Tuesday, January 06, 2015


Learning by Play

St. Jerome, letter 107.4 (to Laeta; tr. F.A. Wright):
Have a set of letters made for her, of boxwood or of ivory, and tell her their names. Let her play with them, making play a road to learning, and let her not only grasp the right order of the letters and remember their names in a simple song, but also frequently upset their order and mix the last letters with the middle ones, the middle with the first. Thus she will know them all by sight as well as by sound. When she begins with uncertain hand to use the pen, either let another hand be put over hers to guide her baby fingers, or else have the letters marked on the tablet so that her writing may follow their outlines and keep to their limits without straying away. Offer her prizes for spelling, tempting her with such trifling gifts as please young children. Let her have companions too in her lessons, so that she may seek to rival them and be stimulated by any praise they win. You must not scold her if she is somewhat slow; praise is the best sharpener of wits. Let her be glad when she is first and sorry when she falls behind. Above all take care not to make her lessons distasteful; a childish dislike often lasts longer than childhood.

Fiant ei litterae vel buxeae vel eburneae et suis nominibus appellentur. Ludat in eis, ut et lusus eius eruditio sit, et non solum ordinem teneat litterarum, ut memoria nominum in canticum transeat, sed ipse inter se crebro ordo turbetur et mediis ultima, primis media misceantur, ut eas non sonu tantum, sed et visu noverit. Cum vero coeperit trementi manu stilum in cera ducere, vel alterius superposita manu teneri regantur articuli vel in tabella sculpantur elementa, ut per eosdem sulcos inclusa marginibus trahantur vestigia et foras non queant evagari. Syllabas iungat ad praemium, et, quibus illa aetas delectari potest, munusculis invitetur. Habeat et in discendo socias, quibus invideat, quarum laudibus mordeatur. Non est obiurganda, si tardior sit, sed laudibus excitandum ingenium; et vicisse se gaudeat et victam doleat. Cavendum in primis, ne oderit studia, ne amaritudo eorum percepta in infantia ultra rudes annos transeat.
Quintilian 1.1.26-27 (tr. Donald A. Russell):
Nor do I rule out the well-known practice of giving ivory letter-shapes to play with, so as to stimulate little children to learn—or indeed anything else one can think of to give them more pleasure, and which they enjoy handling, looking at, or naming.

Once the child has begun to trace the outlines, it will be useful to have these inscribed as neatly as possible on a tablet, so that the stilus is guided by the grooves. In this way, the child will not make mistakes as on wax (for he will be constrained by the edges on both sides, and will not be able to stray beyond the marks), and, by following these well-defined traces so quickly and often, he will strengthen his fingers, and not need the help of a guiding hand placed over his own.

Non excludo autem (id quod est notum) irritandae ad discendum infantiae gratia eburneas etiam litterarum formas in lusum offerre, vel si quid aliud quo magis illa aetas gaudeat inveniri potest quod tractare intueri nominare iucundum sit.

Cum vero iam ductus sequi coeperit, non inutile erit eos tabellae quam optime insculpi, ut per illos velut sulcos ducatur stilus. Nam neque errabit quemadmodum in ceris (continebitur enim utrimque marginibus neque extra praescriptum egredi poterit) et celerius ac saepius sequendo certa vestigia firmabit articulos neque egebit adiutorio manum suam manu super imposita regentis.

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