Help your students to become better thinkers and to inquire more by teaching them to always look for patterns. Patterns can be found everywhere, in every subject, and even in our classroom behavior and school routines. By explicitly helping your students to view the world as a place filled with patterns it will help them to draw more connections, ask better questions, and to see more patterns in the world around them.
To be honest I did not always use this strategy in my classroom. Sure I always taught patterning, and we spent lots of time at the calendar each month looking to see what pattern would be revealed and how we should label our pattern once we determined it was in fact repeating.
We also looked for patterns in other obvious places like poetry, skip counting, and life cycles. However, once we started asking students to look for the patterns in absolutely everything we opened up our classroom up to seeing things differently, and I was amazed at the connections the students were able to make.
At the start, many students only think of patterns in terms of visual patterns that they can see. It makes sense to start there when introducing the concept. My students love our patterns provocation and it is a super simple activity.
I use Pixabay and Morguefile to find my images. These are great place to find free images that are ok for commercial use. Warning: you can spend a lot of time getting lost in all the beautiful images of patterns!
When determining which patterns to use I deliberately chose some I thought the students would easily identify, along with a a mix of a few I thought might present a challenge. As is always the case with students, they surprised me and were able to get some of the ones I thought were hard, and had no clue on a few I thought they would get instantly.
After choosing my images I then took a small crop segment of each photo and printed them out in color. I printed 4 to a page and gave each of my table groups a different set of cropped pictures. They were giving time to examine, analyze and discuss the photos. Each table recorded as many "I wonder..." statements about each of their pictures as they could.
Each table then presented their observations and photos to the class. This gave the other students an opportunity to make their own quick observations about the other groups photos before the big reveal. To reveal the full photos to the students I simply use a Powerpoint slideshow with the photos. The students get so excited about this. They love being right, but they really want to find out about the ones they couldn't figure out!
After this fun provocation about looking for and finding patterns we can see. We begin our inquiry on how patterns help us? What good are patterns? Why should we look for them? What do they help us understand? After brainstorming lots of questions about patterns and their importance I guide our conversations to patterns of behavior. I connect this to our classroom routines, and off we go! Most teachers have lots of daily patterns of behavior in classroom so this is an easy first step into looking at the world in terms of patterns.
I encourage you to start helping your students to look for patterns in everything you teach. Not only is it fun, but I truly believe it helps develop their critical thinking and encourages them to make big picture global connections!
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