Notes of Lessons: Grammar, Class IV

Notes of Lessons: Grammar, Class IV

[We have thought that it might be of use to our readers (in their own families) to publish from month to month during the current year, Notes of Lessons prepared by students of the House of Education for the pupils of the Practising School. We should like to say, however, that such a Lesson is never given as a tour de force, but is always an illustration or an expansion of some part of the children’s regular studies (in the Parents’ Review School), some passage in one or other of their school books.—Ed.]

Subject: Grammar • Group: English • Class IV • Average Age: 16 • Time: 40 mins

By Hilda M. Fountain
The Parents’ Review, 1903, pp. 382-385


I. To connect grammar with literature.

II. To connect the present with the past by tracing the history of certain words.

III. To make the pupils see that an author’s language, and consequently his style, are influenced by his subject.

IV. To interest the pupils in finding out the meaning of words from their derivation, making use of their knowledge of Latin as far as possible.

V. To teach the Latin prefixes commonly found in English words.

VI. To cultivate the mental habit of accuracy.


Step I.—Let the pupils each read part of a passage from Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and tell them to notice the language.

“When the troops of Maximin, advancing in excellent order, arrived at the foot of the Julian Alps, they were terrified by the silence and desolation that reigned on the frontiers of Italy. The villages and open towns had been abandoned on their approach by the inhabitants, the cattle was driven away, the provisions removed or destroyed, the bridges broken down, nor was anything left which could afford either shelter or subsistence to an invader. Such had been the wise orders of the generals of the senate, whose design was to protract the war, to ruin the army of Maximin by the slow operation of famine, and to consume his strength in the sieges of the principal cities of Italy, which they had plentifully stored with men and provisions from the deserted country. Aquileia received and withstood the first shock of the invasion. The streams that issue from the head of the Hadriatic Gulf, swelled by the melting of the winter snows, opposed an unexpected obstacle to the arms of Maximin.

“At length on a singular bridge, constructed with art and difficulty of large hogsheads, he transported his army to the opposite bank, rooted up the beautiful vineyards in the neighbourhood of Aquileia, demolished the suburbs, and employed the timber of the buildings in the engines and towers with which on every side he attacked the city. The walls, fallen to decay during the security of a long peace, had been hastily repaired on this sudden emergency; but the firmest defence of Aquileia consisted in the constancy of the citizens; all ranks of whom instead of being dismayed, were animated by the extreme danger and their knowledge of the tyrants’ unrelenting temper. Their courage was supported and directed by Crispinus and Menophilus, two of the twenty lieutenants of the senate, who, with a small body of regular troops had thrown themselves into the besieged place. The army of Maximin was repulsed on repeated attacks, his machines destroyed by showers of artificial fire, and the generous enthusiasm of the Aquileians was exalted into a confidence of success by the opinion that Belenus, their tutelar deity, combated in person in the defence of his distressed worshippers.”

Step II.—Let the pupils read Tennyson’s In Memoriam, Canto VII., with the same object.

“Dark house by which once more I stand

Here in the long unlovely street
Doors, where my heart was used to beat

So quickly, waiting for a hand.

“A hand that can be clasped no more—

Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep

At earliest morning to the door.

“He is not here; but far away

The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro’ the drizzling rain

On the bald street breaks the blank day.”

Step III.—Draw from the pupils a comparison of the language of the two extracts. That of the first is full of words of Latin derivation, and this is due principally to the subject and the fact that the author must have read a great deal of Latin, and so his language has become impregnated with it. In the case of the extract from In Memoriam the words are almost all English in origin, and this is because the subject is an expression of the poet’s grief and loneliness, and he gives vent to his feelings in simple language and every-day words.

Step IV.—Ask the pupils if there are any Latin words in the passage from In Memoriam, and draw attention to the word street; the only one, and that one of the oldest, having been in the language since the time of the Roman occupation.

Step V.—Ask the pupils to pick out all the words with prefixes and say of what origin they are. “Unlovely” and “begin.” Un and be are both English.

Step VI.—Ask the pupils to pick out all the words with prefixes from the extract from Gibbon and write them on the black board at their dictation, thus:

ad—advancing, arrived, afford.
de—desolation, destroyed, design, deserted.
in—inhabitants, invader.
pro—provisions, protract.
re—removed, received.
con—consume, constructed.
ob—opposed, obstacle.

and so on, the list depending on the words chosen by the pupils.

Step VII.—Ask them to tell which are the English prefixes. There are only two, with and un. Tell them that the others are all Latin.

Step VIII.—To arrive at the meaning of the prefixes and their force in the words in which they occur, take words such as “inhabitant,” “provide” and “remove,” whose roots the pupils ought to know and draw the meaning of the prefix from a comparison of the words “moves” and “removes,” “vides” and “provides.” When necessary tell the pupils the root and its meaning, so that they may discern for themselves the force of the prefix.

Step IX.—Rub the words off the board, leaving only the prefix and where necessary, as in the case of re, de, con, etc., letthe pupils come to the board and write down the force of the prefix beside it.

Step X.—Ask the pupils for other examples of words containing the prefixes they have learnt, helping them by giving new roots when necessary.