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From the American Educational Monthly.
We find, therefore, growing out of the successive dependence, the following order of topics :
1. Position on the Globe.
9. Distribution, industries, social organization, intellectual condition, and history of the civilized inhabitants.
The last, the distribution of man in the social capacity of states or nations, constitutes that department of the subject called Political Geography, the one which is usually first presented to the young, and, in fact, the only one presented to any extent.
This, it must be conceded, cannot be intelligently studied until a knowledge has been acquired of the physical conformation, the soil, the climate, the resulting vegetable, and associated animal life, which make the possibility of the presence of civilized states or nations in one part of the continent while they are absent from another. If the facts concerning their distribution be given the pupil, before he has any idea of these physical conditions which govern it, he may remember them, it is true, but they will be of little worth to him, because he does not receive them intelligently, as the result of causes with which he is familiar, and the influence of which even he can discover if his attention be directed to them, but they are to him simply isolated facts to be remembered, awakening no thought and stimulating no further study.
We have seen that this topic of political geography belongs properly to the analytical phase of the subject. It must, therefore, be very sparingly presented in the perceptive portion. Only the most prominent facts, and such as are most obviously and unmistakably traceable to the great physical characteristics of the continents, can be presented ; and even these must be given only after the preceding
topics are thoroughly known, so that the pupil can himself trace the relation of the former to them.
In this study of the continents, accurate physical maps are indispensable, and, if possible, they should be entirely free from all lines or colors indicating arbitrary political divisions, as these can but mar the distinctness, and break the unity of the all-important physical features.
The child must be able to see only the divisions and limits which nature made, if he is to gain a correct idea of her work.
The first topic the child has already considered, in his examination of the globe, and it need simply be recalled. In the next three topics, which constitute the main work of this grade, the same general course is pursued as in studying the globe. That is, the child is to discover, by the use of his own eyes, what exists, and give correct expression to the facts which he discovers.
One very important addition is, however, to be made. The pupil must invariably construct maps of the country he is studying. When upon the contour, his map will show only the outline; when upon the surface, the mountains and other elevations must be added in their place; and when upon the internal waters, these must appear. In all these exercises the closest accuracy must be required.
There are several reasons why this drawing should be insisted on. First, it aids, by the closer and more minute observation required than is necessary to a simple description, to fix the physical features in the memory. Second, it affords a variety of exercise by means of which the attention can, without weariness, be kept on those all-important points for a greater length of time. Third, it cultivates a power of representation which will be invaluable to the pupil in future study; and lastly, at no after period in his life can he so easily acquire facility in this representation as now, and be so easily interested in the many little details which are necessary to accuracy. He takes delight in examining the minute peculiarities of contour and relative position ; and what the older pupil would neglect as unimportant and wearily stupid, the child of nine years considers worthy of the greatest attention and the most prolonged effort.
In studying the internal waters and the succeeding points, the reason begins to be a little exercised in noticing the relations of the one to the other, and of all to the surface. Great care should be taken, however, to present only the most simple and obvious of these relations, such as the pupil of ordinary capacity cannot fail to comprehend. For instance, the child is thoroughly acquainted with the surface of North America. He knows of the great plateau in the western part of the United States, and of the high, unbroken wall of the Sierra Nevada, which borders it. He is told that the Pacific coasts and valleys have a fine warm climate while the upper part of this great wall is very cold. He sees by the rivers that on the side toward the sea there must be abundant rains, while the other side is almost destitute of water.
He has noticed many times in his mother's kitchen that vapor rises from water abundantly when it is warmed, and that when this vapor comes in contact with the cold window-pane it is at once changed into water. Now if he is told that winds are constantly blowing on this part of the continent from the warm Pacific, will he not, if that simple phenomena be recalled to his attention, at once see that the moisture which these winds bring from the ocean will be taken from them when they strike the cold Sierra Nevada, and will fall in abundant rains on the outer slope, while the inner receives little or none? Remembering, then, the position of the mountain wall, can he ever forget these peculiarities of climate? Again, he has learned by experience in his garden that plants require, in order to their growth, both warmth and moisture. Knowing these differences in climate, will he fail to remember the differences in vegetation which he himself will discover depend on that? He knows, also, that there are certain occupations, agriculture and grazing, which depend on the growth of plants. He will therefore be prepared to find that the one part is eminently fitted for these occupations, and the other either not at all so, or to a very limited extent. He thus gets his first insight, a very limited one, it is true, into the relations of the physical conformation of a region to its fitness to be the dwelling-place of man. We find, therefore, as before stated, the necessity that he should first be made thoroughly acquainted with these forms. If this is done, it will become impossible for him to forget the subsequent facts, which he sees to be so intimately dependent upon them.
We are aware that the ideas here advanced are diametrically opposed to the generally received notions as to the proper presentation of this subject to the young, and that if acted upon, they must produce an entire revolution in our methods of teaching Geography. · We trust it has been made evident to the reader that, if we are to proceed on philosophic principles, the old plan of giving the pupil long lists of names, and collections of facts in regard to political geography, as his first work in this subject, must be set aside, and he must, in the outset, be introduced to the globe in its physical conformation and conditions.
Years of experience have convinced the writer that if the general plan here indicated be pursued, we shall no longer hear the complaint so often made by teachers, that the children do not learn their geography lessons; are not interested in them, and do not remember them.
The text-book, so often disliked and neglected by the pupil, will become (if properly arranged) but the summary of his own thoughts, a convenient memorandum of facts and relations, most of which he has himself discovered, to which he will always turn with interest and pleasure. The few details given in regard to such points as are beyond the range of his investigation, will, as he finds them in their relation to such points as he could investigate, confirming the justness of his own conclusions, be pursued with never-wearying delight.
When the general course here indicated has been pursued in each of the six continents, and a general view is had of the conformation of the oceans, the main work of the perceptive course is done. The child is now thoroughly prepared to enter upon the analytic course in which he is no longer confined mainly to the study of general forms, but the detailed modifications of these forms are carefully considered, and a great store of facts required in regard to the life of the vegetation, animals, man and nations associated with them, and he is constantly employing his reasoning powers to trace the relation of these facts to the physical conditions with which they are associated.
HOW TO INSTRUCT A WRITING CLASS.
[WE commend the following mode of instructing a class in writing. It is taken from H. W. Ellsworth's Guide to Penmanship, which, by the by, should be in the hands of every teacher.—ED.]
“We now come to the most important part of our subject-- how to instruct the pupils before us, how to accomplish the object for which all our preparation has been made.
6 Instruction should be of two kinds - General and Special.
“ 1st. General Instruction consists of all those general rules, principles and illustrations which can be imparted to the whole class at once, by the aid of the black-board, as effectually as to an individual. Herein lies the great power of the teacher to instruct large numbers ; for all the general features of the lesson can be imparted by this means to a whole school as effectually as to a dozen. This advantage can only be obtained when the whole class write the same copy at the same time. Hence the great importance of the plan. To give this instruction forcibly will require a little previous practice in writing with chalk upon the black-board, or reference to the “ Black-board Chart of Letters,” which is designed to serve the same purpose so far as the form and analysis of the letters is required. General instruction should, if possible, be given immediately after opening the books (Signal 5). It is well, however, to interrupt the class after writing a few moments, and direct attention to the important points of the copy, common errors, &c., as it is then most likely to be comprehended and assimilated by the pupils. Before beginning a new copy the whole, or most important part of it, should be written upon the blackboard, and the attention of the entire class directed to it while you explain the lesson it is intended to convey, and analyze the new or difficult letters, referring each to its proper class, principle and manner of formation, dwelling particularly upon its characteristic portion and anticipating common errors in its formation; the whole interspersed with frequent interrogations reviewing previous instruction.
“ 2. Special Instruction. Yet there still remains a most important part of the teacher's task to perform—that of examining into the results of the general instruction, and administering that advice and assistance required in each individual case. In large schools or classes, assistants will be needed in this task, each having charge of a single section, whose duty it is to pass around to each pupil, as in the ordinary way, examine into his work, and at the same time illustrate and enforce the general instruction. But in doing this, system must be observed, or great labor may be lost. Many teachers are at as great a loss to know how to teach as their pupils are how to write, and the sight of such a teacher roving among listless pupils is a pitiful one indeed, but common to behold. In imparting special instruction you should, 1st. See that every pupil is writing in the right place, copy, column, word, and if guide lines are ruled, on the right lines, spaces,