The study of the way sentences are constructed and words organized, called grammar, was taught orally. Since the teaching of grammar was emphasized in grades 4-8, the term " grammar school" was put to use in America's emerging graded system for a school between primary (grades 1-3) and secondary (grades 9-12).
Learning to read varied from child to child. Teachers taught reading with care because they believed the longer bad habits were permitted to remain, the more difficult they would be to fix. The New England Primer was popular even though it relied on memorization. The more effective McGuffey Reader placed emphasis on word repetition, sounding out, enunciation and accents on different words.
Mitchell's Primary Geography and Monteith and McNally's were used to teach about earth's surfaces. The 1860-61 Edgartown School Report noted that classes needed to spend less time on the text and more on maps. "The mind best retains those impressions which are made upon it through the medium of the eye." Map drawing was encouraged because it was believed that the use of the hand and eye in drawing is important in the education of the young.
Herbert Hoover Presidential LIbrary and Museum