Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Patterns in Preschool

We are sitting around the table. Everyone is silent as we study the lines on the paper. Some are jagged and some are curved. Some are thick and some are thin. At first the kids had simply pointed out what's different about the lines. AK says, "Look! This line is long and that one is short." AS notes, "That line is BIG! This one's just little." I try to write fast enough to keep up with everything they are noticing, but their brains work much faster than my hands. Then I ask, "What do you notice about these lines that makes them special?" Normally, I get a rush of responses. Today, though, everyone is engaged in quiet observation. I wait.



After a moment, MR speaks up. "Well... I mean... the thing I notice is that there's two fat lines then a thin line then two more fat lines... That's a pattern. Like we talked about yesterday."




This causes WK to chime in. "Yeah! And here it isn't just a bunch of green and red lines. There's two greens..." She pauses to count the red lines, "Five reds! Then two more greens! Then I bet that's five more reds so I'm not even going to count them."



From that moment, voices explode. Every child has something to offer on what patterns they saw. Our discussion about patterns from the day before, though mostly theoretical, seemed to really take hold. After everyone has a chance to notice a pattern I pose a new challenge to them. "When we look at this collection of patterns we can see some rules about patterns." I don't ask them anything further, but rather state this fact and wait a moment.




WK speaks almost immediately after I fall silent, "Yeah, like all sorts of things make a pattern. Color or fat or thin or long or short or wavy or curvy... just one little thing can make a pattern and that's just how it works."



"And they have to repeat! Like we talked about yesterday! If it doesn't repeat it's not a pattern." TB notes.



I ask my last question for group that day, "What else might have a pattern?"




WK studies her arms and hands for a long time then looks at mine. While she is observing MR speaks up, "Music can have a pattern!" AS likes this idea, "Yes! Music!" After their interaction, WK is ready with her observation, "Patterns can happen in nature. Like the freckles on your arm, Melinda. They are kind of a pattern... aren't they?" I glance down at my arm and notice that the seemingly speckled randomness does indeed have a sort of pattern, "They do, WK. There's a big one there and a little one... then another big one here... and another little one." I point as I talk so everyone can see what WK has discovered.



It's interesting what happens when we start to look for patterns in the world around us. Patterns are such a graceful extension to the study of lines because, just like lines, they are found everywhere in our world. All we have to do is open our eyes and phenomenal patterns are everywhere. There are patterns in visual arts, in nature, in music... and in the way we interact with one another each day. They are this amazing predictable thing in our world that we can always rely on.

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