Last week I was a "special guest" of five year old twins Max and Theo at their suburban Boston Montessori school. Their mother has been explaining the how and why of their "work" through this, their first year.
As I spent time with each boy and they selected, then showed me each "work," I found myself drawn to the spatial aspects of the activities.
Theo first chose to write his brother a letter. He took out the paper and explained to me the four lines that guided his printing: the sky line (cloud), the plane line (airplane), the grass line (grass) and the worm line (worm). At the far left of each group of four lines there were indeed tiny icons to identify the lines. He spoke aloud how to craft each letter. "You start at the sky line, then go to the grass line..."
This was all new to me but his teacher later explained it was part of a writing method. She used a specific name, but I see it on the Web as Fundations. Here's a graphic if this is new to you, too. A quick Internet search suggests I'm way behind the times and many, many schools are using at least some of the ideas of this approach. It all seemed so natural to Theo, this idea of putting a grid on the paper and using it to guide his letters. I'm sure he had no idea the spatial literacy skills he was building!
When I joined Max he was doing a puzzle of sorts. He had 16 or so colored blocks. He was arranging them to match a picture on a card. I'm not sure if he or I started to refer to the picture as a "map," but we both used that term as we worked. When unsure of what to do next, he started to say, "It's time to look at the map!" And, when he became frustrated and could not form the four blue triangles into a diamond as the map illustrated, I tried to help. "Are all three sides of the triangle the same length?" We decided two were the same, but on was longer. "Which side, a long one or short one, touches the yellow block?" It took a while but we did finally get it using both the map and our own language to describe the blocks and how they were arranged. Like his brother, I'm sure Max had no idea of the spatial literacy skills he was building.
I do hope they get to practice and use them for many more years of their education.