Patterns and Sound

by Debbie Lee

posted by Debbie Lee

So far this month I have written about patterns of objects made both by attribute and positioning as well as patterns of movements. There is still another type of pattern. This type uses sound.

The sound can be made by the body – vocalizations, clapping, stomping, etc. – or by instruments. As with so much of what I have written about this month, the sky is the limit as far as ideas of what to use or do!

If you (or your children) need inspiration for using vocalization patterns, think scat or doo wop singing. Greg and Steve’s On the Move album of songs has one, Scat Like That!, which can give you an idea of how to use your voice without even singing words. Google “doo wop songs” and find all the oldies that used this type of vocalization patterns.

Add movements with sounds and you have even more possibilities. Try a scat “word,” hand clap, different scat “word,” and foot stomp to make an ABCD pattern. What about one “real” word (such as Yeah!), hitting your cheeks like a drum, and clicking your tongue? That’s an ABC pattern. What other variations can you and your children produce? Let each child have a turn to present a sound pattern that the others (and you again!) can copy. And don’t forget to have the children extend a pattern!




If you have instruments, you can have the children share and then together make a pattern. Drum beat, cymbal clang, rhythm stick tap can be an ABC pattern.   This type of pattern provides an opportunity for the children to work together to make a pattern, where each of them contributes to the final pattern. If you don’t have any instruments, be creative! Two paper cups with some paperclips, taped together makes a shaker that can be used. A paper plate, folded in half and filled with rice or beans and stapled shut is another shaker. Two pieces of wood that can be tap together is another idea. As I have stressed throughout this month, it is not necessary to spend lots of money to do patterns; use what you have available to you.




Sound patterns obviously appeal to those who do better when they hear something. When there is movement added, those children who learn better through moving are more engaged. Watching other children adds a visual aspect to the patterning but don’t stop there.

Ask your local fabric store for the empty cardboard base around which fabric which they sell is wrapped. Cover that cardboard with solid-colored contact paper. With a permanent marker make dots evenly spaced across the center of the board. Cover the entire board with clear contact paper. Get a dry erase marker.



This board is a way for you to visualize the pattern that is being made. By the way, it can also be used with movement patterns. As the first element of a pattern (A) is introduced, decide (yourself or with the children’s input) how to draw a line from the first dot to the second (remember to always go left to right!). When the second element is added, use a different type of line to go from the second dot to the third. As each new element is added, use a different type of line to move from dot to dot. When elements are repeated, use the same type of line as used originally for that element. Sound confusing? The pictures should help. The first one above shows the board before a pattern is created. The second one below shows an ABC pattern.




I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this month’s blog on patterning and hope that it has inspired you to include patterning more and more into your activities. Don’t forget to take time to share your ideas with others by posting comments to these blogs. We all learn with we share!

24 Replies to “Patterns and Sound”

    1. My children love to do patterns with music also, I believe it not only builds the love for math but also for fine arts.

  1. I love the whole idea of bringing book to life. Patterns and the telling of the story that makes children excited about the story but its also teaching them a math skill of patterns. Love it

  2. All of these ideas are awesome and I can’t wait to apply them to my future students. I am currently working on getting certified to be in the classroom. So, I am taking in all these thoughts and ideas and taking plenty of notes.

  3. Incorporating movements with patterns is a great idea, because it not only teaches ABAB, it also focuses on motor skills.

  4. I never would have thought to use sound as a way to teach patterns. I think that is such a great way to introduce them in a different way. Kids are great at coming up with things that we would never even think about.

    1. yes! the children in the daycare i work at love using our musical instruments to differentiate the noises and making different “songs” or patterns using them.

  5. I like the idea of recognizing patterns in song & music. It helps promote rhythm which is important to our everyday lives. Our walk can be rhythmic, eating, clapping, certain sounds that we must recognize are rhythmic i.e. emergency sirens. Rhythm is definitely required in dancing. We utilize patterns or rhythm in almost every aspect of our lives.

  6. Thank you Dr. Lee for your sensational suggestions and expertise. I loved the idea of using home made instruments and the Greg & Steve CD! I also liked the idea of the children creating their own sound pattern for the group to join in and follow.

  7. who knew that patterns can be created through sound, music, story telling. Kids are having fun and learning at the same time.

  8. I love the ideas in this blog post, the children that I care for love patterns in songs, and we sing and do different dances to go along with those songs. Thanks for the additional ideas, I will definitely be implementing this into an activity for us.

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