pupil who has watched the bees sucking honey from clover blossoms and then going with pollen-laden feet to another blossom, or one who has observed the drifting pollen from orchard or corn field, is better able to understand the fertilization of plants than he would be from any mere description of the process.
On the same principle, the child will get a deeper and more lasting impression of the effects of disobedience if led to see the effect of the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the shame and sorrow and feeling of guilt that came to them, than he will through listening to ever so many impressive assertions on the sin of disobedience. If the concrete lesson is carried over to his own personal experience and his observation of the results of disobedience, and the unhappiness it has brought, the effect is all the greater.
Purpose of the inductive lesson.—The developmental, or inductive, lesson, therefore, seeks to lead the child to observe, discover, think, find out for himself. It begins with concrete and particular instances, but it does not stop with them. It does not at the start force upon the child any rules or general conclusions, but it does seek to arrive at conclusions and rules in the end. For example, the purpose in having the child watch particular bees carrying pollen to blossoms, and in having him observe particular pollen drifting in the wind, is to teach in the end the general truth that certain plants are dependent on insects and others on currents of air for their pollenization.
In similar fashion, the purpose in having the child understand the effects of disobedience in the case of Adam and Eve and in any particular instance in his own experience is to teach the general conclusion that disobedience commonly brings sorrow and trouble. The aim, then, is to arrive at a universal truth of wide application, but to reach it through appealing to the child's own knowledge, experience, and observation. In this way the lesson learned will have more vital meaning and it will be more readily accepted because not forced upon the learner.
Two principles.—Two important principles must be kept in mind in teaching an inductive lesson:
1. A basis or starting point must be found in knowledge or experience already in the learner's possession.
2. The child must have in his mind the question or problem which demands solution.
The first of these principles means that in order for the child to observe, think, discover for himself, he must have a sufficient basis of information from which to proceed. The inductive lesson, therefore, rests upon and starts from the informational lesson. To illustrate, in order to understand and be interested in the work of the bees as pollen-bearers, the child must first know the fact that the blossoming and fruiting of the common plants depend on pollen. The ear of corn which did not properly fill with grains because something happened to prevent pollen grains from reaching the tips of the silks at the right time, or the apple tree barren because it failed from some adverse cause to receive a supply of pollen for its blossoms may properly be the starting point. The problem or question then arising is how pollen grains are carried. With this basis of fact and of question, the child is ready to begin the interesting task of observation and discovery under the direction of the teacher; he is then ready for the inductive lesson, in which he will discover new knowledge by using the information already in his mind.
Conducting the inductive lesson.—In conducting the inductive lesson the teacher must from the beginning have a very clear idea of the goal or conclusion to be reached by the learners. Suppose the purpose is to impress on the children the fact of Jesus's love and care for children. The lesson might start with questions and illustrations dealing with the father's and mother's care and love for each child in the home, and the way these are shown.
Following this would come the story of Jesus rebuking his disciples for trying to send the children away, and his own kindness to the children. Then such questions as these: How did the disciples feel about having the children around Jesus? Why did they tell the children to keep away? Perhaps they were afraid the children would annoy or trouble Jesus. Have you ever known anyone who did not seem to like to have children around him? Does your mother like to have you come and be beside her? What did Jesus say about letting the children come to him? Why do you think Jesus liked to have the children around him? How did Jesus show his love for children? Why do you think the children liked to be with Jesus? Do you think that Jesus loves children as much to-day as when he was upon earth? Do you think he wants children to be good and happy now as he did then? In what ways does Jesus show his love and kindness to children? The impression or conclusion to grow out of these questions and the story is that Jesus loved and cared for children when he was upon earth, and that he loves and cares for them now just as he did then. This will be the goal in the teacher's mind from the beginning of the lesson.
THE DEDUCTIVE, OR APPLICATION, LESSON
Not all teaching can be of the inductive, or discovery, type. It is necessary now and then to start with general truths, rules, or principles and apply them to concrete individual cases. Rules and maxims once understood are often serviceable in working out new problems. The conclusions reached from a study of one set of circumstances can frequently be used in meeting similar situations another time.
For example, the child learns by a study of particular instances the results of disobedience, and finally arrives at the great general truth that disobedience to the laws of nature or of God is followed by punishment and suffering. This fact becomes to him a rule, a principle, a maxim, which has universal application. Once this is understood and accepted, the child is armed with a weapon against disobedience. With this equipment he can say when he confronts temptation: This means disobedience to God's law and the laws of nature; but disobedience to the laws of God and of nature brings punishment and suffering; therefore if I do this thing, I shall be punished, and shall suffer—I will refrain from doing it.
Making the application.—A large part of our instruction in religion must be of the deductive kind. It is impossible, even if it were desirable, to rediscover and develop inductively out of observation and experience all the great moral and religious laws which should govern the life. Many of these come to us ready-made, the result of the aggregate experience of generations of religious living, or the product of God's revelation to men. Consider, for example, such great generalizations as: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also;" "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy"; "No man can serve two masters"; "With what measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you"; "The wages of sin is death."
These are illustrations of the concentrated wisdom of the finest hearts and minds the world has seen, words spoken by Inspiration, but true to the experience of every person. It is our part as teachers to make the great fundamental moral and religious laws which underlie our lives living truths to our pupils. To do this we must not teach such truths as mere abstractions, but show them at work in the lives of men and women and of boys and girls. We must find illustrations, we must make applications, and discover examples of proof and verification.
Teaching that fails from lack of applying truth.—The object, then, of the inductive lesson is to lead the learner to discover truth; the object of the deductive lesson is to lead him to apply truth. There can be little doubt that much of our teaching of religion suffers from failure to make immediate and vital application of the truths we teach. When we teach the youth that no man can serve two masters, we should not be satisfied until we have shown him the proof of this truth at work in the everyday experience of men. When we teach him that the wages of sin is death, we must not stop with the mere statement of fact, but lead him to recognize the effects of sin's work in broken lives and ruined careers.
Nor should we confine our proofs and illustrations to examples taken from the Bible, valuable as these are. Too many, perhaps half unconsciously to themselves, carry the impression that religion belongs rather more to Bible times and peoples than to ourselves. Too many assent to the general truth of religion and the demands it puts on our lives, but fail to make a sufficiently immediate and definite application of its requirements to their own round of daily living. Too many think of the divine law as revealed in the Scriptures as having a historical significance rather than a present application. One of the tasks of deductive teaching is to cure this fatal weakness in the study of religion.
THE DRILL LESSON
Teaching religion does not require as large a proportion of drill as many other subjects. This is because the purpose of drill is to make certain matter automatic in the mind, or to train definite acts to a high degree of skill. For example, the child must come to know his multiplication table readily, "without thinking"; he must come to be able to write or spell or count or manipulate the keys of a typewriter without directing his attention to the acts required. Wherever automatic action or ready skill is required, there drill is demanded. Drill provides for the repetition of the mental or physical act until habit has made it second nature and it goes on practically doing itself. There is no way to get a high degree of skill without drill, for the simple reason that the brain requires a certain amount of repeated action before it can carry out the necessary operations without error and without the application of conscious thought.
Drill lessons in the church school.—While the church-school teacher will not require so much use of drill as the day-school teacher, it is highly essential that drill shall not be omitted at points where it is needed. There are some things which the child should learn very thoroughly and completely in his study of religion. He should know a few prayers by heart, so that their words come to him naturally and easily when he desires to use them. He should know the words and music of certain songs and hymns suited to his age. He should learn certain Bible passages of rare beauty, and other sentiments, verses, and poems found outside the Bible. He should come, as a matter of convenience and skill, to know the names and order of the books of the Bible. In some churches he is required to know the catechism. Whatever of such material is to be mastered fully and completely must receive careful drill.
Principles for conducting the drill.—The first step in a successful drill lesson is to supply a motive for the drill. This is necessary in order to secure alertness and effort. Mere repetition is not drill. Monotonous going over the words of a poem or the list of books of the Bible with wandering or slack attention will fail of results. The learner must be keyed up, and give himself whole-heartedly to the work. Let the child come to feel a real need of mastery, and one great motive is supplied. Let him desire the words of the song because he is to sing in the chorus, or desire the words of the poem because he is to take part in a pageant, and there will be little trouble about willingness to drill.
Again, the competitive impulse can often be used to motivate drill. The child is ambitious to stand at the head of his class, or to beat his own record of performance, or to win the appreciation or praise of teacher or parents, or he has a pride in personal achievement—these are all worthy motives, and can be made of great service in conducting classroom or individual drills. The posting of a piece of good work done by a pupil, or calling attention to the good performance of a member of the class can often be made an incentive to the whole number.
Drill, in order to be effective, must not stop short of thorough mastery. The matter which is barely learned, or the verse which can be but doubtfully repeated is sure to escape if not fixed by further drill. It is probable, as suggested in an earlier chapter, that we attempt to have our children memorize too much Bible material which is beyond their understanding and too difficult for them. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that we fail to teach them sufficiently well the smaller amount of beautiful sentiments, verses, poems, songs, and prayers which should be a part of the mental and spiritual possession of every child. Our weekly lessons provide for the memorizing of Bible matter week by week, yet surprisingly few children can repeat any sensible amount of such material. Better results would follow if we should require less material, select it more wisely, and then drill upon it until it is firmly fixed in the mind as a permanent and familiar possession.
THE APPRECIATION LESSON
It is quite as essential that the child shall come to enjoy and admire right things as that he shall know right things. To cultivate appreciation for the beautiful, the good, the fine, and the true is one of the great aims of our teaching. One who is able to analyze a flower and technically describe its botanical parts, but who fails to respond to its beauty has still much to learn about flowers. One who learns the facts about the life of Paul, Elijah, or Jesus but who does not feel and admire the strength, gentleness, and goodness of their characters has missed one of the essential points in his study. One who masters the details about a poem or a picture but who misses the thrill of enjoyment and appreciation which it holds for him has gathered but the husks and misses the right kernel of meaning.
How to teach appreciation.—Appreciation can never be taught directly. The best we can do is to bring to the child the thing of beauty or goodness which we desire him to enjoy and admire, making sure that he comprehends its meaning as fully as may be, and then leave it to exert its own appeal. We may by ill-advised comment or insistence even hinder appreciation. The teacher who constantly asks the children, "Do you not think the poem is beautiful?" or, "Is not this a lovely song?" not only fails to help toward appreciation, but is in danger of creating a false attitude in the child by causing him to express admiration where none is felt.
There is also grave doubt whether it is not a mistake to urge too much on the child that he "ought" to love God, or that it is his "duty" to love the church. The fact is that love, admiration and appreciation cannot be compelled by any act of the will or sense of duty. They must arise spontaneously from a realization of some lovable or beautiful quality which exerts an appeal that will not be denied.
The part of the teacher at this point, therefore, is to act as interpreter, to help the learner to grasp the meaning of the poem, the picture, the song, or the character he is studying. The admirable qualities are to be brought out, the beautiful aspects set forth, and the lovable traits placed in high light. The teacher may even express his own admiration and appreciation, though without sentimentality or effusiveness. Nor is it likely that a teacher will be able to excite admiration in his class for any object of study which he does not himself admire. If his own soul does not rise to the beauty of the twenty-third psalm or to the inimitable grandeur and strength of the Christ-life, he is hardly the one to hold these subjects of study before children.
THE REVIEW LESSON
Reviews and tests fulfill a double purpose for the learner: they help to organize and make more usable the matter that has been learned, and they reveal success or failure in mastery. They also serve the teacher as a measure of his success in teaching. The review lesson should not be, as it often is, a mere repetition of as many facts from, previous lessons as time will permit to be covered. It should present a new view of the subject. It should deal with the great essential points, and so relate and organize them that the threefold aim of fruitful knowledge, right attitudes, and practical applications shall be stressed and made secure.
Guiding principles.—If the section of matter under review deals with a series of events, such as the story of the migration of the Israelites from Egypt or the account of the ministry of Jesus, then the review lesson must pick out and emphasize those incidents and applications which should become a part of the permanent possession of the child's mind from the study of this material. These related points should be so linked together and so reimpressed that they will form a continuous view of the period or topic studied. There is no place for the incidental nor for minute and unrelated detail in the review.
The teacher will need most careful preparation and planning to conduct a review. He must have the entire field to be reviewed fully mastered and in his own mind as a unit, else he cannot lead the child back over it successfully. He must work out a lesson plan which will secure interest and response on the part of his pupils. Many review lessons drag, and are but endured by the class. This may be accounted for by the fact that the review recitation often fails to do more than repeat old material. It may also come from the fact that the children are asked details which they have forgotten or never knew, so that they are unable to take their part. It may in some cases arise from the fact that the teacher is himself not ready for the review, and does not like review days. Whatever may be the cause, the review that fails to catch interest or call forth enthusiasm has in so far failed of its purpose. The minds of teacher and pupils should be at their best and concentration at its keenest for the review lesson.
ASSIGNMENT OF LESSON
No small part of the success of instruction depends on faithfulness and skill in assigning lessons. Too often this is left for the very last moment of the class hour, when there is no time left for proper assignment and the teacher can give only the most hurried and incomplete directions. Or, it may be that the only direction that is given is the exhortation to "be sure to prepare the lesson for next week." But this will not suffice. We must not forget that children, especially the younger children, may not know just how to go to work upon the lesson, nor what to do in getting it. It is hard for any young child to gather thought from the printed page, even after he has attained fair skill in reading; and it is doubly hard if the matter is difficult or unfamiliar, as is much of the material found in the church-school lessons.
How to make the assignment.—In order to assign the lesson properly the teacher must, of course, be perfectly familiar with the coming lesson. This means that he must keep a week ahead in his preparation, which is in the end no loss, but even a gain. The teacher must also have the plan of the lesson sufficiently in mind that he knows just what points are to be stressed, what will present the most difficulty to the class, what will most appeal to their interest, and what will need to be especially assigned for study or investigation. In lessons which children are to prepare at home it is usually well to go over the material briefly with the class in making the assignment, giving hints for study, calling attention to interesting points, and stating very definitely just what the class is expected to do.
If there is to be written work, this should be fully understood: if handwork or drawing or coloring, it should be made perfectly clear what is required; if memory material is asked for, it should be gone over, the meaning made clear to every child, and directions given as to how best to commit the matter. If outside references are assigned in books or magazines, the reference should be written down in the notebook or given the child on a slip of paper so that no mistake may be made. The purpose and requirement in all these matters is to be as definite and clear as would be required in any business concern, leaving no chance for failure or mistake because of lack of understanding. Less than this is an evidence of carelessness or incompetence in the teacher.
1. In order better to understand and to review the several types of lessons listed in the chapter it will be well for you to look through the lessons for the current quarter or year and determine to which type each separate lesson belongs. How many do you find of each type? Are there many lessons that will involve several of the types?
2. Which type of these lessons do you best like to teach? Is there any particular type that you have been neglecting? Any in which you feel that you are not very successful? What will you need to do to increase your efficiency on this type of lesson?
3. Do you feel that you are reasonably skillful in leading children to discover truths for themselves through the use of questions? If you find when questioning that the children lack the information necessary to arriving at the truth desired, what must you then do? What do you consider your greatest weakness in conducting the developmental lesson?
4. Does your class like review lessons? If not, can you discover the reason? Have your reviews been largely repetitions of matter already covered, or have they used such devices as to bring the matter up in new guise? Do you believe that review day can be made the most interesting of the lessons? Some teachers say it can, How will you go at it to make it so?
5. What application, or deductive, lesson have you taught your class recently? Was it a success? Have you ever discovered a tendency in your teaching to have your class commit to memory some great truth, but fail in its application to real problems in their own lives? What applications of religious truths have you recently made successfully in your class?
6. What is your method or plan of assigning lessons? Do you think that any part of the children's failure to prepare their lessons may be due to imperfect assignments? Will you make the assignment of the lessons that lie ahead one of your chief problems?
FOR FURTHER READING
Earhart, Types of Teaching.
Strayer, A Brief Course in the Teaching Process.
Hayward, The Lesson in Appreciation.
Knight, Some Principles of Teaching as Applied to the Sunday School.
Maxwell, The Observation of Teaching.
METHODS USED IN THE RECITATION
The particular mode of procedure used in recitation will depend on the nature of the material, the age of the pupils, and the aim of the lesson. For the church-school recitation period four different methods are chiefly used. These are:
1. The topical method, in which the teacher suggests a topic of the lesson or asks a question and requires the pupil to go on in his own way and tell what he can about the point under discussion.
2. The lecture method, in which the teacher himself discusses the topic of the lesson, presenting the facts, offering explanations or making applications as he judges the case may require.
3. The question-and-answer, or discussion, method, in which the teacher leads in a half-formal conversation, asking questions and receiving answers either to test the pupil's preparation or to develop the facts and meanings of the lesson.
4. The story method, in which the teacher uses a story, told either in the words of the writer or in his own words, to convey the lesson. The story method differs from the lecture method in that the story recounts some real or fancied situation or occurrence to convey the lesson, while the lecture depends more on explanation and analysis.
It may sometimes happen that an entire recitation will employ but one of these methods, the whole time being given either to reciting upon topics, to a lecture or discussion by the teacher, or to a series of questions and answers. More commonly, however, the three methods are best when combined to supplement each other or to give variety to the instruction.
THE TOPICAL METHOD
There is really no absolute line of demarkation between the topical and the question-and-answer method. The chief difference lies in the fact that the question deals with some one specific fact or point, while the topic requires the pupil to decide on what facts or points should come into the discussion, and, so make his own plan for the discussion.
The plan of the topical method.—It is evident that the topical method of reciting will require more independence of thought than the question-and-answer method. To ask the child to "give the account of Noah's building of the Ark," or to "tell about Joseph being sold by his brothers" is to demand more of him than to answer a series of questions on, these events. The topical method will, therefore, find its greatest usefulness in the higher grades rather than with the younger children. This does not mean, however, that children in the earlier grades are to be given no opportunity to formulate their thought for themselves and to express their thought without the help of direct questions.
This power, like all others, is developed through its use, and is not acquired at a certain age without practice. Even young children may be encouraged to retell stories in their own words, or to tell what they think about any problem that interests them; and all such exercises are the best of preliminary training in the use of the topical method.
Narrative topics.—The easiest form of the topical method is that dealing with narration. Children are much more adept at telling what happened—recounting a series of events in a game, a trip, an incident, or an accident—than in giving a description of persons, places, or objects. The Bible narratives will therefore afford good starting places for topical recitations in the younger grades. Older pupils may be called upon to discuss problems of conduct, or to make applications of lessons to concrete conditions, or carry on any other form of analysis that calls for individual thought and ability in expression.
Report topics.—A modified form of the topical method is sometimes called the report method, or the research method. In this use of the topical method some special and definite topic or problem is assigned a pupil to be prepared by special study, and reported upon before the class. This plan, at least above the elementary grades, has great possibilities if wisely used. The topics, if interesting, and if adapted to the children, will usually receive careful preparation. Especially is this true if well-prepared pupils are allowed in the recitation to make a brief report to an interested audience of classmates.
Care must be taken in the use of this method not to permit the time of the class to be taken with uninteresting and poorly prepared reports by pupils, for this will kill the interest of the class, set a low standard of preparation and mastery, and render the method useless. When a topic of special study is assigned to a pupil, care must be taken to see that the exact references for study are known and that the necessary material is available. The devoted teacher will also try to find time and opportunity to help his pupil organize the material of his report to insure its interest and value to the class.
Avoiding a danger.—A danger to be avoided in the use of the topical method is that of accepting incomplete and unenlightening discussions from pupils who are poorly prepared. To say to a child, "Tell what you can about David and Goliath," and then to pass on to something else after a poorly given account of the interesting story is to fail in the best use of the topical method. After the child has finished his recitation the teacher should then supplement with facts or suggestions, or ask questions to bring out further information, or do whatever else is necessary to enrich and make more vivid the impression gained. This must all be done, however, without making an earnest child feel that his effort has been useless, or that what he has given, was unimportant.
THE LECTURE METHOD
The lecture method, if followed continuously, is a poor way of teaching. Even in telling stories to the younger children, the skillful teacher leads the pupils to tell the stories back to her and the class. Mere listening gets to be dull work, and the teacher who does all the reciting himself must expect lack of interest and inattention.
There can be no doubt that many teachers talk too much themselves compared with the part taken by their pupils. It is much easier for the teacher to go over the lesson himself, bringing out its incidents, explaining its meanings, and applying its lessons, than to lead the class, by means of well-directed questions, to accomplish these things by their own answers and discussions. Yet it is a common experience, especially with children, that we like best any program, recitation, or exercise, in which we ourselves have had an active part. And it is also from the lesson in which we have really participated that we carry away the most vivid and lasting impressions.
The lecture method not for general use.—Every teacher should therefore consider, when making his lesson plan, just what his own part is to be in the presentation of material. Some latitude must be allowed, of course, for circumstances which may arise in the recitation bringing up points which may need elaboration or explanation. But he should know in a general way what material he is to bring in, what applications he will emphasize, and what illustrations he will use. He should not trust to the inspiration of the moment, nor allow himself to be led off into a discussion that monopolizes all the time and deprives the class of participation. More than one church-school class has failed to hold the interest, if not the attendance, of its members because the teacher mistook his function and formed the habit of turning expositor or preacher before his class. The overtalkative teacher should learn to curb this tendency, or else give way to one who brings less of himself and more of his pupils to bear upon the lesson.
This does not mean that the teacher shall never lecture or talk to his class. Indeed, the teacher who does not have a message now and then for his pupils is not qualified to guide their spiritual development. It means, rather, that lecturing must not become a habit, and that on the whole it should be used sparingly with all classes of children. It means also that all matter presented to the class by the teacher himself should be well prepared; that it should be carefully organized and planned, so that its meaning will be clear and its lesson plain, and so that time will not be wasted in its presentation. It will be a safe rule for the teacher to set for himself not to come before his class with a talk that is not as well prepared as he expects his minister to have his sermon. And why not! The recitation hour should mean at least as much to the church class as the sermon hour means to the congregation.
THE QUESTION-AND-ANSWER METHOD
Skill in questioning lies at the basis of most good teaching of children. Good questioning stimulates thought, brings out new meanings, and leads the mind to right conclusions. Poor questioning leaves the thought unawakened, fails to arouse interest and attention, and results in poor mastery and faulty understanding. To the uninitiated it appears easy to ask questions for others to answer. But when we become teachers and undertake to use the question as an instrument of instruction we find that it is much harder to ask questions than to answer them, for not only must the questioner know the subject and the answer to each question better than his pupils, but he must be able constantly to interpret the minds of his pupils in order to discover their understanding of the problem and to know what questions next to ask.
Questions slavishly dependent on the text.—Not infrequently one finds a teacher who uses questioning solely to test the knowledge of the pupils on the lesson text. Probably the worst form of this kind of questioning is that of following the printed questions of the lesson quarterly, the pupils having their lesson sheets open before them and looking up the answer to each question as it is asked.
The following questions are taken from a widely used junior quarterly, the Bible text being Luke 10. 25-37: "Who wanted to try Jesus? What did he ask? What did Jesus say? What reply was made? What questions did the lawyer ask? How did Jesus answer him? What is such a story called? What is the name of this parable? Where was the man going? Who met him? How did they treat him? What did they take from him? Where did they leave him?" No one of these questions appeals to thought or imagination. All are questions of sheer fact, with none of the deeper and more interesting meanings brought. All of them may be answered correctly, and the child be little the wiser religiously. Such a method of teaching cannot do other than deaden the child's interest in the Bible, create in him an aversion to the lesson hour of the church school, and fail of the whole purpose of religious education. The teacher must be able to use living questions, and not be dependent on a dead list of faulty questions embalmed in print.
Questions arising spontaneously from the topic.—One who does not know his lesson well enough so that he can ask the necessary questions practically without reference even to the text, let alone referring to the printed questions, or asking questions in the words of the text, is not yet ready to teach the lesson. In order to successful teaching there must be a constant interchange of response between teacher and class at every moment throughout the recitation. This is impossible if the teacher must stop to read the text of the lesson, or take her eyes and attention away from the class to look up the question which is to come next. All such breaks of thought are fatal to interest and attention on the part of the class.
As suggested in an earlier chapter, the teacher should have prepared a list of pivotal questions as a part of her lesson plan. With these at hand there should be no necessity for reference to the printed lesson to find questions during the recitation period. Let the teacher who is accustomed to slavish dependence on the lesson text for his questions really master his lesson, and then declare his independence of tread-mill questioning; he will be surprised at the added satisfaction and efficiency that come to his teaching.
The principle of unity.—Questions that really teach must follow some plan of unity or continuity. Each succeeding question must grow out of the preceding question and its answer, and all put together must lead in a definite direction toward a clear aim or goal which the teacher has in mind. One of the serious faults of the questions quoted above from the lesson quarterly is that they lack unity and purpose. Each question is separate from all the others. No question leads to the ones which follow, nor does the whole list point to any lesson or conclusion at the end. Such questioning can result only in isolated scraps of information. A series of questions lacking unity and purpose resembles a broom ending in many straws, instead of being like a bayonet ending in a point: and who would not prefer a bayonet to a broom as a weapon of offense!
The principle of clearness.—The good questioner makes his questions clear and definite so that they can not be misunderstood. That this is not always accomplished is proved by the fact that a child who is unable to answer a question when it is put in one form may answer it perfectly when it is asked in different phrasing. The teacher always needs to make certain that the question is fully comprehended, for it is evident that an answer cannot exceed the understanding of the question in clearness.
To be clear, a question must be free from obscure wording. One primary teacher, seeking to show how each animal is adapted to the life it must live, asked the class, "Why has a cat fur and a duck feathers?" Just what did she mean for the child to answer? Did she mean to inquire why a cat has fur instead of feathers, and a duck feathers instead of fur, or did she mean to ask why each has its own particular coating regardless of the other? Another teacher asked, "Why did Jesus's parents go up to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve years old?" Did he mean to ask why they went when Jesus was just at this age, or did he mean to ask why they went at all, the age of Jesus being incidental? One can only guess at his meaning, hence the answer could at best be but a guess.
Questions to be within the learner's grasp.—If questions are to be clear to the child they must deal with matter within his grasp. These questions are taken from an intermediate quarterly: "Why was the New Testament written? What was the purpose of the book of Revelation? Fit the epistle of Paul into the story of his life. What is meant by inspiration? What are the reasons for calling the Bible the most wonderful book in the world?" These questions are all clear enough so far as their wording is concerned, but they belong to the college or theological seminary age instead of to the intermediate age. While our questions should make our pupils think, they must not go over their heads, for one does not commonly think on a question whose very meaning is beyond his grasp!
Some questions lack definiteness because several correct answers could be given to the question. Here are a few such: What did Paul claim concerning one of his epistles? What did Moses do when he came down from the mountain? What were the priests of the temple required to have? What happened when Jesus was crucified? What of John the Baptist? What about Ruth and Naomi? What did Judas become? No one of these questions asks any definite thing. To answer any of them the pupil must guess at the particular thing the teacher has in mind. Many answers may be given to each question which are as correct and which answer the question as well as the answer the teacher seeks from the pupil. Such questioning comes either from lack of clearness and definiteness in the teacher's thinking, with a consequent uncertainty as what he really does mean to ask, or else from a mental laziness which shrinks from the effort necessary to formulate the question definitely.
Questions should stimulate thought.—Questions should be thought-provoking. Usually it is a mistake to ask questions that can be answered, by a simple Yes or No, though there are occasions when this may be done. For example, children will not be required to think when asked such questions as, Was Moses leader of the Israelites? or Did Jesus want his disciples to keep children away from him? But they will require thought to answer Yes or No to such questions as, Should Esther have asked that Haman be hanged? or, Can God forgive us for a wrong act if we are not penitent?
Leading questions, or questions that suggest the answer, do not encourage thought. To ask, Do you not think that God is pained when we do wrong? or What ought you to say in return when some one has done you a favor? is to leave the child himself too little to do in answering. The alternative question, or the question that simply allows the choice between two suggested possibilities is also fruitless so far as demanding thought is concerned. In a question like, Was Paul a Gentile or was he a Jew? the bright child can usually tell from the teacher's inflection how to answer. In any case he will run an even chance of giving the right answer from sheer guessing.
The order of questioning.—It is a mistake to ask questions in serial order, so that each child knows just when he is to be called upon. This method invites carelessness and inattention. There should be no set order, nor should a child who has just been called upon feel that he is now safe from further questioning. The element of uncertainty as to when the next question will come is a good incentive to alertness. The pupil who shows signs of mischief or inattention may well become the immediate mark for a question, and thereby be tided past the danger point.
Usually the question should be addressed to the entire class, and then a pause of a few seconds ensue before the one who is to answer is designated. Care must be taken, however, not to wait too long between asking the question and calling the name of the one expected to answer, for attention and curiosity quickly fall away, and time and interest are lost and the recitation becomes slow.
The reception of answers.—The teacher's reception of the child's answer is almost as important as the manner of asking the question. First of all, the teacher must be interested in the answer. This interest must be real, and must show in the manner. Not to look into the eyes of the child who is answering is to fail to pay the courtesy due one who is conversing with us; it is not only bad manners but worse pedagogy. The interested, sympathetic eye of the teacher has a wonderful power of encouragement and stimulus to the child, while an attitude of indifference on the part of the teacher is at once fatal to his enthusiasm. One of the besetting sins of many teachers is to repeat the pupils' answers after them. This habit probably has its rise in mental unreadiness on the part of the teacher, who repeats what the child has just said while getting ready to ask the next question. Besides being a great waste of time, the repeating of answers is discourteous, and is a source of distraction, and annoyance to pupils.
Finally, we may say that good questioning on the part of the teacher leads to questions on the part of the pupils. The relations between teacher and class always should be such, that the children, feel free to ask questions on any points of the lesson, and they should be encouraged to do so. The teacher must have the tact and skill, however, not to be led away from the topic by irrelevant questions nor to be required to waste time by discussing unimportant points which may be brought in. It is to be feared that valuable time is sometimes lost in adult classes in discussing controversial questions that ought not to have been asked.
THE STORY METHOD
The use of the story method of instruction has been mentioned many times in the course of our discussion. It will still be worth while, however, to note a few of the principles upon which the successful telling of stories depends.
First of all, a story is—just a story! It is not an argument, nor an explanation, not a description, nor a lecture in disguise. A story is a narrative of a series of events, which may be either real or imaginary. These events are so related as to form a closely connected unity from beginning to end, and they are of such nature as to appeal to imagination, interest, and emotion more than to the intellect. The successful handling of the story depends on two chief factors: (1) the plan or arrangement of the story itself, and (2) skill in telling the story.
The story itself.—The story must not be too long, or interest will weaken and attention will flag. It must have an interesting beginning, so that attention and anticipation are aroused from the very first sentence. "Once upon a time..." "A long time ago when the fairies..." "There once lived a king who..."—these all contain a hint of mystery or of interesting possibilities certain to invite response from children. The commonplace beginning is illustrated in a story in a primary leaflet which starts, "There was once a mother, who loved her child as all mothers do." There is no invitation here to imagination or anticipation, and the evident attempt to enforce a moral truth in the opening sentence detracts from its effectiveness.
The major characters of the story should be introduced in the opening sentences. The story should possess a close-knit unity, and not admit incidental or supplemental characters or events that play no direct part in the sequel. It must be so planned as to proceed to a climax, and this climax should be reached without unnecessary deviations and wanderings. We all know that type of story in which the main point is all but lost in a multiplicity of unnecessary details. On the other hand, points necessary to the climax must not be omitted. The climax may be the end of the story, or an ending may be provided following the climax. In either case the ending should leave the mind of the listener at rest as to the outcome. That is to say, there should remain no mystery or uncertainty or unpleasant feeling of incompleteness. The ending of a story should be as carefully phrased as its beginning. Even if the story has a sad ending, which is usually not best in children's stories, it should have some element in it which makes such a conclusion inevitable, and so leaves the mind in a sense satisfied.
Guiding principles.—The rules to guide in planning the story itself may, then, be stated as follows:
1. Decide on the truth to be conveyed, and make the story lead up to this.
2. Use great care to compel interest and anticipation through an effective beginning.
3. Plan to have the body of the story reasonably brief, and to make the main truth stand out in a climax. Eliminate all complications or irrelevant matter that does not aid in leading up to the climax. Elaborate and stress all features that help in making the impression to be attained in the climax.
4. Make the ending such as to leave in the mind a feeling that the story was satisfactory and complete.
Telling the story.—The effective story must be told. It cannot be read without losing something of spontaneity and attractiveness. It cannot even be committed to memory and repeated; for here also is lacking something of the living glow and appeal that come from having the words spring fresh and warm from the mind that is actually thinking and feeling them. Most story-tellers find that it pays to work out carefully and commit to memory the opening and closing sentences of a story; the phrasing is so important here that it should not be left to chance. But the body of the story is better given extemporaneously even if the wording is not as perfect as it could be made by reading or reciting the matter.
Before trying to tell a story before his class, the teacher should rehearse it several times. Nothing but practice will give the ease, certainty, and spontaneity necessary to good story-telling. Even professional story-tellers realize that they do not tell a new story well until they have told it a number of times. Perhaps this is in part because one never enjoys telling a story until he is sure he can tell it well, and so get a response from his listeners. And one never tells a story really well unless he himself enjoys both the story and its telling. One never brings the full effectiveness of a story to bear on his hearers unless he himself enters fully into its appreciation, and moves himself while stirring the emotions of those who listen.
The right atmosphere required.—Second in importance only to preparing himself for the telling of the story is the preparing of the class to listen. The right atmosphere of thought, attitude and feeling should be created for the story before it is begun. A primary teacher was about to begin a story whose purpose was to show how God cares for the birds by giving them feathers to keep them warm, wings for swift flying, and cozy nests for their homes, when suddenly a little bird flew in through the classroom window and was killed before the class by dashing against the wall. Of course the right atmosphere for her story was then impossible, and she wisely left it for another time.
The approach to the story can be made by some question or suggestion relating to the pupils' own experience, by a sentence or two of explanation, or by an illustration dealing with matters familiar to the class. But whatever device is used, the introduction should prepare the minds of the class to receive the story by turning their thought in the direction which the story is to take. It is also important that any new terms or unfamiliar situations which are to be used in the story, and which might not be understood by the class, shall be cleared up before the story is begun.
Arts and devices of the story-teller.—The skillful story-teller will soon learn to use certain arts and devices to make the telling more effective. One such device is the use of direct discourse; that is, instead of telling about the giants, the fairies, the animals, give them human speech and let them speak for themselves, like the bear in Little Red Riding Hood. Another effective device is that of repeating in the course of the story certain important words or phrases until from this repetition they stand out and become emphasized. Some of the best story-tellers make effective use of pauses, thus creating a situation of curiosity and suspense in the minds of the listeners. The pause must be neither too long nor too short, nor can any tell just how long it ought to be except from the response of the children themselves, which the teacher must be able to sense accurately and unfailingly. Much may be added to the effect of stories by skillful use of the various arts of expression, such as facial expression, voice tone, quality, and inflection, and gesture. The use of mimicry, imitation, and impersonation is also very effective if this ability comes naturally to the one who attempts to use it, but these would better be omitted than poorly done.
Good stories sometimes lose much of their effectiveness by having the moral stated at the end, or by having an attempt at moralizing too evident in the telling of the story. A story which has a lesson inherent in the story itself will teach its own moral if it is well told. If the truth to be conveyed is not clear to the child from the story, it will hardly appeal to him by having it tacked on at the end.
* * * * *
We have, then, come to the end of our brief study of the teaching of religion. We have seen some of its principles and methods, and have discovered these at work in various illustrations and applications. It now remains to realize that these are all to be found in brief epitome in the work of the Great Teacher. For Jesus was first of all a teacher, rather than a preacher. And as a teacher he supplied the model which anticipated all modern psychology and scientific pedagogy, and gave us in his concrete example and method a standard which the most skillful among us never wholly attain. While we may love Jesus as a friend, come to him as a comforter and helper, seek to follow him as a guide, and worship him as a Saviour, it will be well for us now and then momentarily to place these relations in the background and study him just as a teacher.
Jesus possessed an attractive, inspiring, compelling personality. People naturally came to him with their questions and problems. His quick sympathy, ready understanding, and unerring insight invited friendship, confidence, and devotion. He was ever sure of his "great objective," and whether he was teaching his disciples stupendous truths about the kingdom of God, or whether he was pointing the wayward woman the way to a reconstructed life, the welfare of the living soul before him was his controlling thought. Jesus had a true sense of the value of a life, and no life was too humble or too unpromising for him to lavish upon it all the wealth of his interest and all the power of his sympathy and helpfulness. He did not feel that his time was poorly spent when he was teaching small groups, and many of the choicest gems of his teaching were given to a mere handful of earnest listeners seated at his feet.
In all his teaching Jesus manifested a deep reverence for vital truth. He told his disciples, "The truth shall make you free." He was never afraid of truth, but accepted it reverently, even when it ran counter to accepted authority. Nor did Jesus ever lose time or opportunity in teaching trivial and unessential matters to his hearers; the knowledge he gave them was always of such fruitful nature that they could at once apply it to their living, Jesus's teaching carried over; it showed its effect in changed attitudes of life, in new purposes, compelling ideals, and great loyalties and devotions. Out of a band of commonplace fishermen and ordinary men he made a company of evangelists and reformers whose work and influence changed the course of civilization. Every person who responded to his instruction felt the glow of a new ambition and the desire to have a part in the great mission. Thus the teaching of Jesus entered into the actual life and conduct of his pupils. The truths he taught did not lie dormant as so much mere attainment of knowledge. They took root and blossomed into action, into transformed lives, and into heroic deeds of kindly service. The constant keynote and demand of Jesus's teaching was shown forth in his, "He that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them"; he was never satisfied without the doing.
Much is to be learned from the technique of Jesus's teaching, imperfect though the account is of his instruction. He always met his hearers on the plane of their own lives. He would begin his instruction with some common and familiar experience, and lead by questions or illustrations to the truth he wished to present. In this way, without the use of technical words or long phrases, he was able to teach deep and significant truths even to relatively uninformed minds. Jesus appealed to the imagination through picturesque illustrations and parables. He made his hearers think for the truth they reached, and so presented each truth that its application to some immediate problem or need could not be escaped. He was always interesting in his lessons, for they did not deal with unimportant matters nor with tiresome platitudes. He never failed to have definite aim or conclusion toward which his teaching was directed, and the words or questions he used in his instruction moved without deviation toward the accomplishment of this aim. He was too clear, too deeply in earnest, and too completely the master of what he was teaching ever to wander, or be uncertain or to waste time and opportunity. He felt too compelling a love for those he taught ever to fail at his task.
Finally, Jesus was himself the embodiment of the truths and ideals he offered others. He lived the lessons he desired his pupils to learn. He rendered concrete in himself the religion he would have his followers adopt. His life was a lesson which all could learn and follow.
1. Which type of recitation method do you most commonly employ? Which do you like best? Do you combine the several methods occasionally in the same recitation? Do you plan which is best for each particular occasion?
2. To what extent do you use the topical method? Do your pupils succeed in discussing the topics with fair completeness? Do you always supplement with matter of your own, or expand the topics by asking questions when the discussion has been incomplete?
3. Stenographic reports of various recitations have shown that teachers often themselves use from two to three or four times as many words in the lesson hour as all the pupils combined. Do you believe that for young pupils this is good teaching? Have you any accurate notion of the time you yourself take? Do you talk too much?
4. Study your questioning in the recitation and determine as well as you can which of the principles of good questioning you are most successful in applying; which you are least successful in applying.
5. To what extent do you use the story as a method of instruction? How do you judge you would rank as a story-teller? To what extent have you studied the art of story-telling? Are you constantly improving? What difference have you noted in the interest of a class when a story is told and when it is read?
FOR FURTHER READING
Betts, The Recitation.
Hamilton, The Recitation.
Home, Story-Telling, Questioning and Studying.
St. John, Stories and Story-Telling.
Houghton, Telling Bible Stories.
ADOLESCENCE, subject matter for, 117 AIM, the the child determining, 30 of religious instruction, 42 religious habits as, 193 APPRECIATION as an aim of instruction, 86 cultivating religious, 194 APPROACH, psychological mode of, 52 ART in religious teaching, 72 types of in curriculum, 125 ASSIGNMENT of lesson, 197 ATTITUDES religious as aim, 45 to be cultivated, 76 toward the school, 77 the child's spiritual, 84
BIBLE, the the teacher's knowledge of, 23 the child's knowledge of, 68 continuing interest in, 82 as a source of material, 111 and reason, 167
CONSERVATION, religious, 33 CHILD, the as a Christian, 34 his concept of God, 59 his concept of religion, 63 the teacher's knowledge of, 25 as the great objective, 30 and his spiritual growth, 31 CHRISTIAN, the child, 34 CHURCH, the the child's knowledge of, 69 participation in activities of, 101 loyalty to, 88
DANGER POINTS in instruction, 161 how avoided, 162 DEDUCTION, in religion, 190 DISTRACTIONS freedom from in recitation, 155 avoiding unnecessary, 156 DRAMATIC, the children and, 176 use of in teaching, 176 DRILL, place of, 192 DUTY, as a virtue, 99
EXPRESSION religious in the home, 106 as a mode of learning, 44 in social service, 101
GIVING, training in, 104 GOD the child's concept of, 59 harm from wrong concepts of, 60 made the daily counselor, 100
HABIT preventing the, of defeat, 81 religious, as aim, 93 the growth of, 94 HEROES, appeal of to child, 89 HOME, religious expression in, 106
IDEALS, 85 IMAGINATION use of in religion, 170 how to appeal to, 172 INDUCTION, use of in religion, 187 INSTRUCTION response as a test of, 53 various tests of, 56, 107 INTEREST as a test of attitude, 79 in the Bible, 82 how to appeal to, 151
JESUS, an ideal teacher, 217
KNOWLEDGE religious as an aim, 44 of most worth, 58 of the Bible, 67 of the church, 69
LABORATORY, work in religion, 102 LESSONS Uniform, the, 134 Graded, the, 134 in text book form, 134 different types of, 183 LIFE requirements of for religion, 43 religious teaching and, 91 a code for, 95 LOTI, PIERRE, quoted, 61 LOYALTY, cultivation of, 88
MATERIAL, for instruction means instead of end, 35 adapting to child, 50 chapter on, 109 sources of, in in story form, 118 organization of, 126 MEASURES of success, 38 of child's progress, 39 MEMORY, the laws of, 177 training of, 179 METHOD of the recitation, 201 the topical, 202 the lecture, 204 the question-and-answer, 206 the story, 212 MUSIC in worship, 72 in the curriculum, 126
NATURE, as a source of material, 122 NEGLECT, and stress of subject matter, 51
OBEDIENCE, as a virtue, 97 OBJECTIVE, the chapter on, 30 for the teacher, 30 effect of on teaching, 37 ORGANIZATION, of material chapter on, 129 different types of, 130
PERSONALITY building of, 16 chart for, 18 PICTURES types of in use, 125 appeal of to child, 174 PLAN, the lesson, 141 PRESENTATION, and response, 55 PRINCIPLES, foundation in teaching, 42
QUESTION, the, method, 206 QUESTIONING, principles of, 207
RECITATION, the, 201 RELIGION the child's concept of, 63 related to living, 64, 92 and art, 72 influence of music in, 72 laboratory work in, 102 REVIEW, the, 196
SCHOOL, the church pupils' attitude toward, 77 the spirit of, 78 SCORE CARD, for personality, 19 SERVICE social as expression, 101 training in social, 105 SINGING, in worship, 104 STORY, the as lesson material, 118 other than Bible, 120 method of, 212 principles of telling, 214 STRESS, and neglect of material, 51 SUBJECT MATTER as means to end, 35 selecting right, 48 chapter on, 109 sources of, 111
TEACHER, the chapter on, 13 types of, 14 preparation of, 21 as a student, 27 TEACHING technique of, 148 measures of effective, 165 types of, 183 TEXT BOOKS, of religion, 139 THINKING required in religion, 165 and Bible study, 167
UNIFORM LESSONS, 134, 135
WELLS, H.G., quoted, 60 WORSHIP, in church school, 104