Monday, February 29, 2016

Sun Moon & Stars: Why We Teach Patterns

What makes Sound Beginnings special? One feature is our introduction of a handful of specific academic concepts  each semester. Here in the Gold Stars semester, one topic you'll see taught is patterning.

Why Teach Patterns?
A child who understands and looks for patterns has a door opened to understanding myriad concepts in life. Patterns help us predict and connect what is happening in our world, so a child that masters patterns is quick to apply the patterning skills to lots of topics. Patterns surround us! We have:

Literary Patterns: The gingerbread man meets a cow and runs away, then meets a horse and runs away, then meets a dog and...?  Your child can guess that he runs away! Children delight in the repetition with variation that arises in repetitive stories. Patterns are a strong narrative and literary tool.
Learning to look for patterns in stories and narratives is also how we draw connections between what we see in life and literature.  The stories we read to our children can help them understand their lives if they are able to draw the connection. Stories follow sequences that likely show up in our children's lives.

At Home: While reading stories, pause to ask your child if he can guess what will happen next.  When things happen in real life, connect it to how storybook characters solved problems.  "Do you remember in the book we read, when Lilly couldn't take her plastic purse to school?  Is that how you feel because you can't bring your bear to preschool today?" 

Children learn that storybook experiences and family narratives might follow patterns that show up in their own lives. This recognition helps children learn empathy and problem-solving. "Mommy is tired because she went on a long run. I get tired when I play a lot, too. I know how she feels."

By the way, here is a fun singing version of The Gingerbread Man for you and your youngster to enjoy. In this version the gingerbread man gets away safely. I always love turning a book into a singable story.

Word Patterns: As children begin to read, looking for patterns within word families help them quickly draw conclusions about how letters work. Teach your child to read AT, and he'll quickly be ready for CAT, SAT, BAT, HAT and MAT. Rhyming is definitely a fun and delightful version of patterning that you can play with at home.  At Home: Pick an easy-to-rhyme word, and see how many rhymes you and your child can think up for it. I love playing this game in the car with youngsters- we're always looking for a new car game.

Calendar Patterns: We wake up each morning, eat lunch, go on adventures, and come home for bedtime. Children learn and find comfort in the daily repetitive patterns; they are empowered by their ability to conclude what comes next in the pattern.  At Home: Talk to your child about what you do each day, and allow him to notice the daily, weekly, and monthly patterns. "We woke up and had breakfast, and then we went to the library, so what comes next? That's right, lunchtime." Create a chart of daily activities or weekly activities to help him recognize the patterns that emerge. "It's Tuesday! That means it's music day." Here are some free printables to help you make a daily agenda for your tot.

Math Patterns: I have heard one kindergarten teacher say that a child who thinks in terms of patterns is thinking mathematically! Math is dictated by patterns; an obvious first being just counting to 100!  We add up to 9 in the units place, then we add one in the tens place, then we add up to 9 in the units place again, repeat, repeat.  Students who "get" patterns and find them naturally are quick to notice the patterns in multiplication tables and understand how numbers work together.  At Home: Use your counting charts from SB class, or even print out an entire 100 chart for your child to count along with. Talk about the patterns you notice. I always had such fun with this that I even taught my preschoolers to skip count by 5s from looking at a chart and learning the pattern.

Speech Patterns: Did you know that simply repeating a spoken sentence a number of times shifts the listeners attention to the pitch and temporal aspects of the sound, so the repeated spoken language actually begins to sound like it is begin sung?

Our young children are subconsciously learning the speech patterns of their native language, and the more exposure, the better! Repeating your phrases a few times can give children more chances to recognize and hone in on what they are hearingAt Home: Try repeating phrases 3-4 times for your child. Do you notice a sing-song quality start to emerge? Chances are, your toddler will be more likely to echo you and repeat the phrase after having a few chances to pick up on the patterns.

"Put your shoes on, then your coat."
"Put your shoes on, then your coat."
"Put your shoes on, then your coat." 

Musical Patterns: This TED talk explains why patterns are so natural in music: "Musical repetition is deeply compelling. Repetition connects each bit of music irresistably to the next bit. When you hear a few notes, you are already imagining what's coming next. Your mind is unconsciously singing along. Without noticing, you might start humming out loud."

"Repetition invites us into music as active participants." When we study classical music in SB class, the children listen to each phrase and anticipate what comes next. They dance along by engaging in the music and recognizing the patterns.

Years later, when your child is in the Orange Roots semester of Let's Play Music, she'll compose her own brand-new song! By then she will have examined the form of 12- 18 classical songs. She'll notice the repetition and patterns that themes create as part of the format, and she'll incorporate the structures into her own writing.  It's three years away, but we get her started now in Sound Beginnings noticing patterns in music!

At Home: Sing some songs from SB to your child, but pause dramatically- does she know what comes next? Can she fill in the next phrase? This fun musical game helps her audiate the song (hear it in her mind) and decide what comes next!

Patterns Cards
In your Gold Stars workbook you will get a set of 21 cards with stars, moons, and suns.  If your cards accidentally get chewed up (it happens!) your teacher can help you print another set.  Help your child get out the cards and arrange them into increasingly difficult patterns.

What Comes Next? The simplest game uses only two cards in a repeating pattern.  Lay out some cards and ask, "What comes next!?" Your preschooler will be delighted to finish the pattern. 

If you lay out 4-5 cards and he just stares at you, READ the cards to him. "Star, Moon, Star, Moon, Star....?"  HEARING the sing-song quality that develops in your voice from repeating the pattern 2-3 times helps him get it in his ear, so he can continue to sing it on his own. Be sure to mix it up and use different cards sometimes.

Level Two: You can add a third card to the pattern and ask, "what comes next?".  "Star, Moon, Sun, Star, Moon, Sun, Star...?" If your child is getting good at this, don't read it out loud to her.  She probably will say it out loud to herself to get the sound of the pattern into her ear. The tough trick is figuring out where the cycle ends. Is this a star-moon-sun-star pattern, or a star-moon-sun pattern? When you sing the pattern, you'll probably naturally pause after sun and help her know where the pattern ends.

Level Three:  So far each character shows up once per cycle.  Try adding two or more per cycle. This is a new idea that might seem tricky or easy for your tot.

Around Town
Now that your child is having fun with patterns, be sure to notice patterns around town.  Every traffic light has a pattern of three colors-do you know it? Double check next time you drive to music class!

When you go to music class, you might notice a pattern: "that child has a mom, and that child has a mom..."

At dinnertime, you can make a pattern with dishes: plate, fork, plate, fork....  In the playroom you can make patterns with toys: bear, doll, car, bear, doll, car.  

My all-time favorite toy to play patterns with has always been Lego Duplo blocks.  I put a few together and the kids continue the pattern.  You can get more ideas online for using Duplos for patterns math. These pattern cards show a picture of a lego pattern, and your child tries to create a matching real-life structure.  

I hope you have some ideas for finding patterns in real life and helping your child start to notice them everywhere.  She'll benefit in lots of ways from the experience! 

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