circular patterns inside and outside

Posted on: November 24th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Since my last visit to Marissa Kishi’s kindergarten class at Whiteside, the class has been continuing to learn about repeating patterns and Marissa has been reading parts of one of the books from the kit – Spotty, Stripy, Swirly: What are Patterns?


The class had read up to the page about patterns in nature and since it was such a sunny day outside, Marissa thought it would be great to go outside. I shared the page below with the students again to focus them on the circular nature of the patterns and have them think about what they might find outside.


The students started collecting treasures – beautiful autumnal leaves, pinecones and twigs.


After a loop around the school grounds, the students gathered together in a concrete covered play area and we asked them to see how they could use the materials to create patterns. While we might have hoped that students might have suggested this themselves or just began naturally creating with the materials, that didn’t happen so we prompted them. To me there is a difference in directing the students to “make a pattern” and to inviting them to investigate how they could use the materials to create patterns. Subtle but significant difference in that the inquiry and learning is turned over to the children in a way that engages them at a different level.

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What the classroom teacher and I noticed is that the students created linear, repeating patterns with 2 elements and almost all of their patterns were of the AB structure. They were “stuck” and this is what we had noticed in the classroom as well. Part of the constraints outside were the limited materials they had to work with. I noticed that two of the students each had a small bough of pine needles that had fallen off the trees during the last storm. The students hadn’t included these in their patterns as they only had one of the item. I asked if they put the boughs in the middle of a pattern, would it be possible to create a pattern around it, trying to connect back to the images we looked at in the book before we went outside. There was only interest in this from a few students. I was more demonstrative than usual about what these students were doing, hoping to draw some others students into the circular pattern creation. It worked.



The students rallied together, with “organizers” emerging and others happily collecting materials and adding to the patterns that were being created. A few students were quite hesitant to give up their special treasures so watched and protected their leaves and pinecones. The students created a very large mandala until the wind picked up and started to lift their leaves away. Time to go inside.

We laid out some materials from the Reggio-inspired patterning kit, trying to keep the focus on other ways to look at patterns. Students enjoyed the spiral mats, continuing with linear patterns but not in a “straight line” across the table.




Other students chose some “loose parts” to create circular patterns like we had worked together on outside. I loved watching how some students were very particular about symmetry, balance and pattern within their designs.

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By providing the students with some new patterning experiences, the intention is that this will help them to build a deeper understanding of what a pattern is – that there is some order, regularity, generalizability. I am looking forward to visiting this class in December to see what they are thinking about patterns at that time.


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