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How they taught English grammar in Wales

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posted on Sep, 29 2018 @ 07:02 AM
The place was Pentrepoeth Girls’ School in south Wales.
The date was Monday, March the twentieth, 1939.
The class was Standard VI or Standard VII, or probably the two standards combined.
Anyway, they were girls aged twelve and thirteen.
They were still pupils or schoolgirls, of course, not “students”. They were not attending college or university, and the Department of Education had not been Americanised.
Standing in front of the class was a teacher-in-training from Trinity College, Carmarthen. I suppose the regular teacher of the standard remained in the room, to prevent them bullying him too much.
The young man was twenty years old, born and bred in Lincolnshire, and I think I can guarantee that he did not know a word of Welsh.
He was in the middle of what looks like a fortnight of “teaching practice” at one of the local schools.
I have acquired the notebook in which he prepared his lesson notes (or possibly the last in a series covering a longer period).
OK, I have inherited the notebook, which is why I’m not going to tell you his name.

The weekly timetable of the class is drawn up at the back of the notebook.
Some of the lesson periods have cross-hatchings, which indicate that he was NOT involved in the teaching of P.T., Needlework, Music, or Welsh. There is no great mystery about those omissions, especially if Music involved singing in Welsh. Perhaps, in any case, those four subjects and Drawing were being taken by specialist teachers.
But he took part in, and prepared notes for, lessons in English, Poetry, Arithmetic, Mental Arithmetic, History, Geography, Nature, and Hygiene.
In case you’re wondering, “Hygiene” means learning about breathing and why we need to keep our rooms well ventilated. Nothing inappropriate.

He was given an easy start, that Monday, with no lessons to prepare until the middle of the afternoon. He must have been “observing” the morning lessons.
From 2.50 p.m., he was teaching half an hour of Geography.
The aim of the lesson was “To explain how the earth is worn away”
He was hoping to do this by making use of the girls’ local knowledge.
What do they see when the River Towey is in flood? Where does all the mud come from? What do they think that is doing to the hills? And what about the Towey opposite the Priory end of town, flowing through the fields. Can anyone suggest how those fields were formed? They may get a clue from those medicine bottles which say “Shake well before taking”. [There is an asterisk here, with no footnote attached to it. I would like to think he was reminding himself to bring in a medicine bottle and shake it at this point, so that they could see what he meant.] They can see how the heavy particles sink to the bottom. That’s what happens to the mud. And how many of them have been to Ferryside? What do they see in the river there? Can they suggest how those mudbanks have been formed?
Summing up with “a brief recapitulation by means of questions”.

The timetable gives him a brief ten minute respite through what my primary school would have called “afternoon playtime”.
Then, from 3.30 p.m., he had a full hour of teaching English. He intended to manage it like this;

Average age 12 +
Duration 1 hr (2 periods of 30 mins)
(i) To show the difference between & use of lie, lies, lay, lays, lain, laid
(ii) To give practice in the use of the above words


(i) Teacher will lay down a book upon the desk. Ask children “What am I doing?” Write down word- laying. Girl to come out and repeat operation. She is to tell class what she is doing- “I lay down the book.” Write down the word lay. Ask other girls to describe her action- “She lays down etc.” Suppose action took place a day ago. How would you describe it? Word laid will then be noted on board. Tell children to notice that in every case something is done to something else.
(ii) Ask for sentences containing the transitive verb “lay”.
(iii) The intransitive verb will be dealt with as follows. Draw simple diagram of someone lying in bed. What is she doing? Suppose two of them. In this way, “lie, lies, lying & lain” will be discovered. Notice in this case nothing is done to anything else. Intransitive verb.
(iv) Ask for sentences containing the word “lie” in its various forms.

B.B. [That is, words which will be written up on the blackboard]
1) LIE (Intransitive) I lie. She lies, etc

2) LAY (Transitive) I lay down the book

PART 2 Written Work

Fill in the following spaces;-
1) He – down his newspaper & picked up a book.
2) I had just – down to rest when some old friends called.
3) All that summer afternoon he – on his back staring up at the sky.
4) Standing on the main road we see that the church – to the north of it.
5) This hen – more eggs than any of the others.
6) I like to – on the grass.
The sentences will then be corrected.

[This lesson sounds a little juvenile for the age-group, though it may be that education was slower in those days.
Our class had been taught that stuff by the time I was 10. Together with the extra complication of the forms of “I lie/do not tell the truth”, which he doesn’t mention here.
I seem to remember a textbook page with all three verbs in tabular form.
I wonder if he had given himself enough material to fill the hour, or whether he found himself trying to spin out the written work stage. When I was preparing for Bible Study groups, I used to cover myself by preparing “optional” material, which could be used or not used, depending on how quickly the time was going.]

edit on 29-9-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 29 2018 @ 07:05 AM
I may as well list the other lessons of that fortnight.

Tuesday 14th (mislabelled 13th)
Nature study- Catkins, detailed examination of specimens.
Arithmetic- Revision of fractions (illustrated by cutting up squared paper)
Poetry appreciation- “The White Seagull”, by Mary Hewitt

Wednesday 15th
Hygiene- The construction of the lungs, and comparison with a pump.
History- Introduction to reign of Queen Elizabeth (using a picture provided to illustrate social life).
Arithmetic- Revising addition and subtraction of fractions (e.g. one-third plus five-ninths plus four-twenty-sevenths plus two-ninths).

Thursday 16th
Geography- Australia- how to get there, using routes from Southampton via Cape of Good Hope, Suez Canal, Panama Canal, and Cape Horn, not forgetting the route used by Imperial Airways.
History- Elizabethan period, through the life of Raleigh.
English composition- “Each girl will have about 15 mins in which to write a description of any other girl in the class. At the end of this time, as many girls as possible will read their description to the class to see how quickly the girl can be discovered. They will be encouraged to make their descriptions as vivid and lifelike as possible by setting down minute details” (without mentioning name, home, or location in the classroom).

Friday 17th
Geography- Australia, position, shape, relief, drainage.
Poetry appreciation- “The deserted village”, by Goldsmith.

Tuesday 21st
Geography- Australia, climate
Nature study- Daffodil, detailed examination of one specimen.
Poetry appreciation- “The skylark”, by Tennyson.

Wednesday 22nd
History- Elizabethan period through life of Raleigh, part2.
Hygiene- room ventilation
Nature study- Primrose, detailed examination of one specimen.
Poetry appreciation – “Spring” by T. Nash and “First Spring morning” by Bridges.

Thursday 23rd
History- Elizabethan period through life of Drake,
Geography- Australia, sheep farming.

Monday 27th
Geography- various features of coastline, as illustrated from map of British Isles.

posted on Sep, 29 2018 @ 07:27 AM
Dang, I bet the medicine was gross back then “heavy particles in the medicine” sounds like it had some particulate matter or it was some kind of serperated substance that didn’t mix well.

Interesting little snippet from history. Thanks for sharing.

a reply to: DISRAELI

posted on Sep, 29 2018 @ 07:33 AM
a reply to: Athetos
Yes, it was probably prepared by mixing water with functioning ingredients which were not entirely soluble.
Medicine was supposed to be nasty. That's why you needed "a spoonful of sugar" to help it go down. When I was young, I was being dosed regularly with something called "Owbridges"; such a bad taste that I hid the bottle, and years lapsed before it was found again.

posted on Sep, 29 2018 @ 09:17 AM
How far off from the days of finishing school was that?

And what kind of district was it?

It might not have been that elementary for the age. Plus lie/lay is always a tough one, just like who/whom, so it gets hit on all the way up through high school.

posted on Sep, 29 2018 @ 09:28 AM
a reply to: ketsuko
Indeed. "Finishing school" would not be just a higher age-group, but a higher social class. The location would have been very rural- I don't know wheher it would count as "small town" or village. You are probably right, that this would be revision work rather than a first introduction to the theme.

posted on Sep, 29 2018 @ 10:08 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

Oh about the "fecal matter" hitting the proverbial "oscillating device"!

It is said English is one of the harder languages to learn because we have so many different words and slang for the same or totally different words and meanings....

posted on Sep, 30 2018 @ 01:08 AM
a reply to: mysterioustranger
You forgot to mention the vagaries of spelling.
One of my parents was reading a book on the "Initial teaching alphabet" (which could be a topic in itself), and I noticed a claim about the dozen or more different ways of pronouncing "gh" at the end of a word.

posted on Sep, 30 2018 @ 11:45 AM

originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: mysterioustranger
You forgot to mention the vagaries of spelling.
One of my parents was reading a book on the "Initial teaching alphabet" (which could be a topic in itself), and I noticed a claim about the dozen or more different ways of pronouncing "gh" at the end of a word.

Oh yeah! That route (root), route (r-ow-t)..And seen-scene-saw-watched-caught it, looked in watching a movie...

We have zillions of ways to say the same things...which can throw a foreigner off. British culture too...I about spit my coffee when someone said: "The teddy-boy was leaning on a loo..sucking on a fag"....

WAIT! WAIT! It refers to a style of dress/attitude in the 1950's in the U.K. (Teddy boy)...loo as in toilet...fag as in cigarette.

Loo is a good example of multiple referencing...Loo, bathroom, toilet, restroom, powder room, John, can...and you can:
Go to the bathroom...
Use the John...
Use the restroom...
Take a leak...
Use the toilet...
Go use the loo....

I have a middle eastern lady who constantly says "Ok, Man". "I love you Man".…but she means just " Thank you sir"....finally I just started replying "Bye! God bless. I love you too!"

posted on Sep, 30 2018 @ 12:01 PM
One of the things that has always helped me with grammar especially is to have a firm picture in my head of what the sentence is saying or trying to convey. I also often have to ask myself a series of questions about it.

posted on Sep, 30 2018 @ 12:11 PM
What gets me is the current grammar Nazis (my age or older, usually) on social media.

You spelled "1970's" with an apostrophe, when my Oxford style-guide says it's plain wrong.
And you try to explain there is no academy of English who sets these rules, and the New York Times and Reader's Digest guides might disagree.

So you get one grumpy person saying this is wrong (meanwhile even in SA it was written with an apostrophe until the late 1980's), and another grumpy person telling you it's wrong without an apostrophe!

Actually neither is right or wrong as long as you're consistent.
But they just don't want to hear that.
edit on 30-9-2018 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 30 2018 @ 12:20 PM
a reply to: ketsuko
I can never write a sentence without mentally hearing what I'm writing, because I'm concerned about the flow if the sentence is read aloud. I still think that makes the writing better. For example, I spent half my Revelation threads trying to avoid the expression "metaphor for"; I hate the repetition of sounds, even under the guise of different spelling.
If people would only listen to what they write, they might not make mistakes like "This one is larger THAT the other one", because I don't suppose they really pronounce it like that. (Or do they?)

edit on 30-9-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 30 2018 @ 12:34 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

You dislike repetition of sounds; I dislike repetition of words. I think that's about the same thing.

I don't worry about it as much here, but at work, I'm constantly nuking redundant redundancies.

posted on Sep, 30 2018 @ 12:52 PM
a reply to: ketsuko
Yes, I try to do that as well. Fortunately I know lots of synonyms.

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