Patterns in Sounds and Shapes

In this lesson, children will listen to and recognize patterns in sounds, actions and shapes.

Lesson for:

(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:


Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Understand patterns, relations and functions

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Recognizing and describing and extending patterns such as sequences of sounds and shapes or simple numeric patterns and translating from one representation to another

Patterns in Sounds and Shapes

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Pasta in three different shapes such as elbow, rigatoni and bowtie pasta. (You might choose to create a Ziploc bag for each child with some of each type of pasta in each bag.)
  • Homemade pasta pattern cards, two per child (Make cards by tracing, drawing or gluing pasta in various patterns on a piece of construction paper or poster board. Make at least two pattern cards for each child: one with a simple sequence such as two elbows, one rigatoni, two elbows, one rigatoni, two elbows, one rigatoni and one with a more complex sequence such as one elbow, two rigatoni, one bowtie, one elbow, two rigatoni, one bowtie, etc. You can even make pasta pattern cards that leave spaces for the more advanced children to fill in the missing pasta in the pattern or continue the pattern with actual pictures to prompt them.

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Say: “I am going to make some sounds/actions that create a pattern. You listen and watch to see if you can recognize a pattern.” Examples of action patterns that children can follow include ones that involve hand-claps, knee slaps, snapping fingers and singing, etc.
  2. Try using these three action patterns that you can get your students to follow: Clap hands, slap knees (repeat). Snap fingers, clap hands, slap knees (repeat). Slap knees, slap knees, clap hands (repeat). Remind the children that it is NOT a pattern if it is not repeated. It is only through repetition that a pattern is made. Thus, clapping hands and snapping fingers is NOT a pattern. Clapping hands and snapping fingers and repeating the sequence IS a pattern.
  3. Ask the children: “What do you hear? Do you hear any patterns? Why is this a pattern? Why is this NOT a pattern? Can any of you make a sound/action pattern for us?”  Encourage the children to make sound patterns of their own.
  4. Create sequences of sounds/actions that are not patterns to make sure that the children are understanding the difference between non-patterns and patterns. Throughout the lesson, you should be asking the children: “Is this a pattern? Why or why not?”
  5. Demonstrate patterns again, but by using pasta shapes.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Say: “We are going to make our own patterns with pasta!”
  2. Show the children the three different pasta shapes that they are going to use. Provide the correct name for each type of pasta.
  3. Hand out a bag of pasta to each child. Have the children find each type of pasta in their bags of pasta.
  4. Show the children a pasta pattern card. Ask: “Can you see a pattern on the card? Do you see any patterns in my picture? What is the pattern?” Have the children share their answers, making comments and corrections.
  5. Show and have the children follow you in matching each type of pasta on their pattern cards to create the pattern.
  6. Choose a second pattern card and follow the same procedure.
  7. Allow the children to choose their own pasta pattern cards. When the children are making patterns of their own with the pasta and pasta pattern cards, ask: “What is your pattern? Can you show me your pattern? Can you tell me your pattern?”

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Same: Identical in kind or quantity (e.g.,”Are these things the same?”)
  • Different: Not similar in size, shape, color or other characteristic (e.g.,”How are they different?”)
  • Pattern: Something that repeats more than once (e.g.,”Can you find the pattern? What is your pattern?”)
  • Repeating: To do or make again and again (e.g.,”Does a pattern repeat?”)

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Listen to sounds
  • Clap hands and stomp feet and slap knees in no particular order
  • Play with the pasta
  • Sort pasta by shape
  • Match shapes to pasta pattern cards
Child care providers may:
  • Clap hands and feet for the child in a pattern
  • Verbalize the pattern for the child saying: “Listen—clap clap, slap slap, clap clap, slap slap, etc.”
  • Help the child clap and slap a pattern
  • Ask the child: “Can you put all of this kind of pasta in this bowl? Now let’s find this kind and put it in this other bowl.”
  • Assist the child in matching shapes
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Listen to the sounds and clap hands, snap fingers and slap knees with the teacher
  • Make sound patterns of their own
  • Sort pasta by shape
  • Match pasta to shape cards
  • Fill in the missing shapes to continue the pattern on more advanced cards
  • Continue the pattern without visual prompts
  • Create their own patterns without visual prompts
Child care providers may:
  • Clap hands and feet for the children in a pattern
  • Verbalize the pattern for the children, saying: “Listen—clap clap, slap slap, clap clap, slap slap.”
  • Ask the children to make their own sound patterns
  • Ask the children to tell you how they are sorting their pasta shapes
  • Ask the children to make their own patterns
  • Encourage the children to predict which shapes come next in the pattern

Suggested Books

  • The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle (New York: Peguin Books for Young Children, 1990)
  • Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak (New York: Harper Collins, 1962)
  • One Monday Morning by Uri Shulevitz (Canada: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967)

Music and Movement

  • Have the children make patterns with movement. Alternate hopping and running or skipping and jumping to create patterns.   

Outdoor Connections

  • Take a walk and look for patterns in flowers and leaves.
  • Create patterns with chalk on the sidewalk.

Web Resources

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