Sharon Baatz, a kindergarten&grade 1 teacher at Woodward Elementary has had the Reggio-inspired patterning kit since February. Having already investigated patterns with her students in the fall, the kit gave her and her class a chance to re-visit the big ideas with some fresh materials. Sharon mentioned that her students particularly enjoyed working with the nuts and bolts and that she found the grid and spiral mats really helped her students expand their thinking about patterns.
Sharon sent me some documentation she created about an inquiry that began in her class, emerging from a student’s observation: What can your pattern become?
I visited Sharon’s class last week and asked them the big question of “what is a pattern?” and again, as for most five year olds it seems, they were able to provide lots of examples of what a pattern was (orange, white, orange, white, orange, white, etc) but had difficulty defining and describing the concept. We struggled through that conversation but got to some ideas around repeating, alternating and being predictable. I then asked the students to consider the question: What stories live within patterns? I knew this class engaged in the story workshop process so I hoped this question would inspire them. We set out materials on the tables and Sharon followed one of her classroom routines and asked a child to name students to go and choose where to begin their investigations.
Not currently in the kit, but materials I have been using to extend students’ ideas about patterns, is a collection of bare wooden blocks. I find that many students focus on colour or shape when patterning and I wanted to provoke their thinking by having them work with materials that were all the same colour and the same shape.
We saw some very creative thinking with the materials and the students focused on position and creating height by building with the blocks.
We came together at the end to share and I asked the students if they found any stories. One student commented that she made a zigzag pattern and that could be a path going somewhere. What a great inspiration for a story! This was some new thinking for the students and Sharon explained that she is interested in exploring the idea of math workshop to parallel what she is doing with story workshop.
Our practicum student from Queen’s University interviewed Sharon and captured these reflections:
- She felt that the openness is good for children because it inspires growth and “encourages different levels of thinking”
- Sharon liked one of the picture books in the kit and she used it as a “spring board” by showing it to students first to look at patterns
- Sharon noticed the “social skills that these practices develop” such as working together and sharing
- Sharon noticed that the “students were very engaged”
- Sharon liked the “vocabulary the materials and practices encourage”
- Sharon likes that the all students can achieve to their own different levels, and that the students often get pushed to further, higher levels of achievement
Sharon’s reflections made me think about our redesigned curriculum and the core competencies. Many teachers have wondered how those will be enacted in the classroom and I think the above examples speak to this. We saw lots of evidence of communication, creative and critical thinking and personal and social development.