Sunday, September 13, 2015

Elsie's Exams Continued - 1910 Grammar Exam

Today in U.S. schools, Grammar is incorporated with writing, which along with reading, is taught through Language Arts in middle school and English in high school.  In the early 1900's, however, Reading and Grammar were separate subjects.  Think of the old song,

"School days, school days, 
Dear old golden rule days. 

'Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic, 
Taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick." 1


My husband's maternal grandmother, Elsie Johnson, had an 8th grade final grammar exam that I would have difficulty completing as I don't recall most of it.  The questions appear on the upper left hand corner of page one and were glued down.  Check out Elsie's 3 page test:

Elsie would have been considered an English Language Learner (ELL) today.  Although born in the U.S., Elsie's parents spoke primarily Swedish in the home and in her community.  Elsie attended a church that had services in her parents' native tongue and many of the shop keepers in her small town of Miller spoke Swedish.  No special classes were offered to Elsie; she learned English through total immersion.
In the 1990's, an educational movement occurred as a result of a dire prediction that students no longer wrote because of the increase usage of cell phones.  Hence, many states adopted a writing assessment in key grade levels to measure writing ability.  In Florida, that test was named Florida Writes and was given in grades 4, 8 and 10. Elsie's short narrative about how she spent her Saturday reminds me of an 8th grade prompt from about 1999.  Certainly not original but it is a topic in which students can relate.  Clearly the prediction of the end of writing was unfounded.  Young people today prefer to text and tweet over making phone calls but I will give the movement credit as today's messages are succinct!
Now that cursive handwriting isn't taught either, concerned groups are bemoaning the next generation will be at a loss.  I disagree as I think would many genealogists - looking at writing styles from old records it is often nearly impossible to read what was written.  I much prefer students print neatly than use illegible cursive.  I do wonder what today's children will do when they're supposed to place their signature on the line and then print their name under it, such as when they're getting a mortgage or purchasing a vehicle.  Maybe the signature line will be obsolete!
I expected to see diagramming on Elsie's exam as that was part of our 8th grade grammar test.  My mom attended Lake County, Indiana schools in the 1920's and 1930's and had to learn to diagram. That means the curriculum change occurred sometime between 1910 and the mid 1920's.  I had to do it in the 1960's and 70's but it was gone by the late 1980's when my children started school.  Guess that comes and goes out of style, too!
Next time we're going to take a look at Elsie's science final.

1Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, "School Days" Web. 30 Aug. 2015.




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