Word Knowledge in the Elementary School
by Edward L. Thorndike - 1921
Consider these simple questions: How many English words should the ordinary boy or girl know the meanings of at the end of Grade 8? Which words should all or nearly all pupils know at that stage? In what grades and in what connections should they be learned? If gifted and experienced teachers, supervisors, and authors of courses of study were to give answers to these questions, the answers would vary enormously. Nobody, in fact, knows the answers with even roughly approximate correctness. Nor is our condition better if we free the questions from the ambiguity of "ordinary boy or girl" and specify any particular child or type of child. The answers would still vary widely, and all of them might well be wrong. Nor is our condition better if we describe fully what else the pupil is to know and assign, say, 8.375 Per cent of his time and energy to this particular feature of his education. We still cannot answer with any surety.
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