Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Familiar Sounding Guide to Phonics

Hmm. Here's a book titled Phonics Made Easy.

It's from the early 1900's and it is aimed at teachers and Moms.

It is written by one Samuel Bower Sinclair, who happened to be the Principal of the Macdonald Teaching School from 1909 and 1911.

I saw Sinclair's picture from the McGill Education website. He's a white haired Scot.

Flora Nicholson of my book Threshold Girl attended Macdonald Teaching College in 1911/12.

.S.B. Sinclair (as he called himself) was the one who probably shook Flora's little hand at graduation.

Flora Nicholson's 1912 graduating class, Macdonald Teachers College. She is on the floor second frm the right.

Reading this particular book, I was gob-smacked by the fact that the first three sample lessons seem to focus on the words cat and ham and Sam. Get my drift?

I have seen a number of Royal Crown Readers of the era (as I research Threshold Girl) and their beginning exercises are SO BORING I always think of Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel)and how much FUN we ALL had reading Sr. Seuss, when my sons were young. "Do you like my hat?"

Just thinking of the story lines tickles me pink.

Then I find this old book and I wonder if Dr. Seuss saw it too and then thought, "I can go one better than CAT on the MAT. That's not how the story goes, according to Wikipedia, anyway. The brilliant man was supposedly given a list of words by the Director of Education at Houghton Mifflin, which he honed down and used to write his books. So maybe this Director of Education had this Sinclair book on hand.

Now, oddly, I spent some time last decade on Literacy Projects and I am certain I read a paper that claimed that Dr. Seuss's books did not teach reading through phonics, but through Word Recognition.

Here's Lesson 1 of Sinclair's book. Now, S.B. Sinclair had a doctorate, too, like Geisel, and he wanted to teach reading, too, and he had the concept down, CAT MAT -HAM -SAM but what he didn't have is GENIUS, and he hadn't worked in advertising, either, as had Dr. Seuss.

The cat is on the mat; the mat is on the cat. SPLATTT! (I added that) and that..

Now, I happen to have one of Flora's notebooks, with notes about "Reading." It is not totally out of the realm of possiblity that Sinclair gave a lecture to her class (even thought he was Principal and not a teacher).

Flora writes: Sounds: paper, metal, water, animal, vehicles. Direct attention is position of throat. Tell them things to do the sounds.

Stories: Don't read stories directly to young children TELL them.

Sinclair gives the same advice in his book.

This is all very useful for my Threshold Girl story - about Flora's year at Macdonald and her family's trials during the same period.

The Macdonald yearbooks are online and many of the photos illustrate topics in her letters. She describes a giant masquerade in the gym. Here it it. (I can't find her) She went as a quakeress and her cousin, May, went as a Japanese woman in a red kimono. Guess who got all the dances?

She talks of a walk with fellow students  to Fort Senneville. Here's a pic of the walk or another one.

OH, and while looking for S.B. Sinclair online, years ago an archive.org document came up that completely describes Macdonald College, the layout of the buildings and what rooms are in them.