Mental Maps

While working on finishing the tessellations we’ve been drawing, and hope to have on display for families at the upcoming Back to School Night, we were also listening to The Hobbit, the year’s first read aloud. I have read this book multiple times, yet am struck again by the richness and humor of Tolkien’s writing, the inclusion of the reader in his storyteller narrator’s voice, and his unsurpassed ability to bring a place to life. The group is appreciating these things as well, especially as they compare what they are hearing to what they may have read — especially those who heard or read the book when they were younger — or to what they have seen on film. I think that more than a handful of the children are deciding how they would film the story differently.

The maps and illustrations are a critical part of our conversations as well.


Tolkien succeeds in creating such a vivid sense of place at least in part because he has such a well-developed mental (and then written) map of the place himself.  We quickly recorded our own mental maps as well this week, first of the classroom and then of the world. As we head fully into our study of place in the months ahead, our primary goal is to intentionally develop more accurate and more detailed mental maps. Since each one of us starts toward this goal from a different point, it is fair to assume we will find ourselves at different points at the end of this effort as well. The challenge is to be sure that every person has made significant progress.

The group also held its first book group meetings this week, reading: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (facilitated by Jeri), Winnie the Pooh (facilitated by language arts co-coordinator, Jen), Peter Pan and Wendy (facilitated by librarian, Amy) and Little House on the Prairie (facilitated by Diane). Though the plots, characters and questions raised by each of these classics is different, like The Hobbit, each book speaks to the theme of “home,” the place that we each know first and perhaps best, and each does an extraordinary job of bringing a place to life.

Header image based on “Compass Inlay” by Steve Snodgrass, CC-BY-2.0.