When teaching early childhood students pattern activities, to begin with they have no concept of what you want them to do.
They are familiar with patterns in time, such as snack time, play time, morning, bed time and night time. In their homes they may participate in creating patterns, such as knife, fork, knife, fork when setting the table for dinner.
In her book, “Investigating Mathematics with Young Children, Rosemary Althouse says that for children to understand and make patterns, they first need to understand,”what comes next” in relationship to “what came before”.
Making copy or repeat patterns
When asked to make a pattern, young children may produce a random design like the image below, and say this is my pattern.
One way to help children make sense of the idea of repeating patterns, is to call them “copy” patterns to begin with, as most children have an understanding of this word and use it in their play.
- Cut long strips of white card about 18 inches long
- Put a green dot on one end to signify, start here
- Put a red dot on the other end to show the child when to stop the pattern
- Mactac™ for frequent use or cover strips with packing tape
- Attach the card to the table with tape or reusable adhesive putty, as little children shift it accidentally and will knock the pattern blocks off.
- Demonstrate a simple two color pattern first.
- As you place the blocks down say, “Yellow, orange, now we are going to copy or repeat, yellow, orange…”
- Continue until the whole tape is filled with yellow and orange blocks.
- Then ask the child to copy your pattern with the same color blocks.
- Have the children pick the next two colors and make the same ABAB two color pattern.
Some children need lots of practice with the above process before they understand that the two colors are to be repeated.
When purchasing pattern blocks, buy enough so that all children in the group have plenty. Having lots of blocks seems to stop the tendency for children to grab or horde the blocks! They are a good resource as they can be used to teach many math concepts.
Pattern blocks available on Amazon.com