Colonial Classroom: Then and Now
Instruction in colonial schools was primarily religious and
authoritarian. Its goal was preparation for eternity. The curriculum
stressed the four Rs: readin’, ’ritin’, ’rithmetic, and religion.
Memorization and recitation were the dominant instructional processes.
The schoolmaster relied on fear to motivate children and to keep them
in order. It was not uncommon for a gag to be put in the mouth of a
child who talked too much or for a child who did not perform well to be
made to stand in the corner, sometimes on a stool, wearing a dunce
Classes often lasted from about 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a
two-hour break for lunch, for eight months (March to October) and 8
a.m. to 4 p.m. for four months (November to February). In the early
Colonial Period, classes were held in the house of the schoolmaster or
the town meeting house. Later, when schoolhouses were built, they were
scarcely more than a narrow log box with a master’s desk and crude
wooden student benches. “Many schoolhouses did not have glass set in the
small windows but newspaper or white paper greased with lard were
fastened in the rude sashes, or in holes cut in the wall, and let in a
little light” (Glubok, 1969, p. 120).
Choose four points from above (e.g., fear to motivate,
memorization and recitation as instructional practice) and compare them
to today’s classroom in the graphic organizer below.
Example: School Day from 7a.m.to 5p.m. with a 2-hour break for lunch
Example: School Day from 8a.m. to 3p.m. with a 30-minute break for lunch
In a one- to two-page essay, provide examples to demonstrate
how the practices from colonial days are similar to or different from
today’s practices. Describe any practices from the Colonial Period you
wish were still in practice today and explain why. After reviewing the
graphic organizer, explain whether or not progression has occurred in
the education field over time. Outline how this transformation affects
you as a classroom teacher in the 21st century.
Your finished paper must include the graphic organizer, a
title page, and a reference page using APA 6th-edition formats. It
should not exceed three pages in length (not including title and
reference pages). Include a minimum of two sources in addition to your
textbook and reference them in APA style.
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