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Idiocy: And Its Treatment By The Physiological Method

Creator: Edward Seguin (author)
Date: 1907
Publisher: Teachers' College, Columbia University
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Page 48:


To this effect we create the lines, all but the first, which must be a horizontal or a vertical, in relation with others. For instance, a vertical line being laid, we start one, two, or three horizontal ones from it, sometimes from right to left, sometimes from left to right. Parallels must always be supported in this wise; and oblique lines cannot be taught before the two preceding are well executed to support the oblique at its extremities, forming a triangle; and soon our pupil is unconsciously drawing quite complicated figures out of these connected straight lines. But before this exercise passes from the domain of attentive imitation to inattentive routine, we make two of these connected lines at once; the child must do the same; we make a combination of three lines; he must execute it similarly as a whole. After this we draw a combination of lines, we show it to the child, we efface it, and he must reproduce it by his sole power of imaginative memory.


At a certain stage of these exercises, which can be better appreciated in practice for each child than in theory for all of them, the knowledge of the curved line is to be introduced. This must take place when the straight one has acquired sufficient correctness to be above possible confusion. We teach the curves in various ways. As if it were nothing more than a harmonious deviation of the straight line, we support both ends of the former on the ends of the latter. We try to excite the perception of the undulations inherent to all curves by repeated examples of the same. When the child is called to draw curves, numerous copies of these lines are laid before his sight on the board, and under the appreciation of his touch in solid figures. But when the difficulty seems to rest more with the mechanism of drawing than with its understanding, we overcome that difficulty by making the child draw curves between two circles, traced or even solid, one inside of the other, five or six inches apart, leaving between them a space for the child to wind up his curves like an endless thread. Considering ourself or the child like a compass, whose fixed branch is the body, whose movable branch is the arm, we and he soon trace within those two limiting circles perfect curves. Indeed, he succeeds so well that before long we have to put him to the practice of the straight lines again, for fear that he should curve after this every line he draws. When these two elements of drawing, the right and curved lines, are well understood separately, they are used in combination to produce an unlimited variety of figures, among which the representation of our letters has appeared more than once; so that the child writes already by imitation without suspecting it.


At this period the illimited and rather fantastic drawing by imitation is set aside, long enough to repress its unmeaning exuberance, but not enough to let the hand and sight forget their quickness at it. We set the child to draw letters after us, each letter as a whole, without analyzing its parts; and when he has written a number of them, we show to him the like printed, and name them, so that he could name them himself. After we have written, compared, and named a few groups of them in a certain order, we take care to use every ingenuity that our mind can suggest to vary that order, for fear that lazy memory should attach the idea or the name of the letters, not to their forms, but to the place they occupy. It is incredible how many ordinary children fall into that mistaken application of memotechny, caused by exaggerated reliance on localization.


Contrarily to school practice, and agreeably to nature, our letters are to be written before being read. But soon both exercises are mingled together, unless for some special object we effect a momentary separation, easily detected in the following exposition.


Our method proper of teaching writing and reading does not differ from what has been previously said; we take advantage here of differences, there of analogies, in form as well as in sound, to enforce the meaning of each by its correlative: in this respect our training is, not so much one of memory, as one of comparison. The instruments of the method are many. We have seen the best of all in operation; it is the hand, creating its own reading matter. But we shall use concurrently the following appliances, with others too numerous to mention.


We use two alphabets, one solid, the other printed; the first adapting itself to the shape of the second, the second on cards, easily placed or displaced, on a frame in columns, in groups, or scattered. The very lowest beginners when they have distinguished a circle from a square, can be put to this alphabet. We proceed in this wise:


The child is placed before our alphabet-board; we put before him the three letters I, O, A, in relief, and the same printed on cards are set in the board. We give him the solid I, at the same time that we name it, to be placed on the painted one. He may either let it drop, or put it on another printed letter, or put it on the proper letter, but improperly, or he may superpose it correctly, in which latter case the exercise is continued without interruption. The failures above referred to are corrected: the first by making him pick up the dropped letter till he puts it down in its place rationally and willingly; the second by ourselves covering severally each printed letter with its solid similar, to show him well the modus operandi; the third by patiently correcting the wrong superpositions; and better yet, by directing and teaching gently with our hands, his fingers to do that correction. At every movement of his or of ours, we have been naming with emphasis the letter moved. All the letters have been presented in series formed in view of apposing their difference and analogy of form; as L to Q by contrast; O to Q by similarity, etc.

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