From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Monday, December 01, 2008

"Puzzle Pages" Workbooks Remembered

Reading seatwork series illustrated by Ethel Hays


In our one-room school, our teachers taught several classes for every subject. The number of classes depended on the grade levels of the current students. Sometimes there were half a dozen grades or more for ten or twelve students.

Usually, the teacher called the classes in order from youngest to oldest. "First grade Reading," she might announce, and the first grader/s went to the bench beside the teacher's desk with appropriate books and papers. After a few minutes of oral reading, the teacher assigned some seatwork and called the next class.

In the primary grades, we always had a page or two to do in the reading workbook, a few pages of practice reading from the textbook, a page in the phonics workbook, and the next page of Puzzle Pages.

Read and write, cut and paste

Puzzle Pages was a reading seatwork series. Besides the part of every page that had to be read, the work usually required some writing and some cut-and-pasted words or pictures from the back of the book. This kept our hands busy with pencils, round-tipped scissors, and globs of white paste. We were also expected to color all the pictures on the pages.

The cover of this Puzzle Pages workbook is exactly like the ones I remember. Just look how busy those children are. And so were we! My husband remembers this workbook, also.

One day, the children in the Puzzle Pages story went to the circus, so we had pictures of circus animals to cut and paste. When the teacher checked my page, she marked the elephant wrong, even though I had pasted it in the right place. She said it was colored wrong. Not having gray in my box of 16 crayons, I had made the elephant purple. Maybe she would have preferred light black.

Ethel Hays, artist and illustrator

ThePuzzle Pages workbooks were published by McCormick-Mathers of Wichita, Kansas -- a publishing company which appears to have gone out of business. Internet searches for "McCormick-Mathers" yield used books from the 1930s through the 1980s, but no website for the company.

The illustrator of all the various Puzzle Pages editions and revised editions was Ethel Hays. Her other work included a comic strip, Flapper Fanny, during the 1920s and magazine illustrations and comic strips during the 1930s. During the 1940s, she illustrated a number of well-knownl children's books, including The Little Red Hen (1942),  Little Black Sambo (1942), The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1942), The Town and The Country Mouse (1942), and others. She also illustrated the popular Raggedy Ann books of the same era.

4 comments:

ptg said...

I wonder if the practice of keeping students of different grade levels together in one class wasn't somehow beneficial to the learning process?

Genevieve said...

The students heard every thing that was taught to every grade, and even if they weren't focused on all of it all the time, they couldn't avoid absorbing some of it. I remember the happy anticipation of reading some of the stories in the older grades' reading texts.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought but we did a lot of "hands on" work of cutting, glueing, coloring and really did like school for the most part in our one room country school. Also we had long recesses and noon hours and I don't remember having much homework at all. And I think we learned as well if not better than they do in the modern schools. I know we always did just as well if not even better than the "town" schools on achievement tests. Sammie

Genevieve said...

Hi, Sammie. I agree with every bit of your comment. We never had homework because we were expected to do it at our desks during the school day. I would have been disgusted if I'd been expected to do homework. When I got out of school in the afternoon, I was free until 9 a.m. the next day.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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