"The Conoiseur" by Norman Rockwell
“The language used in teaching must be common to teacher and learner.”
“In other words, it must be a true language to each-to him that hears as well as to him that speaks-with the same meaning to both, clear in sense and clearly understood.” Pg 68
The Law of Language is the third law of teaching from John Milton Gregory’s book entitled The Seven Laws of teaching. It is a simple, straight forward law. He presents us with many little ideas to ponder and put into practice or identify where our teaching has been right on the mark and say yeeeeha!
Mr. Gregory says about the law of the language:
“No one has more language than he has learned, and the acquisition of a large vocabulary is the work of a lifetime. A teacher may know ten thousand words; the child will scarcely know as many hundreds, but these few hundreds of words represent the child’s ideas, and within this narrow circuit of signs and thoughts the teacher must come if he would be understood. Outside of theses the teacher’s language is as unmeaning to the child as if it were mere drum-taps.” Pg 69
“Not what the speaker expresses from his own mind, but what the hearer understands and reproduces in his mind, measures the exact communicating power of the language used.” Pg 70
“It is evident that he will teach most and best whose well-chosen words raise the most and clearest images, and excite the highest action, in the minds of his pupils.” Pg 71-72
It is clear from the third law of teaching, that as teachers we have the most success in teaching when we learn to use words that our students understand. But, we must also give them new words and increase their powers to understand more of the world around us. How do we teach them new words so that we can increase their vocabulary and thus give them more tools for leaning?
Mr. Gregory says the following:
“New words must be learned when new objects are to be named or new ideas are to be symbolized; but if care is taken that the idea shall go before the word, and that the word is mastered as a symbol before it is used in speech, it will illumine and guide where other wise it would but darken and delude.” Pg 75
Ahhhh! The idea of the word must come first….through pictures, actions or objects. Sometimes a new word can be explained by use of words the student already knows. Sometimes an object or shown or an illustration in addition to words coveys the idea. But without the idea the word is meaningless.
“More than half the work of teaching is that of helping the child gain a full and clear expression of what it already knows imperfectly. It is to him to lift up into full sight, and to round out into plain and adequate sentences, the dim and fragmentary ideas and perceptions of childhood. No teaching is complete that does not issue plain and intelligent expression of the truth taught; but it is the most miserable of mockeries when, in place of leading the child to perfect and into its own simple speech its own simple conceptions of truth, we impose upon it the ready-made definitions of some learned master or teacher, dressed, for the most part, in words it never heard before, better David’s simple sling that Saul’s kingly armor for the young warrior seeking the mastery over some science.” Pg 72-73
Are there ways I can make sure my students are understanding a new word?
Mr. Gregory comments on that here:
“Ideas become concrete in words.” Pg 72
“We master truth by expressing it.” Pg 73
“But to make talking thinking it must be original, not mere parrot-like repetition of other people’s words.” Pg 74
“It is the pupil who must talk.” Pg 74
I am beginning to understand from this law that when my students do the talking, perhaps by retelling or narrating a new idea they are making this idea and these new words their own. What are some more practical ideas for putting this into practice?
Ideas paraphrased from pg 78-79
1. Know the language that your students use. Know what the words they use mean to them.
2. Allow your student time to tell you all he or she knows about a subject. Listen to learn both his/her ideas and his/her language in expressing the idea of the subject and help him/her correct it if needed.
3. Teach your lesson as much as possible within the student’s own words. Correct any misuse of words by saying them correctly as you teach the subject.
4. Use the simplest and the fewest words possible. Unnecessary words add to the students work and increase the possibility of misunderstanding.
5. Use short sentences and simple constructions. Long sentences tire the attention, while short ones both stimulate and rest the mind.
6. If your student does not understand repeat it and if possible with greater simplicity.
7. Use pictures and natural objects to convey meaning when at all possible.
8. When teaching a new word, give the idea before the word.
9. Increase the student’s stock of words by means of reading aloud to them, and letting the students do much talking on the topic being taught. The teacher is succeeding best when the students talk most freely about the lesson.
10. Go on slowly so that each new word has become familiar before more new words are introduced.
“Too talkative a teacher is rarely a good teacher.” Pg 76
All quotes are from The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory.