The Memory Gem
Goals: One of the purposes of American public education
has always been inculcation of social values, morals, and healthy practices.
Today such instruction often takes the form of social studies or "wellness"
classes. In the day of the one room school it typically belonged in the part
of the day dedicated to copy work and recitation. For a modern class visiting
the one room school, such copy work also acquaints students with the use of
slate and slate pencils.
- Sample memory gems are scattered throughout the various levels of the
McGuffey's Eclectic Readers, including "How Doth the Little Bee," (Second
Eclectic Reader, p. 48), "Beware of the First Drink" (Third Eclectic Reader,
p.111) and "Try, Try Again" (Fourth Eclectic Reader, p. 28).
- Others can be taken from poetry anthologies, volumes of famous quotations,
or philosophic texts, such as Emerson's "Self Reliance."
- Slate and slate pencils, chalk and chalkboard.
- For the memory gem exercise the teacher writes a single short passage or poem on the chalkboard before the students arrive in the morning. This will give students opportunity to read the memory gem upon entering the classroom.
- Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the teacher asks the students to remove their slates and rag erasers from their desks.
- A volunteer can distribute slate pencils to anyone who does not already have one.
- Next, the students copy the memory gem exactly as it appears on the chalkboard without breaking the slate pencil.
Recitation and Evaluation:
- Once this is achieved, a short recitation of the memory gem and its meaning(s) should take place. To encourage several different responses the teacher should call first upon a volunteer, then ask, "Who has another interpretation?"
- Responding students must stand, address the teacher as "Ma'am" or "Sir" and explain. Once everyone who wishes to speak has had the opportunity to do so, the teacher tells the students to study the memory gem as time permits because they will be asked to recite it from memory at the end of the day.
- The chalkboard is then erased, but the students still have their copies on their slates. When the end of the school day comes, the entire class recites the memory gem in unison.
Illinois Learning Standards 2.B.1a, 24.B.1, 24.A.3c
Continue to the McGuffey Reader lessons.
Return to the Introduction.