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.