Creating and working with patterns helps students classify and organize information in every subject area.
Science: Pitter-Patter Patterns
What you need: Pattern Fish and Pattern Bugs by Trudy Harris, journal, pencils, scissors, glue sticks
What to do: Read the books aloud to your class, introducing the concept of AB, AAB, ABB, and ABCD patterns. Discuss the types of patterns you see in the illustrations. After reading both books, go on a nature walk. Have students record patterns they see and hear by drawing and labeling them in their journals. For example: shells, plants, flowers, stones, feathers, bark, or even water dripping. When new patterns are spotted throughout the year (a honeycomb in spring), add them to the book. Allow students to take journals home from time to time and use them as they go on nature walks with their families.
Science: For the Birds
What you need: Bagels, peanut butter (or lard, if you’re peanut-free), nuts, birdseed, popcorn, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, pieces of yarn
What to do: With winter approaching, have students make bird feeders by creating food patterns on bagels.
First, cut the bagels in half. Thread a piece of yarn in the hole and tie at the top to make a holder. Smother both sides of the bagel with peanut butter. Use the seeds, dried fruits, popcorn, and so forth to create a pattern on the bagel.
Hang the feeders outside your classroom window and observe birds feasting on their treats!
Language Arts: Sweet Repeats
What you need: Various books and a class journal
What to do: When you read to your students, ask them to keep their ears open for patterns they hear in the stories: repeated words, phrases, refrains, or sentences. Examples: “Run, run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man,” and “So I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down.” Keep track of these word patterns by writing them down in a classroom journal. Kids will discover that the repeated patterns make reading the book easier. When it’s time for writing workshop, encourage students to use word patterns in their own stories.
Math: What’s My Number?
What you need: Paper and pencils
What to do: Recite a group of numbers in a pattern and have students copy them down on their paper. For example: 2, 4, 6, 8. Ask students which number comes next. How do they know? Ask them to continue the pattern for the next 30 seconds. As children grow more confident, make the patterns harder. Be sure to use subtraction and, for an extra challenge, use addition and subtraction properties in the same problem. For example, 1, 5, 9, 13 (+4); 13, 12, 20, 19 (–1, then +8).
Kids can also create their own problems and have classmates solve them.
What you need: Various musical instruments, paper, pencils
What to do: Borrow small instruments from the music teacher. Divide the class into groups of four to seven students. Each member should receive an instrument. Invite groups to work together to make music by repeating a rhythmic pattern. After each group performs their “song” for the class, challenge the other groups to identify and record the pattern together on paper. Then have groups perform other groups’ songs, adding additional “verses.”
Have students create several verses before repeating the original.
Dance: Movin’ and Groovin’
What you need: Music, CD player
What to do: Explain that line dances use repeated sequences of steps and movements that are performed in a straight line. Dancers do not have partners and don’t face anyone. Instead they step in time with the music and follow patterns, such as 1-2, 1-2-3-4, or 1-2-2-3-4, over and over again. Line up students and teach them line dances such as “Cotton Eye Joe,” “The Electric Slide,” and “The Hustle.”
Introduce students to various moves such as the grapevine and shuffle step so they can create and perform new line dances.
Art: Get Graphic
What you need: Graph paper, markers, rulers, pictures of artwork that show repeated patterns
What to do: Invite students to design a piece of art that repeats colors, lines, and shapes. Show samples from books borrowed from the school library. Pass out graph paper and have kids use a pencil to outline various-size squares and rectangles. Repeat until the whole paper is used. Use a black marker to retrace the pencil lines to help define each area. (Some shapes will have 60 graphing squares inside; others may have only 10. The more varied, the more interesting the final masterpiece!)
Each outlined shape now gets its own color and design pattern. Kids can use markers to draw combinations of stripes, dots, and lines. By repeating lines in different lengths and directions and varying their spacing, each child will create a unique piece of art. Challenge advanced students to use triangles, hexagons, and other defined geometrical shapes.