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Pick a Pattern

Patterns are all around us – in nature, in our homes, on paper and online. Learn more about patterns and create your own original patterned picture frame.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. What is a pattern? Ask students to describe patterns they see in the classroom. Describe the colors, shapes and repetitions used to create the patterns.
    2. Ask students to consider what other senses can distinguish a pattern? Discuss how patterns create consistency in our environment.
    3. Students each select two patterns that interest them. Consider: What elements make up each of the patterns? What would you do to extend the patterns? Why do you think these patterns appeal to you? Provide students with a few minutes to sketch some original patterns on a piece of scrap paper.
    4. Students cut a piece of recycled cardboard into the shape of a picture frame. Cover the frame with a piece of aluminum foil so the cardboard on the front of the frame is no longer visible. Using Crystal Effects Window Markers, demonstrate how to recreate original patterns around the border of the frame. Students may choose to make a single pattern or use different patterns on each side.
    5. Students feature a favorite photo in their frames.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.

    LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    MATH: Understand that attributes belonging to a category of two-dimensional figures also belong to all subcategories of that category.

    MATH: Classify two-dimensional figures in a hierarchy based on properties.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

    VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D'Agnese; Growing Patterns by Sarah C. Campbell; Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman

    Patterns are not just visual. Patterns can be created through movement and sound. Ask students to create patterns by clapping hands, stomping feet, or humming. Ask the school's music teacher for assistance with these activities. Record student group musical and other sound patterns by videotaping their performances and uploading files to a class computer. Students may wish to "dress the part" by creating costumes for performances.

    Encourage students to investigate the work of M.C. Escher. He used complex patterns called tessellations in many of his pieces. Students create original basic tessellating patterns using Escher's work as inspiration.

    Working in small groups, students discuss the connection between patterns in nature and mathematics. Students investigate the work of Leonardo Fibonacci and/or Blaise Pascal. What are the patterns they are best known for? How do these relate to nature, artwork, and mathematics? Students create an electronic presentation for classmates reflecting their findings and theories.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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