Developing positive self-image and promoting religious faith was also a purpose of many of the Freedmen’s Schools educators. As an example of how self-concept development and religious beliefs were approached, The Freedman’s Third Reader includes a story about the African-American poet Phyllis Wheatley. Like the example above, the lesson begins with a list of sight words. Then below that is a drawing of Phyllis Wheatley and this is followed by a brief story which tells how Wheatley was brought to the United States from Africa in 1761, who bought her as a slave, and her appearance when purchased. The story concludes: “The life of Phillis Wheatley gives most interesting proof of the power of talents and virtues, crowned with “the pearl of great price,” – the love of Christ, - to raise one from the lowest position to the notice and the esteem of the wise and good.”
The work of Harriet Jacobs and the teachers of the Freedmen’s schools illustrate two aspects of teaching reading with adults during the 19th century. First, Jacob’s used what she called the “A,B, C” method, which others have referred to as the “alphabetic” method. Second, specially written Freedman’s readers oriented their lessons to the types of things that the authors thought would be of interest and relevance to former slaves, both children and adults, and they included illustrations with African-American children and adults in them. This is an early form of what I call “functional context education” in teaching adults to read.
Methods in Teaching Reading With Adults
Shortly after the turn of the century, Huey (1968/1908) published his classic volume on The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading. In it he pointed out that “The methods of learning to read that are in common use to-day may be classed as alphabetic, phonic, phonetic, word, sentence, and combination methods.” Eight years later, Klapper (1914) published a book in which he developed a new classification system for methods of teaching reading. In his system he created two divisions, one for the Synthetic Methods and the other for the Analytic Methods.
As Synthetic Methods, Klapper included the Alphabetic, Phonic, and Phonetic methods. In the classification system that Jeanne Chall (1967) developed, these methods would be called those of a “code emphasis” and the contemporary term would be “alphabetics.”These methods consider the teaching of reading as essentially a means of “decoding” the written text to recover a spoken message which is then comprehended as usual. In these methods parts of speech sounds are associated with the letters of the alphabet, and then with written syllables and then with words in a synthesis of parts into wholes.
As Analytic Methods, Klapper included the Word Basis, and Thought Basis. Under the Thought Basis method he included the Sentence Unit and the Story Unit. In Jeanne Chall’s classification system, the Analytic Methods would be called “meaning emphasis” and the contemporary term would be “whole language.”These methods consider the teaching of reading as essentially a means of “meaning making” and consider the written text as a guide for the learner to use in constructing the meaning the author has in mind. The meaning making process serves as an aid to learning to decode the written language in a whole to part analysis process.
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