Effective Practice Guides

Geometry and Spatial Sense: Improve


Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to help children learn about shapes and spatial concepts is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that help preschoolers learn about shapes and spatial concepts.1
    • Engage children in conversations about shapes by:
      • Encouraging them to observe and compare shapes
      • Talking about shapes using the correct terms for two- and three-dimensional shapes and discussing their attributes (e.g., point to the sides of a rectangle and count them or help children count the number of sides in a triangle)
    • Provide children with playful opportunities to explore shapes in a variety of ways, including:
      • Playing with blocks
      • Matching, sorting, and classifying shapes
      • Creating and representing shapes
      • Composing (putting together) and decomposing (taking apart) shapes (e.g., use two same-size right triangles to form a rectangle or larger triangle)
    • Support children’s spatial sense during everyday interactions.
      • Use spatial words and point out spatial relationships (e.g., “Can you please put all the markers in the box?” or “I see you put the beanbag on your head.”)
      • Expand children’s use of spatial words. For example, when a child says, “I put the block up there,” you could say, “Yes, you put the big rectangle block on top of many smaller rectangle blocks.”
  • In home-based programs, effective practices may also include broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit the teaching practice that you outlined in your planning goals and action steps with your coach/supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where they can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Support children’s spatial sense during everyday interactions, you might ask your coach/supervisor to observe you during a period of free play and tally the number of times you used spatial vocabulary to describe your own or children’s actions. You can also ask him to note the number of times that children use spatial vocabulary words in the appropriate context to provide you with information about children’s understanding of spatial relationships.
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child’s understanding of shapes and spatial concepts?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?


1California Department of Education, California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 1 (Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 2010), 282–287, Geometry, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1.pdf [PDF, 8.8MB].

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 3, 2018