The "Aha" Series: From Sandpaper Globes to Matching Letters in CH5

This week, we asked our teachers in the Children’s House Five class to share their favorite stories that illustrate those moments of joyful discovery when an idea clicks for a student, the mental light bulb switches on, and the “aha!” epiphany brings new life to learning.

ahacolorChildren’s House Five / Bridging Class

CH5 is a transitional class for children who are at least 2-1/2 but not yet 4 years old by the start of the school year. This class serves as a bridge between Toddler House and our five-day Children’s House. Students may attend CH5 part or full time. Georgie Gladdys and Nancy Skrabak get to work with children who are in the middle of one of the most thrilling developmental stages of all—one in which they take in a tremendous amount of information from their environment with what Maria Montessori called the absorbent mind.

Georgie’s Globe Story

We have had the sandpaper globes out in the classroom for some time and have talked about the land formations we call continents and about the blue on the globe as water or oceans. The children have felt the globes and walked around the classroom with them. They have noticed that the globe is round and understand that it is a model of our planet Earth. We have done small group lessons with it and sung the continent song.

The globes, after this first spark of interest, took a long rest on the shelf as we busied ourselves with other work. One day I took out the continent puzzle map, with the control map on top of it, and put it out on the map shelf and just left it there. I purposely put the control map on top of the puzzle because I was not sure if the children were ready (or I was ready) to give what I thought was a complicated lesson on the globe as a flat shape and dealing with all the continent pieces.

One day a little boy went over to the map shelf and asked, “Georgie, what is this? Can I do this? I want to do this”—all said in one breath. So, I took a deep breath and said, “Let me show you this.” As I took off the control map and he saw the beautiful colors of the continent puzzle pieces, he exclaimed, “Wow! I want to do this one. This is a big work, huh?” I agreed that it was. “I’ll get a big rug,” he told me, “and I want to take out the puzzle.”

I said nothing, but smiled. He was ready. I was ready. This is a big puzzle and he was a little boy. He stretched his arms as wide as he could and slid that puzzle out of its place and wrestled it down to the rug. He was extremely pleased with the first step. Then he asked me to name the continents and we sang the song together. We placed the continents from the puzzle to the control map, fitting them perfectly. When all the continents were out, this little boy went and got the globe. He looked at the globe, then at the puzzle, then at the map, and then at the globe again. He looked at me and said, “If we put the two round pieces of this map together flat and blow it up like a ball, it would be the Earth.”

Wow—an aha moment of gargantuan proportions!

Nancy’s Matching Story

This year we made a brand new “work”—an alphabet card game for matching pictures and sounds and letters. It takes students a while because it’s a three-step game. [Nancy drew the artistic pictures of animals and objects.]

First, you show the student a picture of an elephant. Then you ask, what’s the beginning sound of the word elephant? Eh-eh-eh, you say. Eh-eh-eh says the child. Then you get the card with the letter “e” and put it next to the elephant. You can also find the card that has the elephant and the letter e above it, so if you’re doing the work on your own and get stuck you know where to look.

This work takes a long time for students to get at this age—to go through all the steps and all the letters of the alphabet requires focus and builds concentration. We introduced this in the fall and it took a while to get moving. Now that it’s the second half of the year, the results are exciting! You can really see students starting to get it. You see them making the connection between the pictures and the sounds and the written letters, and you see when it finally clicks.

[This post originally appeared in Rhythm & News, the Inly School newsletter, on February 20, 2009.]

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