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ECE Resources

Repeating pattern skills

Type 1: Fixing
Filling in a missing item in a pattern 

1 How to spot this skill being applied in free play

Talk

  • When doing arts and crafts, the child discusses needing one more item to fill in a gap in the pattern (e.g., ‘my pattern is missing a blue pompom in the middle’)

Behaviour

  • Adjusting a pattern by either adding in a missing pattern item or switching items around until the sequence is in the correct order.

2 Check for understanding

Ask the child to fill in the missing item in a model repeating pattern (e.g., ABAB_BAB) either from a pile of potential responses and distractors or by pointing to one of several different pictures of objects.

3 Guided activities to support this skill

  • Post pictures around the room of patterns with an item missing (e.g., in the middle) and ask children to determine what item should fill in the blank. 

Type 2: Copying
Duplicating a repeating pattern by at least one unit of repeat with the same materials 

1 How to spot this skill being applied in free play

Talk

  • Discussing making the same pattern or design as another child (e.g., ‘I’m going to draw a green and white striped shirt too’; ‘our patterns are the same, red, blue, red, blue’) 

Behaviour

  • Duplicating a repeating pattern design (e.g., drawing a zebra with black and white stripes)  

2 Check for understanding

Ask the child to make the same pattern as a model pattern using a pile of the same blocks (e.g., red, green, yellow, red, green, yellow). Make sure the copied pattern is 6 inches below the model pattern.

3 Guided activities to support this skill

Have children re-enact pattern dances they have seen demonstrated for them (either of their own creation, from the teacher, or from youtube such as GoNoodle videos

Type 3: Extending
Adding items to a repeating pattern by at least one unit of repeat

1 How to spot this skill being applied in free play

Talk

  • Saying what comes next in a pattern (e.g., ‘I need to add a red and blue block to the top of my red-blue-red-blue tower’)

Behaviour

  • Adding to an existing pattern sequence (e.g., continuing a ‘clap-clap-snap’ pattern by adding an extra ‘clap-clap-snap’, or adding to a patterned block tower).

2 Check for understanding

Have the child add at least one unit’s worth of items to a model pattern, answering the question ‘can you keep my pattern going the way I would?’ or ‘what comes next in my pattern?’ (ABCABC_ _ _). See sample script/materials.

3 Guided activities to support this skill

  • Recite the beginning of a pattern/rhyming song and ask children to keep the pattern going (finishing the repeating word, phrase, or phoneme)
  • Have children add to existing shape block patterns 

Type 4: Abstracting
Duplicating a pattern by at least one unit of repeat using different materials 

1 How to spot this skill being applied in free play

Talk

  • When copying a design (e.g., a picture of a Lego block construction) when the child does not have the same color materials, they might say ‘my red blocks are the same as the green blocks in the picture’

Behaviour

  • Recreating a design with objects differing in color, size, shape, and/or materials

2 Check for understanding

Have the child generate at least one unit’s worth of a model pattern with different materials. Make sure the abstracted pattern is 6 inches below the model pattern.

AABBAABB

CCDDCCDD

See research-based measure with material descriptions here.

3 Guided activities to support this skill

  • Have children create and present their own dance moves to create the same pattern structure as a model dance (e.g., ‘clap-clap-stomp’ for ‘banana-banana-meatball’) or visual pattern
  • Copy a model necklace pattern with different beads/materials

By Dr Erica Zippert

PREPARED FOR THE EDUCATION HUB BY

Dr Erica Zippert

Dr Erica Zippert is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Purdue University. She studies young children’s broad mathematics development and how it is supported during social and playful interactions with parents and peers in a variety of informal contexts. She also examines the roles of context (traditional activities/games as well as digital apps/eBooks, activity goals), and parent and child factors (parental beliefs, child math abilities and interests) in determining the quality of early math experiences and subsequent math learning.