Understanding Nonverbal Concepts: Impact of Spatial Ordering

Spatial ordering involves information arranged simultaneously in space. A student's ability to process spatial information impacts his/her ability to understand nonverbal concepts, such as place value and perimeter, and to use spatially based tools, such as maps and diagrams, to enhance learning.

Here are some strategies to help students enhance their ability to understand nonverbal concepts.

Helpful Hints

  • Use multiple formats for presenting information and conducting classroom learning, balancing verbal and non-verbal input, as best fits the needs of your students.  
  • Lessen the burden of spatial confusion by having students use simple tools such as graph paper for mathematics and notetaking, an index card for keeping place in reading, etc.  
  • Help students register important details by visually framing information, highlighting or underlining key words, and using a simple color coding system for organizing what's on the board or the overhead. Teach students to incorporate these systems into their own everyday work.  
  • When introducing students to reading visual-spatial materials, use high-interest, familiar topics. For example, use graphs that discuss their favorite television shows, musicians, or food; use maps of their neighborhoods, etc.  
  • Make visual/graphic information available for prolonged and repeated referral and analysis.  
  • Translating visual-spatial data into words may improve students' comprehension and production of information. Software programs for graphic organizing and outlining. (Inspiration, for example, converts outlines to semantic maps/diagrams and vice-versa, and allows the user to shift back and forth.)   
  • Have students examine concepts that are presented visually and spatially, then talk about these concepts using their own words. For example, a set of drawings on a storyboard can be translated into a narrative, patterns of numbers or figures can be 'broken' and the relationships described, etc.  
  • Make use of game formats for building students' abilities with spatial concepts. For example:
    • Use part-to-part matching puzzles to build students' appreciation of relationships and spatial detail.
    • Have students move through mazes, from simple straight or curved lines to more complex shapes and labyrinths.
    • Have students find smaller parts in complex wholes, such as geometric designs or letter patterns.
    • Have students fill in the missing parts to identify a pictured object or the missing letters to form a word.