Picture Work - Part 7

Part 7

A book on helps, to be truly helpful, must deal with negative as well as with positive matters--those things which we ought to leave undone as well as those we ought to do. Any treatment of true picture-work is lacking in completeness, not to say in candor, which does not say a word about false picture-work.

If there were only some way of crawling into the inside of the children's brains, and marking the effect of the alliterations, juxtapositions, and symbolisms of what goes by the name of picture-work! Can't we devise a meter for estimating the precise emotional and spiritual value of a board filled with marks in various colors in the form of anchors, hearts, keys, crosses, not to mention other less sacred things?

I once saw a "chalk talk" given to two hundred Sunday-school children.

_Dramatis personae_: three parrots; one unrecognizable, it was so badly drawn; a second, indifferent; the third, capital, a speaking likeness.

The last was perched on S. T. Moral: "Honesty is the best policy." The children were as delighted as if the text had been taken from the Bible and as interested in the display as if it had possessed the slightest value.

"But," it is urged, "the children are always interested in such things."

Yes, and they would be more interested still if you showed them a monkey or displayed red, green, and blue lights. The law of interest tells us what shall _not_ be placed before the children--"Nothing that is not interesting"--but as a guide to what we _shall_ give them it tells but half the story. The other half is, "_Not everything that is interesting, and not anything just because it is interesting_."

Let this caution not be misunderstood. The children must use their eyes. To expect children to follow your stories by ear, and make up their mind-pictures out of whole cloth or from the few objects and pictures that can be shown them, or to remember texts and lesson points out of hand, is to suppose them ready to graduate into the senior department. Let us have more blackboards. An individual board for every pupil, if possible, and the more use--wise use--of blackboards the better. But many "blackboardists" have yet to learn that it is possible to be apt without being alliterative, that one may be extravagant without being effective, sensational without being spiritual. In short, they seem not to understand that common sense applies even to blackboard work.

What are the points in good blackboard work? To be quite dogmatic, for the sake of brevity, good blackboard work is:

1. Simple. "Blackboard ingenuities, dissolving from acrostic into enigma, and from enigma into rhyme are not necessary" and they are harmful besides. They distract, distort, make dizzy. The best blackboard work has the fewest lines, the most unity in its variety, the least approach to anything like a maze.

2. Clear. The best blackboard work is that which is easiest to follow, hardest to forget.

3. Varied. Our stock symbols are worked to death. Is it _right_ to use the cross as commonly as you would a letter of the alphabet? Find something new or give the blackboard a vacation. It is not necessary that there be a quarter hour on every day's program for blackboard work. Who has not spent a "bad quarter of an hour" when the "exercise"

was perfunctory?

4. Descriptive. All maps and plans, sketches of roads and rooms, of mountains and rivers, are good, because they help us to form for ourselves the picture which we must see in order to grasp the meaning of the story. For example, we may ill.u.s.trate the Mount of Transfiguration; first with four figures, then six, then four; the winding road to Emmaus, two figures--straight lines, merely--and a little farther on, a third; the upper room, its occupants represented by marks or initial letters. Anything is helpful that gives a notion of position, number, form, contrast, sequence, change.

5. Free, living, personal. The best blackboard work is that which is freest. Children are impressionists. For them the broad side of the crayon is better than the point; two strokes better than twenty.

The best blackboard work is that which grows before the children's eyes, which is made, not unveiled. Two minutes of rough sketching in the lesson hour is better than two hours of patient putting in of finishing touches beforehand.

The best blackboard work is that which is original, personal. That which is given in the "lesson helps" is just what you should not use.

It is not yours. If it does not help you to find your own way, it is useless--and worse than useless, because it tempts you to borrow without inspiring you to create.

6. In fine, the mission of the blackboard, as of all picture-work, is to help us to see the truth in the world or the truth in our own selves by showing us a truth that is easier to see or that is nearer at hand than that which we would learn.

Like all picture-work, it fulfills its mission when it serves as a scaffolding, when it is kept subordinate. It fails when it obscures the truth, not helps to build it. False picture-work is anything that stands in the way of our seeing truth; as when we cannot see the woods for the trees--cannot see the Sunday-school lesson for the bizarre exhibitions on the blackboard.



In order to find out what Sunday-school teachers are doing in the matter of stories, ill.u.s.trations, and picture-work generally, the writer prepared and distributed to a thousand teachers the following blank:

_One response NOW is worth twenty a month hence._


_To Sunday-school Teachers:_

For the purpose of devising means for the better preparation of Sunday-school teachers, the President of the Teachers College, New York, requests the teachers in your Sunday-school to answer the following questions.

To save time and trouble use both sides of this sheet.

Whenever possible answer by crossing out the term that does not apply.

In every case where the answer is based on experience with children, state the age of the children.

Please do not hesitate to return this blank, even if you have answered but a few questions.

_Sources._--To ill.u.s.trate the lesson do you use Bible stories, stories from good literature, or stories invented by yourself?

_Subject._--Do you find your children more interested in stories of people or of nature?

_Kind._--Which of the stories have you found more effective, modern or cla.s.sic? Stories told or read? True or fict.i.tious? Those based on poetry or prose? Stories in which the moral is set forth or hidden?

_Experience._--What stories are you going to use in the Sunday-school lesson for next Sunday?

_Precept._--If you do not use stories, what other means do you employ to enforce religious and moral lessons? Do you "moralize,"

and if so, with what obvious result?

_Environment._--What means do you use of making the dress, customs, etc., of Bible people seem real to children?

_Picture-work._--Do you use blackboard ill.u.s.trations? What other objective helps?

_Examples._--What stories have you found especially helpful?

_Purpose._--What is your purpose in using stories in the Sunday-school?

_Principles._--Do you succeed in having such unity in the lesson that the stories all contribute to one main thought? Mention five requisites for a good story-teller.

Mention five qualities in a good story.

To these questions fifty-eight replies were received. Very few, however, gave the ages of the children, and the smallness of the number of replies--which after all is by no means discouraging--tends to vitiate the data as bases for generalization.

s.p.a.ce forbids giving more than a single group of typical answers. Some of the most helpful of the suggestions have been embodied in the foregoing. Further replies from thoughtful teachers will be welcome.

_Question_--Mention five requisites for a good story-teller.


Sympathetic voice, manner, and face.

More knowledge of the subject than one wants to use.

The teacher must be interested, bright, imaginative, clear in thought and expression.

Clear apprehension of the point to be made, clear knowledge of the subject, understanding of the peculiarities of his hearers, tact in making application, and dramatic power.