Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.3.G.A.1; CCSS.Math.Practice.MP6

What You Need: 5 x 5 squares of white drawing paper, black markers or pens, colored markers, samples of finished work, chart paper

What to Do: Zentangles are images created using freehand patterns. Each is unique, based on the patterns one feels like drawing, but making Zentangles involves an understanding of how patterns work.

Third-grade teacher Dyan Branstetter, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has her students create Zentangles as a way to teach persistence, precision, and geometry concepts. We have a “need to train our brain to do tasks that require endurance, such as solving difficult math problems, without giving up,” she says. Branstetter, who blogs at Education Closet, also uses Zentangles to introduce geometry vocabulary, such as rectangle, circle, and triangle.

To begin, show students samples of simple Zentangles and explain the general concept (for an introduction, try these Zentangle ideas). Kids should recognize that Zentangles are made up of patterns, each one consisting of simple shapes or doodles.

Model how to make Zentangles on chart paper. Start with a simple rectangular outline. This is called a “tile.” Next, lightly draw in pencil a freehand “string,” a simple zigzag or curve that cuts the tile into smaller sections. Show students how the patterns are created by filling in the sections of the tile with different designs using a black marker or pen. Patterns can be as simple as repeating triangles or as elaborate as intricate, three-dimensional knots. Share a completed Zentangle, and point out how the penciled-in string is not visible after the Zentangle is completed.

Then, pass out supplies and have students begin their own Zentangles. Recognize that this task requires patience, and encourage kids to persevere. Once they have completed their Zentangles (they may finish them with brightly colored markers), have kids share their work in a gallery walk and discuss the geometric elements in all the patterns.

LOL Limericks!

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA.Literacy.W.2.3

What You Need: Two limericks written on chart paper, sample limericks (try KidZone’s Limericks), copies of limericks for pairs, writing paper

What to Do: Limericks are filled with patterns—in rhyme, rhythm, and syllables. And kids can best understand patterns by writing their own poems.

Begin by explaining you will be focusing on a special form of poetry, the limerick, that has very specific rules or patterns. Read two sample limericks aloud. Then, pass out copies and ask students to take turns reading the poems to a partner. (Choose simple limericks for ease of reading.) Have kids share at least two aspects of the limericks that stand out to them (rhyming words, imagery, humor), and jot down their ideas. As a class, review what the pairs have noticed and write comments underneath each limerick on the chart paper. Students will likely point out the AABBA rhyme scheme in the five-line poems. Underline the rhyming words in distinct colors. Also, point out the syllable pattern of 8, 8, 5, 5, 8. Lastly, note that the poems are meant to be silly and funny—something students will undoubtedly have pointed out!

Next, call attention to how limericks tend to begin with a person or place in the first line and end with a joke in the last line. Model coming up with a situation that could make a good limerick—perhaps a teacher reaching the end of the school year and finally going on vacation. One way to start the poem would be “There was a schoolteacher from [your town]” and end with a joke about how the teacher is taking a much-needed summer break.

Then, have students try to write their own limericks, referring to the samples you provide. Encourage them to use the patterns they have observed. Come together as a class or in small groups to share drafts.

Guess My Pattern

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.2.3; Math.Content.3.OA.C.7

What You Need: Whiteboard or chart paper, mini-whiteboards, markers

What to Do: Whether you have just five minutes to fill, or time for a whole lesson, this game is a great way to reinforce word study, math, or other skills.

Begin by drawing a large circle on a whiteboard or chart paper. Explain that you are thinking of a pattern: for example, one that involves numbers from 1 to 100, a word pattern (such as words with the vowel team –oa), etc. Write a number or word that fits the pattern in the circle: If your pattern is multiples of three, you could write 27. If your pattern is –oa words, you could write boat. Tell students it’s their job to figure out the pattern.

Give pairs of students a moment to share what they notice about the number or word. For the word boat, they may say it starts with a b or has the vowel pattern –oa. Or that a boat is a mode of transportation or a non-living thing. If using the number example, students may notice that the number is a multiple of 3 or 9, that it is odd, etc.

Next, have a student share a word or number they think would fit with the pattern. If it’s correct, write the word or number in the circle. If not, write it outside the circle. After several rounds, give students a chance to guess the pattern. Once the correct pattern is identified, write the pattern’s rule on the board.

Then, have students work in groups of three or four, taking turns being the pattern caller. (Consider having a selection of ideas written on note cards.) At the end, have kids share what they observed as they played.

Shape Search

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.2.3

What You Need: Individualized word lists, medium- or large-grid graph paper, crayons

What to Do: Susan Kunze, a retired second-grade teacher from Bishop, California, liked to use a game to help her students see visual patterns in words, which is “vital to develop strong reading and spelling skills.”

Prior to starting the game, prepare word lists. Kunze recommends creating individualized lists of about six to 12 words for each student. Focus on challenging words or words the student commonly misspells.

Hand out the word lists, and provide students with medium- or large-grid graph paper, pencils, and crayons. They will begin by writing each word from their list on graph paper, using one box for small letters (e.g., a, c, m) and two boxes for tall letters (b, l, f) or “hang-down” letters (p, g, y). Have them trace the grid lines around the letters of each word in crayon.

Once they have completed their projects, have students circulate around the room to compare the shapes of their words with those of other students. If they find two different words that share the same shape, they should mark them with a star. This works best if students have words from the same word family. If not, consider having them match words that share the same shape, except for one letter. Whoever has the most stars after the allotted time wins.  


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