One-Room Schoolhouses – Sample Material

Chapter 3
A Day at the One-Room School

From One-Room Schoolhouses by Irene Francis

True wisdom lies in gathering the
precious things out of each day as it goes by.  — E. S. Bouton

Early in the morning, the teacher arrived at the one-room schoolhouse about an hour before the students. She lit the fire to warm the building, carried the water from her home, or drew it from a nearby hand pump.

An American flag rose, flapping in the breeze, as the rope was pulled by the teacher or a student who arrived early to school. Classes officially began at 8:00 a.m., announced by the school bell. The children entered the classroom and hung up their wraps on hook hangers along the wall or in some cases in a small entry. Once the children were seated, the teacher took attendance. If it was a clear day the class went outside to salute the flag and sing the National Anthem.

Next the teacher explained the assignments for each age group. All was quiet in the schoolroom except for the squeaking of pencils and the sounds of erasers on papers. As the day progressed each class was called upon for recitation. A group of students recited a poem they had learned or answered questions prepared by the teacher. Sometimes drills on arithmetic tables or rules of grammar were heard.

The chief method of learning in all subjects was oral repetition. Jacob Abbott, a Maine educator, wrote what most believed, “What we say, we fix by the very act of saying it, in the mind.” Some schools had a special recitation bench at the front of the classroom. For a period of time the teacher worked exclusively with the children who were reciting their lessons. The other children busied themselves at their desks studying or doing assigned seat work. The younger children sat beside the older ones for help reading the geography, science, or history textbooks.

Morning recess was normally about fifteen minutes, followed by more class work and an hour for lunch. The children looked forward to the noon hour since that was the only time they were permitted to speak to each other. This was also a time to carry in wood to feed the stove for the remainder of the day. Sometimes the water pail was filled from the nearest ditch.

Westcliffe School, one of Custer County's One-Room Schoolhouses

Westcliff School, Westcliffe, Colorado
Painting by Arthur Zapel