V I C T 0 H 1 A .




C ( ) M P O S I T I O N



(Vlief Inspector, Education Department ^ Victoria

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C () M I3 O 8 I T TON.


Chief Inspector) Education Department, I ictoria

£3y Authority:

ALBERT J. MULLETT, £549.—[1’kice 3d.]



C O X rr E X T s.


Introductory .. ..

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1.—First Stage—Getting the


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II.—Second Stage—Arranging

the Thoughts

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III.Third StageGiving the


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Summary .. .. .

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Supplementary Remarks .

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If a child is to put thoughts together intelligibly, for this is what composition implies, the teacher has to see to three things:—

1.    That the child has thoughts on the subject. (No attempt at expression before there is proper impression.)

2.    That he is trained to arrange these thoughts in some systematic way, so that the composition shall have a proper beginning, a middle, and an end.

3.    That the thoughts, thus arranged, shall be expressed in good English.

These three requirements are summed up in the instruction:—“ The teacher’s aim should be to train children to get and to express thoughts accurately and naturally in clear statements, logically and effectively arranged.”

If these essential stages, namely, getting the thoughts, arranging the thoughts, giving the thoughts, are suitably worked through by the teacher, and in the above order, success must follow, the degree of success being, of course, in proportion to the teacher’s skill and resourcefulness.

1.    Insufficient attention to the first—the foundational stage reveals itself when the child does not know what to say next, or when inspector or teacher has to pass such criticisms as “ matter not good ” or too short.”

2.    Imperfect training in the second step—the arrangement of the ideas—is seen where the child writes ill-arranged sentences, or where he writes a sentence on one portion of his subject, and leaves it, to return several lines down with some afterthought. Statements, for example, about the appearance or structure of the frog, its evolution from the egg stage, its food, and its use, are mixed up, instead of being each the subject of a short paragraph. Or an essay on a country will appear in a kind of mosaic form, because tlje young essayist has not been trained to marshal his thoughts under some such headings as Locality, Physical Features, Comparative Size, Early History, Industries, Trade Connexion with Australia.

3. The form P which the ideas are expressed in-colves, in the middle and upper school, some acquaintance with formal grammar. But, even in the lower school, common mistakes in English can largely be avoided by the constant presentation of correct forms, and by a little judicious drilling in a few simple forms of speech that do not involve a knowledge of grammatical rules.


In the first step in all composition teaching—the furnishing of the child with a good equipment of thoughts on his subject,—it is scarcely necessary to point out that, if the proper opportunity is created for him, the child has much to say on quite a large number of topics coming within his experience, such as “ How I spend Saturdays ” (or Sundays, or holidays, or recess time), “ How I help at Home,” “ My Pets," “ My Doll,” “ Setting the Table,” “ Our Garden,” “My Storybook,” “ Games I like best.” Every parent knows that the youngest member of the family circle will, at times, monopolize the conversation at the table in his desire to tell of something that has interested him. '* This (language teaching) should commence with in-formal talks upon interesting objects, such as favorite toys and pets.”

On his way to a Melbourne school, the writer overtook a group of infant-room folk, who, on the strength of having been recently examined, promptly claimed acquaintance. They talked with much volubility on several things, and when, in response to an inquiry, the writer was obliged to confess that he had not visited either the circus or the chute, the description of the joys to be had at these places lasted till the school dooi was reached. And yet such children show comparatively little responsiveness in school. 'Why? Because, no doubt, we fail, oftentimes, to provide the natural conditions of interest, and succeed, instead, in creating the school restraint of self-consciousness, with its consequent artificiality. It is gratifying, however, to find the youngest children, under the skilled guidance of our best teachers, now showing eagerness to “ talk ” their thoughts.

On familiar topics, then, the child is already furnished with many thoughts, and the teacher need only direct the language work (i.e., marshal the child’s thoughts) by briefly putting the questions in some prearranged order.

Devices for generating thought are—

(a) Interesting investigation by the children, under the inspiration of the teacher, of nature-study subjects, pictures, objects, poems, and stories. Investigating— not listening, as passive recipients, to over-talkative teachers.

• One way to begin the investigation is to have the child supply complete answers, first orally, then, as soon as possible, in writing, to a chain of connected questions written on the blackboard.

“ The teacher’s object should be to give the child, from the earliest stage, the power of using writing as a mode of thought expression.”

As Parker1 says, “ Training in talking with the tongue is one of the best ways of preparing for talking with the pencil. If this be properly done, the words will drop ofl the pencil as easily and naturalisas they drop ofi the tongue. . . . Writing should be placed in the power of the child just as soon as -possible after lie enters school.”


The “ question and answer” form of composition may be applied, of course, to a topic of nature-study, a picture, an object, a story, &c.:—

My Cat.

What is your cat's name?

What is its color?

What does it eat?

What does it drink?

What food does it like best of all?

Where does it like to lie in cold weather?

Where does it like to lie in sunny weather?

How does it show that it is angry?

What does it do when it is pleased?

Tell of some trick that your cat can do.

If each question is answered by a sentence, and each sentence is begun with a capital, and ended with a full stop, the result will be a readable little composition exercise. The answers should first bo given orally.

And here, at the beginning, the rule should be impressed, and at times repeated by the class—to begin each answer with a capital, and to end it with a full stop. It is a mistake to defer dealing with the elements of punctuation. They should be taught, kindergarten-wise, from the first. The note of interrogation may be called “ the question-mark/’ or the little man who asks a question/’ while the comma may be known at first as the “ wait-mark.” In the next stage, the quotation marks may be taught, using some such term as “ talking marks.” Those who know the book, Patridge’s Quincy Methods, will recall how the teacher deals effectively with punctuation in the infants’ room.

“ The class is to be trained in giving clear and connected answers to questions.” “ The children should have some idea of the use of the full stop, the comma, and the note of interrogation.”

This question-form of composition should not be confined to the infants’ room, but may, with advantage, be used in the higher grades as a preliminary training

in generating, and then expressing, connected thought on such topics as an historic character, a town, a race of people, natural phenomena, analysis of a poem, a reading lesson, or a story-book from the school library, e.g.:—

The Russian Empire.

Who were the founders?

Why is it called an “ empire ” ? Why is it not called a “ kingdom ” ?

Compare it as to area and population with Australia.

Physical features, productions, climate.

Plow is it governed?

The war.

At a subsequent stage, the questions that the children may ask themselves on a given topic may be educed.

On composition day, the information brought by the children and supplemented by the teacher would form the material for oral exercises, and, afterwards, for written composition. As the children would be active agents in the construction of the essay, it would be written “ under a strong stimulus of interest in the subject described.”

It is wise to announce the subject beforehand, and to require the children themselves to collect the information demanded by the questions placed on the board. It is, perhaps, almost as important to mention the composition topic in advance as it is to indicate the nature-study subject, and for the same reason, namely, that the children may be ready with original observations.

I n fact, it is an excellent procedure to keep the children in every grade in touch with the proposed course of study in all subjects, as shown on the work-program. If this is judiciously done, it is a direct incentive to interest, and it is apt to form in the scholars the ideal attitude of being co-workers with the teacher.

In the children’s re-expression of the ideas embodied in a picture, a fable, a nature myth, a poem, or the like, the imagination must have free play, otherwise the exercise may be little more than a juggling with, or re-arrangement of, words, of such a kind as that mentioned by Matthew Arnold, where a senior scholar, in paraphrasing Shakespeare’s line, “ Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased? ” rendered it, “ Can you not wait upon a lunatic? ”

That children live in a world of imagination, and that their powers of observation can be effectively trained, are truisms. A truth less generally realized is that “ conscious acts of observation and of the imagination are of the same kind.”

Parker, in the chapter on “ Observation ” in his Talks on Pedagogics, points out that “ the associative-acts induced by observation are in themselves precisely the same in kind as those acts of synthesis caused by a direct act of the ego through the will. We name the former acts observation, from their cause, external objects; we name the latter acts imagination, from their cause, the ego; but the acts themselves, so far as I can see, are precisely the same. . . . The products of observation are used in imagination. Whatever the products of observation are, so will be the products of imagination, if the imagination is properly exercised. If the products of the senses are vague, obscure, and incomplete, it is reasonable to suppose that the products of the imagination will have the same incompleteness. . . . The part that imagination plays in education cannot be overlooked. By imagination, the human being can go outside the sense grasp, can picture that which lies beyond his own immediate environment. That world beyond, of everlasting change in nature and man, is a world that the imagination must reveal, else study is vain and profitless.”

Radestock, in his Habit in Education, puts the same truth—“ Imagination creates nothing new, but it brings the elements of the materials gained by internal and external experience into new combinations. .    . The

value of imagination lies in the original and comparatively new manner of these dissolving and combining processes.”

I    »


Before he can hope to train the imagination of the children, the teacher must train his own. A book that will help to this end is Mrs. Gatty’s Parables from Xature. Much educative play of the imagination is new seen in our modern infants' rooms.

The following is a type of composition written by a young child under the stimulus of imagination :—

The Goon Thistle.

“ My name is Good Thistle. Would you like to know how I got that name? I will tell you.

Once a little girl was very, very sick.

“What shall I do? ” said her mamma. “ Mv little girl cannot get well.”

Then, an old lady made her some thistle tea.

The little girl soon got well, and called me “ The Good Thistle.”

The bee likes me, too, and comes to see me often.    •

I give the bee sweet honey.

The bee gives me yellow (lust from other thistles.

This dust makes my seeds good.

i have a purple dress in summer to please the bee.”

The training of the imagination should not, of course, be confined to the elementary school. The training is needed, also, in the middle and the upper school. The printed page “ should stimulate intense acts of imagination. There should be a richness and vividness of elementary ideas ready to rise above the plane of consciousness when excited by words."

The nature of the ideas in the margin of the children's consciousness that are ready to assert themselves will, of course, depend on the fullness of the apperceptive masses generated by the whole of the teacher’s previous instruction. Thus, the thorough teaching of one subject helps that of another.

“jNTothing in the world is single;

All things, by a law divine,

Into one another mingle.”

As an example of visualizing, take Longfellow’s poem. The Slave's Dream.

The treatment here suggested would be suitable for a correlated lesson in reading and composition.

The teacher himself must first visualize the poem, by bringing together his ideas “ gained by internal and external experience.” If the lines do not stimulate his own imagination, he cannot expect to make the lesson live before the class.

“ The Slave's Dream."

(Teachers visualization of the poem, with its attendant thoughts, some of which he hopes to draw out from the class.)

1.    The savage king.—

(a) His kingdom—[Basin of the Niger in the Sudan.]

(b) A mental picture of the richness of this native

kingdom—[Mountain, plain, river, palms (stanza 2), tamarind (s. 5), forests (s. 7). Its animal life (stanzas 5, 6).]

(c)    His wealth (s. 4).

(d)    His happy family life (s. 3).

2.    Visit of the slavers.—

(a) Attack, resistance, defeat.

{b) Horrors of the march to the coast in the slave gang.

(c) Miseries endured on the slave ship.

3.    The slave.—

(a)    Arrival in America. His sale by public auction;

separation from wife and children. (Chapter from Uncle Tom's Cabin.)

(b)    IIis slave life on the rice plantations of Carolina—

hut, food, whip—contrast with his African life.

(c)    His heart breaks. His dying dream.

4.    Abolition of slavery.—Wilberforce, Clarkson, Abraham Lincoln. British gun-boats patrolling East African coast to capture Arabian slave dhows. (See “The Men who Freed the Slave, in British Worthies on Sea arid Land, by Lon; and Wallace.)

5.    “Rule Britannia!"

As the lesson developed on these lines, there would be—

(а)    From the Teacher—Word painting of the scenes,

illustrated by map and picture, and a systematically-planned course of questioning.

(б)    From the Children—Corroborative quotations from

the poem. Free expression of thought and play of the imagination in response to the teacher’s suggestions. Queries from the children. The taking of brief notes as above. Oral, and then v.iitten, expansion of the notes by the class, with an encouragement from the teacher to each child to visualize freely.

(b) Clothing a skeleton outline gives and suggests thoughts.

A River: Skeleton Outline.

1.    Source.—High mountains (source of Ganges), or a comparatively slight elevation (\ ictorian rivers rising in Central Highlands), fed by rain or by melted snow, more abundant on hills than on plains.

2.    Course. — M inding. Straight lines not seen in nature. River follows line of least resistance. Makes its own bed. Helps to make its own banks by depositing mud and sand. Flows into sea or lake, or into larger river.

3.    Basin. — Area drained by river and its feeders, called its “ basin.” Edge or rim of river basin, called its “ watershed/’ e.g., basin of Murray. Southern edge of basin is Central Highlands—a watershed.

4.    Mouth.—Part where waters enter sea, called an “estuary” when mouth is very wide and it receives high tide from sea. Estuaries of Amazon, Forth. Seaport towns built at river mouths—Liverpool, Calcutta Melbourne.

Skeleton Clothed (First Orally, then in Writing).

(Result of the children's mutually criticized elforts directed by the teacher, special care being taken with the connectives.)

a A river has its source in high mountains, as the Ganges in the Himalaya Mountains, or in lower elevations, as the Goulburn and the Yarra in the Central Highlands.

A Hyer is fed by rain, or by melted snow, both of these being more abundant on the hills than on the plains.

“ The course of a river is winding, because it follows the line of least resistance. Straight lines are not seen in nature.

It makes its own bed, and also helps to make its own banks by depositing mud and sand.

A liver flows into the sen, a lake, or a larger river, but, in dry countries, it sometimes loses itself in the plains, like Cooper’s Creek, in Central Australia.” (And so on.)

Finger-nails (Grades II. and III.).


Placed. Oval-shaped. Curved. Pink color. White near roots. Smooth, glossy, hard, sharp at points. Our nails grow; must be cut; dust gets under; must be cleaned. Protect fingers.

Fall Statement.

(Mainly the work of the children, special attention being paid to the link-words.)

“ Our finger-nails are placed behind the tips of the fingers. They are oval-shaped, a little curved, and of a pink color, but the parts near the roots are white. They are also smooth, glossy, and hard and sharp at the points.

Our nails grow, therefore they must be cut; and, when dust gets between them and the skin, they must be cleaned with soap, water, and a brush.

“ Our nails are of use in protecting the points of the fingers.”

Note the subdivisions in the foregoing essays. It is desirable that, from the first, the children should be trained to mark off their composition exercises into sections. The technical term paragraph ” may be introduced when it is felt to be necessary—perhaps in Grade V. In the preliminary oral exercise, the pupils should, in a kindly spirit, under the teacher’s guidance, criticize each other's attempts to supply suitable words and connectives. If a child’s effort is severely criticized by the teacher, or laughed at by his classmates, the sensitive child will, as the experienced teacher knows, contribute no more to the lesson.

Letter writing may also be begun by supplying the substance of the letter, for example—

From the following headings, make up a letter to your mother:—

“ Description of journey from your home to Ballarat. What you saw on the way. Uncle met you. Cousins glad to see you. First impressions of Ballarat. Weather there. Lake and gardens, statuary, School of Mines, Art Gallery, visit to a gold mine. How your evenings are spent. When you expect to return.”

The reproduction 0/ short stories is apt to degenerate into a mechanical form of teaching composition. Very useful work can, however, be done, if, before the story is written, the leading thoughts are educed, shown in brief outline on the board, and woven (orally) into the complete narrative. It is better to tell than to read the story. “ Reading hampers the direct contact of mind with mind.” If the story is told twice, the phraseology should be somewhat altered in the second recital. This will prevent memorizing.

(c)    Picture essays suggest thoughts.

Picture stories are a valuable aid in suggesting thought to a child. A small picture brought by each child is gummed on the upper portion of a leaf in his exercise-book, leaving sufficient room below for him to write a description of the picture, or an account of the incidents portrayed. Tie thus has material for thought under his eye.

In several schools, valuable training has been given in this way. A book full of picture essays is prized by both children and parents. For those who prefer the little pictures already gummed, Thos. .Nelson and Sons have prepared packets of attractive pictures. The book, Picture Essays, by the same publishers, will also be found helpful.

(d)    Weather and other nature-study calendars are storehouses of information.

The Regulations ask that the children shall be trained to make various seasonal records.

“ Great stress should be laid upon a careful noting of the chief phenomena of meteorology. ... In the upper classes, meteorological observations should be definite and exact; temperatures should be regularly read and recorded, rainfall estimated, the characteristics of the month noted, and so on . . . Teachers should keep a Nature-study Observation Book, and should encourage the pupils to keep one also.”

“ The well-equipped school will have some kind of natural-history record, in which the important events of the year will be entered.”—(Gillies: Insect Life.)

“ I trust that I shall live to see the day when . . . composition will he beautifully taught by the inspiring stimulus of facts, gained from natural objects.” . . . — (Parker: Talks on Teaching.)

Instead of having these observations recorded on a large wall-sheet, as is sometimes done, it is better for each child to enter in his exercise-book (according to the grade in which he is enrolled) the readings of thermometer and barometer, meridian altitudes, shadow graphs, direction of the wind, the rainfall, and the characteristics of the month as regards plant, insect, and bird life.

Each pupil will thus have, in a readily accessible form, much interesting material of his own making for composition exercises.



The second stage in the teaching of composition is concerned with the orderly arrangement of the children’s thoughts.

While this step has, to some extent, been anticipated in the first stage, directions or helps in permanent and graphic form will be necessary.

On large sheets of brown paper, or Manila paper, or on green linen, write, in bold characters (script being preferable to print for the lower grades), the headings or steps under which the usual composition subjects may be attacked. Fasten the sheets at the top to a roller, so that any required sheet may be readily displayed to the class.

Needless to say. the following headings are only suggestive:—

A Picture.

(1)    Give names to the persons in the picture.

(2)    How are they dressed?

(3)    What have they been doing?

(4)    What do you think they will do next?

(5)    Tell of anything else that you see in the picture.

The last three questions give scope for the exercise of the imagination.

A Xature-study Specimen.

(1)    Describe the different parts you see.

(2)    Where is it (animal or plant) found?

(3)    Where did you find yours?

(4)    Wliat does it live on?

(5)    Of what use is it?

(6)    What have you found out about it? *

(7)    Draw it. (If it is within the child's manual powers.) “ The correlation of drawing and nature-study has been attempted in many schools, not always with satisfactorily results as tar as drawing is concerned. There are many subjects suitable for nature-study the forms of which are quite outside the range of the child’s perceptive and manual powers in drawing.” (Art Inspector's General Report, 1903-4.)

With regard to (1) above, the following is a good order in which to describe a bird, both as to shape and color—Beak, head, back, tail, underparts, legs, feet (or claws). Substituting “muzzle” for “beak,” this order would do also for describing an animal.

I he nature-study lessons will furnish excellent opportunities for oral and written composition lessons, and the children should be encouraged to illustrate their records with diagrams. 1 he children s notes of nature-study lessons are best shown as compositions written after the lesson.


Historical Character.

(1)    Birthplace and date of birth.

(2)    Early life.

(3)    Manhood.

(4)    Xotable deeds done, or service rendered.

(5)    Has his life affected us in any way?

(6)    Are any of his famous sayings still remem

bered ?

(7)    What is the general verdict or opinion?

(8)    Add anything else you choose.

Suitable headings could also be devised and charted for, say, a natural or manufactured product; a real or imaginary journey (starting-point, modes of travelling, scenery, incidents by the way, country visited, return journey, your impressions, sketch of your route); a battle (contending parties, cause, sketch of locality, strength and disposition of the two armies, the leaders, the fight, the result). As before suggested, the description under each heading would have a paragraph to itself. At first, it would be well for the children to insert the headings as they proceed, dispensing with them when the teacher sees that paragraphing is understood.

As before recommended, the title of the next essay should be announced a day or two beforehand, and the appropriate chart displayed. The children would, then, in their capacity of co-workers with the teacher, note down the nature of the information with which they were to come prepared. The teacher may, at first, be disappointed with the scantiness of the children’s facts; but, with practice, the facts will soon begin to come, especially if a few hints are given as to where they can be found. Here is seen the importance of the school library, both as a storehouse of reference, and as a medium for increasing the children’s general knowledge.

“ There is little or no necessity for going outside of the regular brandies for the best kind of languageteaching. Elementary geography furnishes an exceedingly fruitful source for charming descriptions. . . .

“ Take one step farther, and from the earth spring the countless forms of vegetation. Trees, plants, flowers, and animals may he described by the quick pens of the children. Shelter, clothing, cities, commerce, all the interesting subjects with which geography fairly teems, form an exhaustless source of excellent themes. ‘Faith,* ‘ Hope/' and Charity ' may be left to repose serenely in the lists of subjects until they have time to bud and blossom in the child's heart.

“ History, so closely allied to, and growing out of, geography, if properly taught, may be made a most excellent means of language-teaching."—(Parker: Talks on Teaching.)

As an example of the use of the above-mentioned headings for a picture lesson, take the picture, often seen on the school wall, of a child feeding a dog from a spoon, and entitled “An Old Friend." The children,, in response to questions asked in the order shown on the chart, may be led to compose some such story as the following:—

(The teacher would say as little as possible, and would pay special attention to the connectives in the case of pupils in tirades II. and III.)

“ I can see Molly Thomson. I can see her dog Rover/' The teacher would not be satisfied till she got, “ I can see Molly Thomson and (or with) her dog Rover." “ She is wearing a blue dress, with a white pinafore over it. Molly has just come home from school. She was allowed to eat her dinner on the veranda. It was a hot day.” T. (aiming at a link-word) : “Why was she allowed to eat her dinner there? ” C.: “ Because it was a hot day/' T.: “ Who would like to tell it to me in that way ? ” C.: “ Molly was allowed to eat her dinner on the veranda, because it was a hot day.” C.: “ Rover was lying in the shade. He saw Molly eating something.” T.: “ What was she eating?” Various suggestions offered. Teacher selects “ rice pudding.” “ And he thought he would like some, too.” T. (not satisfied): “When did the dog want some dinner?” C.: “When he saw Molly eating.”

T.: “ Now, say it so." C.: “ Rover wanted some rice pudding when he saw Molly eating it.” “ So she took some pudding from the basin with her spoon, and gave it to Rover.” T.: “ What do you think they did after dinner? ” Various answers given, which are all pleasantly received by the teacher. C.: “ I think Molly walked inside to get ready for school in the afternoon, and Rover went to ‘ lay ’ down again." T.: “ Yes, Rover went to ‘ lie ’ down again.” T.: “ Who would like to tell something else ? ” Teacher chooses this one from several others. “ I don't think Molly should let a dog lick her spoon.”

Then, the teacher would seek to get the full story in connected form, variations within reasonable limits being permitted and welcomed in order to give scope to the individuality of the scholar. The senior scholars should now, or later on, write the story. The answering all through the lesson ought to be largely individual. The questions would be well distributed. Briefer answers may be taken from the younger children, who cannot be expected to use many link-words. In no case would the children tamely repeat the teacher's words; and mere “Yes” and “No” answers need not be often heard. The teacher, striving to act the part of the skilful suggester, would be sparing of her words.

Corrections of bad English would be made in a pleasant, informal way, so that spontaneity may not be checked.

For fíne examples of free language work from the pupils, and self-restraint on the part of the teacher, see Quincy Methods, section IV., pp. 187-246.2

The method of correcting faults in English may be seen from the following extracts:—

(i.) “ I know/’ says Charlie, with an air of imparting important information, “ it's sticked together with mucilage.”

“ Xo, it’s stuck together with something stronger — glue/’ corrects the teacher, both as to matter and manner.

(ii.) “ I'd like to know what Robbie did at recess.'’ Robbie, enthusiastically: “ Me and seven other bovs played that we were a hook-and-ladder company."

“ That was good; but I don't believe you meant to speak of yourself first."

“ Xo’m, but I was a captain," with a half-argumentative inflection.

“They would want a polite captain, I know; go on and tell us all about it."

(iii.) A little girl rises, stands beside her desk, and says, “ I took a color, and whoever guessed that color, she chased me." “ And whoever guessed that color chased you," gently corrects the teacher. “ What if she caught you ? "

“From their first day at school, children should be trained to use their mother-tongue correctly and naturally. This is best done by encouraging them to express their thoughts freely on subjects that interest them. Care must be taken to avoid a stilted, conventional style of answering. The ellipses—‘ Don’t/ ‘ I’ll/ 1 I’d/ <Src.—used in the ordinary conversation of cultured people, should be maintained."

Bad spelling in the written exercises is a source of trouble. While correct spelling, compared with a free expression of thought, is a minor consideration, the teacher should, for obvious reasons, aim to prevent mistakes in spelling; or, if thev are made, see that they are corrected before the lesson closes. The following plan is found to work well:—In the course of the oral composition, the teacher, without breaking the continuity of the lesson, rapidly writes on the board any unusual words that occur. The list is left on the board for reference while the children are writing. Words that often come in the nature-study lessons, such as “mosquito," “midrib," “vein," “butterfly," “ cocoon," “ caterpillar," should be permanently displayed on a wall-sheet for use as required, or they may be written by each child on the last few leaves of his exercise-book. After transcribing such words once or twice into their composition exercises, most of the children will know them.


The degree of the children’s responsiveness and of facility of expression varies greatly in different schools, and in different grades in a large school.

Pupils taught by the non-imaginative or the loquacious teacher receive scanty practice in answering and in general language-work, and are, in consequence, at a loss to express themselves effectively. On the other hand, the skilful teacher, recognizing his duty of selfrestraint, constantly aims at a full expression of thought from the children. Realizing the truth that, when an idea has really entered the mind, it throws off the words by means of which it entered, such a teacher, after giving a description or an explanation, says, in effect, to his pupils, “ Give me back that thought.” Children thus taught are, of course, getting practice in oral composition during every hour of the day.

Oral expression of thought is cultivated by requiring the pupils occasionally to expound a matter from beginning to end, instead of briefly answering a large number of questions on it. It is, for instance, good training in the logical arrangement and expression of ideas (composition) to have different pupils in a class explain the reasoning in a problem, or give a connected account of, say, the rise of absolute monarchy, or of the physical features of a country.

Junior Grades.

I he third stage, then, has to do with the form in which the children express their thoughts, whether orally or in writing. While free expression should not be checked by over-frequent interruptions to correct faulty English in the lower classes, a little preliminary drilling in simple rules will go far to prevent common mistakes, e.g.:—

(a)    Me say “ is " or “ was” when we talk of only

one thing, but “ are ” or “ were ” when we talk of more than one thing.

“ The frog is web-footed."

“ The frogs are web-footed."

“ The bean was planted to-day."

“ The beans were planted to-day."

(b)    Say “I did," or “I have done,” “I saw,” or

“ I have seen.”

(c)    Say “their wings," "their flowers,” '‘their

hats,” but “ Tom lives there;" “ The swallow builds there/'

As part of a writing lesson, the children may be asked to supply “ is ” or “ are ” in the blank spaces—

“ The boys    wet. The girl    tall. The

horses    caught. The leaves    dead.”

Put in “ was ” or “ were ”—

“ The roses    growing.”

“ The tadpole swimming.”

“ Has ” or “ have ”—

“ The buds    been cut off.”

The snowdrop been watered.”

This could easily be made a “ play lesson.”

The foundations of sentence-building are laid in the modern infants’ room. In the first beginnings of written composition in Grade I., the teacher’s aim should be* to have each fact briefly stated. In doing this, the use of the capital and the full stop should be carefully taught.

“ The child ren should have some idea of the use of the full stop, the comma, and the note of interrogation.”

“My bee has four wings. It has three pairs of legs. It is called an insect. The bee is cut into three parts. It makes bee-bread. It carries the bee-bread home on its hind legs. Its hind legs are hairy.” (And so on.)

This initial form of composition is an expression of the child’s thoughts, while the use of the capital letter and the full stop is, at the same time, being learnt.

But, before the child leaves Grade I., the first introduction to link-words should be given. The pupils in the lower school should be able to link some of their sentences together in a proper way, e.g.:

“ My bee has four wings and three pairs of legs. It is called an insect, because it is cut into three parts ”; or, “ It is cut into three parts, and so it is called an insect.”

Middle and Upper Grades.

u The composition exercises should be closely linked to the lessons in formal grammar, and there should be much practice in constructive work illustrating grammatical rules.”

“ The pupils . . . must be able to turn given simple sentences into subordinate sentences or adjuncts, and to insert them in suitable order ...”

“ To be learning to arrange, in the most effective order, the parts of simple sentences.”

“ Synthesizing into their most effective setting the given parts of a complete sentence.”

“ The teacher’s aim should be to train children . . . to express thoughts ... in clear statements, logically and effectively arranged.”

This constructive work, or sentence-building, or sym thesizing, quoted above, may take various forms—

(a)    Sentence-building by constructing sentences (i.) to show the different functions of a word; (ii.) from a given subject or predicate, e.g.:—

Make sentences in which “ spring ” is a verb, an adjective, and a noun, respectively. To the subject, “ The handle of our cricket-bat,” add a predicate of not fewer than four words.

(b)    Sentence-building by joining two simple sentences

with link-words. Join together by using “ and ”:_

“ Philip goes to the high school.”

“ Tom goes to the high school.”

The first effort will probably give—

“ Philip goes to the high school, and Tom goes to the high school.'’

This will lead up to, “ Philip and Tom go to the high school.”

Thus, the young scholar unconsciously learns, by means of composition, the grammatical rule, usually placed towards the end of a textbook on grammar, that “ two singular nouns joined by and take the verb in the plural.”

Join together by “ but ” :—

“ FTed is learning sloyd work.”

“ Mary is learning cookery.”

Join by “ therefore,” or “ and so ” (the child's “ therefore ”):—

“ This is a freehand lesson in drawing.”

“ I must not use my ruler, even for the guidelines.”

Join by “ which ” :—

“ Cups and saucers are made of clay.”

“ The clay is first baked in an oven.”

Join by who ” :—

“ Dr. George Bass sailed round Tasmania with Flinders.”

“ Flinders afterwards was imprisoned at the Mauritius.”

The following type, involving the placement of the relative clause after the antecedent, is slightly more difficult, but is very educative.

Join by “ who ” :—

“ Bass sailed round Tasmania with Flinders.”

“ Bass was a surgeon.”

Join by “ which ” :—

u This fly lays an egg in the body of the eater-pillar.”

u It is called the ichneumon fly.”

Such examples teach the fact (informally) that the relative clause follows the antecedent. Sentences of the following kind may be built up by the children from the statements supplied by the teacher:—

(i.) “ The bat was split by the ball that my uncle gave me.”

(ii.) “ The bat that my uncle gave me was split by the ball.”

The sentences, as given by the teacher, were:—

(i.) “ The bat was split by the ball.” “ My uncle gave me the ball.”

(ii.) “ The bat was split by the ball.” “ My uncle gave me the bat.”

Such practice teaches the difference in meaning caused by the position of the relative clause, and thus trains the children to arrange the sentences “ in their most effective setting.”

Join by “ whose ” :—

“ Australians honor the name of Captain Cook.”

“ Cook’s life was lost at Hawaii.”

Several pairs of simple sentences may then be given, and the children asked to choose the most suitable binding wrord—“ who,” “ which,” “ that,” “ whose,” or “ whom.”

In each case, educe the function of the link-word, and then the part of speech. Why called “pronoun”? Why “ relative ” ?

This is one example of “ constructive work illustrating grammatical rules.” The relative pronoun is, strictly, not demanded in Grade IV.; but successful teachers find its introduction in this grade very helpful to sentence-building, and, therefore, to good composition. All parts of speech may, of course, be taught constructively. Before the children hear, for example, the term “ adjective,” its use can be taught by such an example as the following:—

“ Violet’s hat was spoiled by the kitten.”

Add two words to tell what hind of hat, and one word to tell what hind of kitten.

(c) Sentente-building by combining into one sentence the meaning of three or more statements:—

u Wolves are fierce. “ Tigers are fierce. “ Lions are fierce.” (“ Wolves, tigers, and lions are fierce/7)

“ The bee has wonderful eyes.77 (“ The bee has two wings, six legs, and wonderful eyes. ) (d) Sentence-building by grouping several clauses into one sentence.

“ The bee has two wings.77 “ The bee has six legs.

(i.) Join by the use of “ whom 77 and “ because 77:— “ The gentleman missed his train.77 “ We saw the gentleman at the store.77 “ His horse got away from him.77 (ii.) Join the following into a complex sentence by the use of “ when,77 “ that,77 and “ which 77:—

“ Oliver felt such fear come over him.77 “ Oliver recognized the place.77 “ For the installt, he forgot the agony of the wound.77

He had received the wound in his leg.7'

A more advanced form of this exercise would be:—

(iii.) Join into one complex sentence the following group, and classify each sentence:—

Sentences to be joined.    Connecting words.

“ that77 “ where 77 « and 77 “ that77

I mentioned to you 77 “ I had a great mind to see the whole island 77

“ I had travelled up the brook 77 “ I built my bower 77

(iv.) At a later stage, the children may be asked to choose their own connectives.

Another form of constructive work is:—

(v.) Combine the meaning of the following clauses into a complex sentence:—

“ Oliver had diminished the distance between himself and London by four miles more.77 (Principal clause.)

u Plucking up courage.” (Participial phrase, attribute to “ Oliver.”)

u He recollected.” (Adverbial clause of time, qual. predicate of principal clause.)

“ How much be must undergo.” (Noun clause, object to “ recollected.”)

“ He could reach bis place of destination.” (Adverbial clause of time, qual. “ undergo.”)

Another form:—

(vi.) Construct a complex sentence with two adjective clauses in adversative co-ordination qualifying the object, and with an adverbial clause qualifying the prime verb in the principal clause. Place the adverbial clause first.

(e) (i.) Sentence-building by grafting words, phrases, or clauses into a sentence:


“ The tree was cut down.”

“ Tom dressed the burns.”

“ The turtle slid into the water.”

“ Admiral Howe blockaded the coast.”

“ Mr. Bumble took his seat in the coach.”

Words to be grafted on to the sentence.

“ Quickly, old, in our garden, by my father.”

“ With flour, carefully, Mary’s, this morning.”

“ Suddenly, sunning itself, with a plunge, upon a rock.”

“ Whole, having received his orders, of Holland, with fifteen ships, for three weeks.”

“ At six o’clock next morning, having exchanged his cocked hat for a round one, having encased his person in a blue great-coat, that fan to London.”


(ii.) Sentence-building by changing into a single sentence the meaning of several brief statements, for example:—

Put the meaning of the following into a simple sentence :—

“ This is a lemon.” “ It is sour.” “ It is large.” "It grew in our garden.” “ It grew at the bottom of our garden.”    (“ This large, sour

lemon grew on a tree at the bottom of our garden.”)

Such exercises are designed to teach brevity or terseness.

See also (c) above.

(/) Progressive oral sentence-building.

The teacher writes on the board or announces the

sentence :—

“ A vessel left Williamstown.”

He then states, in sentence form, several facts, the substance of which he desires to be added to this sentence. The task for the children (it could be adapted for any grade from the Fourth upwards ) is to “ blend ” or “ graft,” in a suitable way, the substance or meaning of the new facts into the main sentence. The pupils have to use their judgment in determining whether the added portions are to be put in the form of words, or phrases, or clauses, and also where they are to be put in the main sentence. The teacher will elicit a reason for their placement, thus again linking the teaching of grammar and composition.

T. : "It was a sailing vessel, and it left yesterday. Add those facts to the sentence on the board.”

Child: "A sailing vessel left Williamstown yesterday.”

The answering should be individual, the rest of the class criticizing, hands being raised by the pupils. A question should frequently be directed to a child whose hand is not held up. This will prevent the brighter children doing all the work.

T. : “ It was a three-masted vessel, and it had a cargo of wheat.”

0. : “ A three-masted sailing vessel left WilliamstoWil yesterday with a cargo of wheat ”

T. : “ The name of the vessel was the Bonnie Doon, and she was bound for London/’

C. : “ A three-masted sailing vessel, the Bonnie Doon, left Williamstown yesterday, with a cargo of wheat, bound for LondonA

T. : “ I was shown over the Bonnie Doon last Saturday. She left at 1 o’clock.”

C. : “ The three-masted sailing vessel, the Bonnie Do07i, over which the teacher was shown last Saturday, left Williamstown yesterday, at 1 o'clock, with a cargo of wheat, bound for London.” (And so on.)

If it is desired to introduce the compound sentence also, the teacher may ask to have these sentences added :—

“ When the ship cleared the Heads, she encountered a severe storm. She rode safely through the storm, however.”

After vain attempts by the pupils to graft these new statements to the complex sentence, they may be led to see that the fresh information must be added in the form of the new complex sentence :—u When the ship cleared the Heads, she encountered a severe storm, through which, however, she rode safely.”

If the teacher has his sentence material ready, the narrative can be carried on indefinitely, greatly to the benefit and interest of the children. Thus, the foregoing narrative could be continued to recount all the adventures of the ship till it reached London. Afterwards, if time permits, the complete story may be written. The exercise may, on another day, be varied by having the children write the new statements as they build them up. In any subject (drawing, mapping, word-building, illustrative diagrams, &c.), it is a mistake to have the pupils merely looking on at the teacher’s blackboard work. The children’s natural love of manual activity—a desire to do—needs exercise. The teacher can be then assured, too, that all are working at the subject.

(g) Sentence-building by the employment of the periodic sentence. — “ A periodic sentence is one that keeps the meaning in suspense and is not grammatically complete until the close.” It is opposed to the loose sentence, “ that continues running on after grammatical completeness has come to an end.”

Loose (Faulty).

(1)    We came to our journey’s end at last, || with no small difficulty, after much fatigue, through deep roads, and in bad weather.

(2)    Flinders and his company came into the latitude of the southern part of the great barrier of coral reefs || in two or three weeks’ time, as they sailed northward.

Periodic ( Good ).

(1)    At last, with no small difficulty, and after much fatigue, we came, through deep roads, and in bad weather, to our journey’s end. (Nesfield.)

(2)    In two or three weeks’ time, as Flinders and his company sailed northward, they came into the latitude of the southern portion of the great barrier of coral reefs.

As shown in the various sections above, (a), (6),

(c), (d), (e), (/), it is more beneficial and interesting for the children first to construct the sentences from the material supplied (composition), and then to give the function of the particular words or clauses (formal grammar). A teacher who will carefully select and prepare examples can thus successfully teach formal grammar in conjunction with, and as arising from, composition under its various names — “ synthesis,” “ sentence-structure,” “ sentence-building, “ sentencegrafting ” or “ blending,” “ sentence-grouping,” &c.

A thoughtful teacher, preparing beforehand for his grammar lesson, meets the following sentence :—“ Sir Walter Scott, the author of the Waverley Novels and of the romantic story Ivanhoe, a tale of the reign of King Richard Cœur de Lion, was a great writer.” He decides to make this passage serve two purposes :—

(1)    Its reconstruction by the class after he has

taken it to pieces (composition).

(2)    Consideration of the functions of certain

words and clauses (grammar).

He accordingly presents the passage to the class in this form:—“ Sir Walter Scott was a great writer. He is the author of the Waverley Novels. He wrote Ivan-hoe. Ivanhoe is a romantic story. It is a tale of the reign of King Richard. Richard is surnamed ‘ Cœur de Lion/ ”

The teacher’s aim in this constructive work is threefold :—

(1)    To show the most effective order of arranging

words, phrases, clauses, and sentences.

(2)    To make clear why they are so arranged.

(3)    To lead up from (2) to their function, and,

ultimately, to the technical terms as used in grammar.

In section (e) above, after the class has blended the given words into the sentence, “ Tom carefully dressed Mary’s burns with flour this morning,” the teacher elicits the reason for the placement of “ carefully ” (how the burns were dressed). Thus, the function of the word is obtained. The term “ adverb ” may, or may not, be introduced at this stage. The position of the word “ Mary’s ” suggests the idea of possession, thus opening the way for the immediate or the future use ©f “ possessive case.”

Again, in the last example, under section (e), the correct construction of the sentence, “ At six o’clock next morning, Mr. Bumble, having exchanged his cocked hat for a round one, and having encased his person in a blue great-coat, took his seat on the coach that ran to London,” at once raises the question by the teacher as to the reason for the placing of the two participial phrases and the adjective clause. This involves a study of their function, and of suitable names for them (parsing and analysis).

A teacher who works on these lines is complying with the instruction quoted above, “ The composition exercises should he closely linked to the lessons in formal grammar, and there should be much practice in constructive work illustrating grammatical rules.”

The technical terms should be introduced only when the children really need them. On the other hand, the introduction and the definition of these formal terms should not be unduly delayed. Though the terms “ future tense,” “ antecedent,” “ complex sentence,” “ transitive verb,” u participial phrase,” &c., are only names or tags for an underlying idea, yet such names play an important part in the exchange of ideas between teacher and pupil. The teacher will be safe in requiring the use of the technical terms if he can satisfy himself that the child knows their meaning and their function, and that he can illustrate them by an example. In other words, does the name-symbol call up the function, as, in geography, the map symbols call up, to the well-taught child, the reality ?


There are three stages in the teaching of composition :—

(1)    The getting of the thoughts.

(2)    The arranging of the thoughts.

(3)    The correct giving of the thoughts, first orally,

and, then, in writing.

Stage 1.

Thoughts, as material for a composition exercise, may be generated:—

(a) By systematic talks on familiar subjects.

(&) By the investigation in school of nature topics, pictures, poems, stories, &c., in the course of which the imagination should have free play; and by the teacher’s suggesting lines of investigation for the children to follow up out of school, as a preliminary to the composition lesson.

(c) By furnishing skeleton outlines of information to be clothed .by the children, first orally, then in writing.

(d)    By picture essays.

(e)    By the use of weather charts and nature-study


A child is not to be asked to give thoughts until he has them.

Stage 2.

Children may be trained to arrange their thoughts in an orderly sequence by the daily use in school of large charts, setting out the headings under which the composition study is to be attacked. Paragraphing is also thus taught.

Stage S.

1.    The oral and the written expression of the thoughts (sentence-structure) is to be combined with the teaching of the prescribed formal grammar.

2.    In teaching sentence-structure, the fundamental rule is to be impressed—

“ Place as close together as you can all words, phrases, and clauses that are closely related in meaning.

3.    Sentence-structure may be begun in the lower grades and developed in the higher grades—

(a)    By the use of link-words.

(b)    By the use of constructive sentences to show

the function of the parts of speech and the use of the subject and the predicate.

(c)    By the grouping of several clauses into one


(d)    By grafting or blending words, phrases, and

clauses into the main clause.

(e)    By compressing into a short, simple sentence

the meaning of several statements.

(/) By oral sentence-building.

(g) By the use of the periodic sentence.

4.    For teaching purposes, bare parsing and analysis should be seldom set-, but a well-chosen sentence should be broken down by the teacher into its elements, and the sentence reconstructed by the children. Then, parsing and analysis, based on the educed functions of the words, may follow. Grammar and composition are thus taught as one subject.

5. Examination tests should not be used in the early portions of the school year, but should be gradually

led up to by systematic teaching.


1.    Work-programs and the children’s exercise-books should not show merely the more or less faulty reproduction of short stories, or the writing of essays and letters, but should afford evidence that composition lessons “ have been systematically planned ” by teaching and training in some of the exercises suggested in this circular

2.    Pupils should produce books containing various dated exercises in composition. Compositions should not be written on slates and then consigned to oblivion by being nibbed off. The inspector wishes to see the year’s work kept in books ; so do the children and their parents.

3.    In the junior grades, “ the children’s notes of nature-study lessons are best shown as composition exercises, written after the lesson.” In these grades, therefore, the nature-study lesson is to be followed by a composition lesson.

4.    The leading rules for punctuation, and for the use of capital letters, may, with advantage, be put into permanent form on charts and displayed on the wall for reference.

5.    In any grade, the work of correction can be simplified—'

(a) By displaying on the board, during the composition time, the difficult or strange words likely to occur in the lesson j also by

training pupils to ask for the spelling of a word about which they are in doubt. Senior pupils should look up such words for themselves in the dictionary.

(b)    By a few minutes’ drilling in certain prin

ciples of sentence-structure which the teacher’s experience tells him are likely to be violated.

(c)    By having the pupils first build up the com

position orally.

(d)    By drawing attention to mistakes as they

arise. In a large class, the teacher and one or two specially intelligent pupils who have finished the exercise pass round to point out errors. Errors should be corrected by the pupil who makes them, not by the teacher. Pupils may be trained to criticize and amend their own work. If a mistake has to be pointed out, the pupil should say what principle has been transgressed.

“ We have found,” says a writer in The Teachers Aid, “ that, for the first six months of the year, at any rate, it is advisable to indicate, in the margin, the nature of the mistakes; and, consequently, the following table has been devised for the purpose of securing uniformity in markings— a most important thing in school. Each boy copies the table on the inside cover of his exercise-book, and, in a day or two, knows it by heart without any special effort.

= indicates a spelling mistake.

— indicates a mistake in grammar.

S indicates that a stop has been omitted, or used incorrectly.

A indicates that something has been omitted.

C indicates that a capital should hstve been used,

NP indicates that a new paragraph should have been started.

) indicates that the whole sentence or ) passage is weak.”

(e) By class correction.

Subsequent scrutiny of individual books cannot, even then, be dispensed with, but it will be a comparatively light task if the above-mentioned plans are adopted. Corrections of mistakes discovered during the examination of individual books are not to be written in by the teacher, but by the child at a subsequent lesson or as a home task.

6.    If the whole of the correction is done by the

teacher after the books are passed in, it may be of but little profit to the pupils, while it is very wearisome to the teacher. As Professor Meiklejohn says:—“ Correcting exercises is the bane of the teacher’s profession. It paralyses his mental powers, and granulates the fibre of his brain. It is recommended that all exercises be short; .    .    . that, as a rule, they should be

corrected in class; that questions be put in them and answers demanded; that questions and criticisms from the class be invited; and that the correction of exercises be made an occasion for lively social discussion.”

7.    A fresh subject need not be chosen for every composition lesson, but the old material may often, with advantage, be used for the thorough working-in of the principles of composition. The child will then have little difficulty in applying these principles to any subject.

8.    The title of the essay or story should always be written by the pupil.

9.    Even an experienced teacher cannot afford to dispense with the use of a good textbook on composition.

u It will be advisable to follow some good elementary textbook, where rules of expression are developed}

gradually and systematically.” The following textbooks will be found helpful :—

Little Lessons in the Use of Words, 4d. ; First Lessons in Grammar and Composition, 6d. ; A Second Booh of Grammar and Composition, 9d. ; A Third Booh of Grammar and Composition, lOd. ; A Fourth Booh of Grammar and Composition, Is. 3d. (Whitcomb© and Tombs). (These books are specially recommended, and are on the “ Free Grant ” list.)

The Public School English Composition. (Whit-combe and Tombs). Price, Book I. (Junior), 6d. ; Book II. (Senior), Is.

A Junior Course in English Composition, by Nes-field. (Macmillan and Co.). Price Is. 6d.

Oral Exercises in English Composition, by INTes-field. (Macmillan and Co.). Price Is. 6d.

The Art of Writing English, by Meiklejohn. (Meiklejohn and Son). Price 2s 6d.

Teacher s Manual of Composition, by K. S. Wood. (Macmillan and Co.). Yol. I., Junior Course, Is.; Vol. IL, Senior Course, Is. 6d.

By Authority: Albert J. Mullett, Government Printer, Melbourne


Xo teacher can afford to neglect Parker’s book, Talks on Teach ¡tig. It is an excellent interpreter of many parts of our Course of Study.


Patridge's Quincy Methods Is another almost Indispensable book for the teacher of jnnior grades.