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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

282              THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD

too long, the child may break out into a frenzy of impulsive workr
which, owing to his knowing the whole alphabet, can no longer
be curbed.

The signs which the mistress may use in making a diagnosis
of the preparedness for spontaneous writing are: the parallelism
and straightness of the marks used in filling in the geometrical figures;
recognition of the sandpaper letters of the alphabet with the eyes
closed; certainty and readiness in the composition of words. Before
intervening to encourage writing with an invitation, it is, however^
always well to wait for at least a week for the spontaneous launch-
ing out into writing, after the readiness for it has been judged to
be found existent.

Only when the child has begun to write of his own accord
ought the mistress to intervene to guide the progress of the writing.

The first help which she will give is that of ruling the black-
board so that the child may be guided in keeping right the direction
and the dimensions of the writing.

The second is that of urging the hesitating child to repeat the
tracing of the sandpaper letters, without ever correcting him
directly about the writing which he has done. The child will
not improve himself by repeating the actions of writing but by
repeating the acts preparatory to writing. I remember a little
beginner who, in order to give his letter a beautiful shape on the
ruled blackboard, went to the thin cards, traced two or three times
all the letters which were necessary for the words he had to write,
and then he wrote; if a letter did not seem to him to be beautiful
enough, he rubbed it out, again touched the letter itself on the
card, and again went to write it.

Our little ones, even those who have been writing for a yeary
always carry on the three preparatory exercises, which, as they led
up to, also improve written language. Our children then learn to
write and also to improve their writing, without writing. Real
writing is an experience, the outbreak of an inner impulse,
an act in compliance with a higher activity: it is not an
exercise.