Chapter XI


  Value of Transcription.—The earliest practice in writing proper for children of seven or eight should be, not letter-writing or dictation, but transcription, slow and beautiful work, for which the New Handwriting is to be preferred, though perhaps some of the more ornate characters may be omitted with advantage.
          Transcription should be an introduction to spelling. Children should be encouraged to look at a word, see a picture of it with their eyes shut, and then write from memory.

          Children should Transcribe favourite Passages.—A certain sense of possession and delight may be added to this exercise if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favourite verse in one poem and another. This is better than to write a favourite poem, and exercise which stales on the little people before it is finished. But a book of their own, made up of their own chosen verses, should give them pleasure.

          Small Text-hand—Double-ruled Lines.—Double-ruled lines, small text-hand, should be used at first, as children are eager to write very minute ‘small hand,’ and once they have fallen into this habit
it is not easy to get good writing. A sense of beauty in their writing and in the lines they copy should carry them over this stage of their work with pleasure. Not more than ten minutes of a quarter of an hour should be given to the early writing-lessons. If they are longer the children get tired and slovenly.

          Position in Writing.—For the writing position children should sit so that light reaches them from the left, and desk or table should be at a comfortable height.
          It would be a great gain if children were taught from the first to hold the pen between the first and second fingers, steadying it with the thumb. This position avoids the uncomfortable strain on the muscles produced by the unusual way of holding a pen—a strain which causes writer’s cramp in later days when there is much writing to be done. The pen should be held in a comfortable position, rather near the point, fingers and thumb somewhat bent, and the hand resting on the paper. The writer should also be allowed to support himself with the left hand on the paper, and should write in an easy position, with bent head but not with stooping figure. It would be unnecessary to say that the flat of the nib should be used if children had not a happy gift for making spider marks with the nib held sideways. In all writing lessons, free use should be made of the blackboard by both teacher and children by way of model and practice.

          Children’s Table.—For little children it is a good plan to have a table of the right height made by the house carpenter, the top of the table consisting of two leaves with hinges. These leaves open in the middle, and disclose a sort of box in the space which is often used for a drawer, the table-top itself making the lids of the box. Such a receptacle for the children’s books, writing materials, etc., is more easily kept neat by themselves than is an ordinary drawer or box.

[1] See Appendix A.

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