Today I taught a small group lesson about patterns for my students (ages 4 - 5). It was a little difficult to plan ahead of time because I had not known ahead of time which students I would be working with and how familiar with patterns they each were. I brought in examples of basic shape/color patterns (blue square, red circle, blue square, red circle, etc.) and planned on having the students create their own color patterns using manipulatives (I used different colored teddy bear figures). I also created two worksheets (an easy one and a more difficult one if students finished the first one) which consisted of shape patterns that the students could complete and color in.
I chose five students (Henry, Lindsey, Emily, Harry, and Jake*) at random to stay with me in the classroom while the rest of the class went and did an activity in the hall. I first asked the students if they knew what a pattern was but most of them seemed to think it was a shape (Harry guessed a heart, Emily guessed a Christmas tree). I explained that a pattern was something (like shapes or colors) that repeats itself. I showed them an example (blue square, red circle, blue square, red circle) and also made a pattern with the colored bears (yellow, blue, yellow, blue, etc.). I let the students try and make their own patterns. Henry, Lindsey, and Jake seemed to be able to do it very well and consistently. However, Harry and Emily spent most of the time lining up the bears in no particular color order, even when I attempted to guide them by starting a pattern and stressing that a pattern means that the colors repeat themselves. The students responded similarly to the worksheets as well. Henry had no trouble with either of the worksheets. Although he finished the first one quickly, he did not want to try the harder one until he saw the other students doing them. Jake finished the first worksheet perfectly but struggled a little bit on the more difficult one. Lindsey started off well with the worksheet but seemed to get distracted later on by coloring the shapes in different colors. Harry definitely struggled with the worksheet at first but seemed to understand and was able to make a correct pattern by the end. Emily definitely struggled the most out of the group and was not able to complete her worksheet.
It was clear that some of the students had more experience with patterns than the others (and were even able to come up with more advanced patterns than the 1,2 patterns). I think that the worksheets may have proved particularly difficult for the struggling students (mostly Harry and Emily) because the patterns involved colors and shapes at the same time. When I asked them to read me the pattern using just the shapes or just the colors, they were usually able to do it successfully. If I were to teach the lesson again, I would definitely have the students spend more time making patterns with just colors or shapes first before using them together. Looking back, it would have been more beneficial for Emily and Harry to have continued working with the colored bears until they were able to make patterns successfully, instead of moving them on to the worksheets at the same time as the other children. If I were to continue working on patterns with the same students, I would be able to adapt it much more appropriately to each of their individual needs now that I have a better sense of their different ability levels. I would most likely work with the students separately or create different worksheets for those who needed more support and practice. Overall, I felt that the topic of patterns was an appropriate focus for the age group of the students. However, I felt that the lesson definitely needed some follow-up work and additional support for some of the students.
*I have changed the names of the students