Teaching Patterning? How to stop using boring worksheets!

I love, love, love using hands-on centers during my guided math time. What I don't love is marking the worksheets that often accompany centers.  The more I reflect on my practice, the more I am coming to realize that I can use centers, and I DON'T NEED to use pattern worksheets for kindergarten or first grade.   Read on to find out how I did that when teaching my Patterning unit.

Stop using worksheets and start using hands on activities to teach your patterning unit.

Math Centers and math activities are a huge part of my math instruction. Students NEED kinesthetic learning experiences as much as possible.  My first math unit is always Patterning.  That is the one area of math that students all seem to come to first grade with an ability to do.  They can easily recognize and create patterns, so it sets them up for success in math right from the start and helps them approach math with a growth mindset.

Start off with a Patterning Scavenger Hunt

Patterns are everywhere, and a pattern scavenger hunt is a perfect spot to start! Now I did suggest to stop using boring worksheets, but worksheets with a purpose are a whole other thing.  This worksheet gives students a chance to catch their thinking.  An alternative would be to use an Ipad and do a digital scavenger hunt and have them take pictures of patterns around them.

Create patterns with anything!  Loose parts, math manipulatives, whatever you have! 

Putting out any and all of your math manipulatives and loose parts is also a great way to inspire kids to make patterns.

Use math manipulatives and loose parts for patterning centers

Use math manipulatives and loose parts for patterning centers

Use math manipulatives and loose parts for patterning centers

Documentation - How to capture their learning without a Worksheet!  

As teachers, we want to document their work as proof of learning.  Having students draw to show their work is one way to do it or giving them a worksheet is another. Lately, though, I have embraced technology and now have my students show their learning very frequently by taking a picture on our class I-pads.  They love to use the I-pads, so they are motivated to complete their tasks, so they can take a picture and share their work with me.  All of those pictures need a home, and I found the app that makes this process super simple.

I absolutely love the app Seesaw - The Learning Journal
(I am not affiliated with Seesaw, I simply love how simple the app is for both my students and me) 

The app is a digital portfolio, and so much more.  I only use the app to store their work in their own digital folder, which I can access later for planning, assessing and reporting.  If you are interested in learning more about how the app works, my good friend Erin at Mrs. Beattie's Classroom has written a terrific post about setting up the app to use in the classroom.  You can check out her post {HERE}

Pattern Blocks are the Perfect Manipulative for Patterning (obviously!) 

When I am ready to target particular expectations, I somewhat move away from using any manipulatives and use more directed centers aimed at addressing specific expectations.  My favourite go-to manipulatives have to be pattern blocks when it comes to patterning.

If you interested in this set of Patterning Centers click any picture to check out the resource

shape pattern centers for first grade

Clip cards are a huge hit in my class. They love colourful clothespins. These cards challenge students to name the pattern, and another option asks students to extend the pattern, both first-grade expectations you can address with this one activity.

patterning centers for pattern blocks for first grade kindergarten and second grade

The ability to look closely at a pattern and discriminate between patterns and non-patterns is a critical skill to develop. You can use these cards as a sorting center - worksheet free - or many students can use the same cards and colour their responses in.

pattern blocks for patterning activities and ideas in first grade

This is a more open-ended activity that provides criteria for pattern creation but allows students to create with the blocks of their choosing.  It is differentiated in that your students can create a simple pattern as was created for the bottom card or they can create a more complex pattern using the same blocks for the same Make It! Task card.

pattern blocks for patterning activities and ideas in first grade

Post-its are another excellent tool for quick and simple check in's.  Rather than using a worksheet use a post-it and have student's record their answer on it.  You can do a simple checkmark on the post-it to show you have seen it and they understood the concept or take a picture of the post-it and the center.

pattern blocks for patterning activities and ideas in first grade

Recognizing pattern rules and expressing a pattern regarding the rule is more challenging for my students.  This is a great activity to purposefully pair stronger readers with weaker ones to create a more successful center time while sorting patterns with pattern rules.

pattern blocks for patterning activities and ideas in first grade

Sorting out patterns by names helps students to realize that any pattern can be represented in a multitude of ways.  They are always amazed as they sort that there are several cards on each of the pattern names. They have an idea that there is only one correct answer and thus only one way to make each pattern.   It helps to solidify the idea that there is not one right answer.

You can check out these centers by clicking on any of the above images or by clicking on the image below.

Centers to practice all the patterning skills including creating patterns, extending patterning, discriminating between patterns and non-patterns

Use Pattern Blocks to Solve Patterning Problems

While there is some problem solving evident using these centers, it is not the focus. Instead, we work through pattern block problem-solving challenges.  I do have students complete these activity sheets, but you could also project them on your interactive whiteboard and have students solve the problem with pattern blocks at their desk and take pictures of their solutions.

You can now use these challenges digitally on Google Slides.  Check out the preview video to see if this is right for your students.

Patterning Problems for Google Slides

Patterning Problems Printables

Worksheets to practice solving patterning problems

I am not advocating doing away with paper pencil tasks entirely, but I am advocating finding new ways to document learning.  One added bonus I am finding during center time is students returning to centers they have already worked at.  This has not been the case in the past when they completed the center and accompanying worksheet.  I think once they completed the paper, in their mind, they were "done" and saw no reason to return and work there again.

I hope you have found a bit of inspiration here for your own Kindergarten or Grade 1 patterning unit. It is a great math unit to break away from traditional methods and let the kids surprise you. If you are looking for more math center ideas, then check out this post for 2D geometry.

2d geometry centers for first grade using pattern blocks and geoboards

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Until next time,

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