By Alice Roche Cody
Patterns abounded in Wendy Hanks' Preschool classroom, and her students spent a recent morning enthusiastically rooting them out. It proved arduous but extremely rewarding work, as they eagerly accepted each pattern-finding mission.
First, each pupil created individual patterns on the floor using colorful letters, blocks, and shapes.
"Who can tell me their pattern?" asked Ms. Hanks.
Pointing to her design, Kimberly Wong '35 said, "yellow, green, yellow, green."
"And what is that pattern made of?" nudged Ms. Hanks.
"Colors!" exclaimed a triumphant Kimberly.
Next, the class moved on to sounds, as Ms. Hanks clapped a mixture of fast and slow rhythms.
"What kind of pattern is that?" she asked, and the excited answers poured in.
"Yes!" said Ms. Hanks. "Now, can you look around the room, do you see any patterns?"
"The flag!" cried Cammie Empirio '35. "Red stripe, white stripe, red stripe!"
"Flowers hanging on string – yellow flower, pink flower, yellow flower!"
"Yes!" said Ms. Hanks. "When we go on the playground later, we'll look for patterns outside and in the halls. If you see one, raise your hand!"
This lesson, like the ones Ms. Hanks has been teaching since December, was augmented by a new supplemental resource called The Creative Curriculum (TCC). "It's a great addition to our existing program," she said. "It helps me extend our topic by giving me endless ideas."
For the current lesson involving patterns, Ms. Hanks tapped into TCC's worksheets, exercises with beads and blocks, book suggestions, and cards with prompts for finding patterns in nature, to name a few. The vast range of additional resources include planning calendars, volumes of foundational information, teaching guides, charts, in-depth projects, book discussion cards, reading lists, and photo libraries. In addition, she uses Mighty Minutes, cards filled with suggestions for turning every classroom minute, even transitional ones, into learning opportunities through play, songs, chants, rhymes, games, or movement activities.
"The Creative Curriculum fosters the whole-child approach to education to develop math and literacy skills in developmentally appropriate ways that cognitively support the social, emotional, and physical, growth of a student," said Zoe Tuohy, Lower and Middle School Academic Dean. "It's research-based and comprehensive, an excellent resource that allows for project-based investigation and meaningful, intentional classroom interactions." Through concrete lessons, students can investigate and engage with items they can see, feel, and touch. "Little, little kids are full of inquiry and wonder, and this provides a chance for exploration and discovery," she added. "Instead of a teacher saying, 'here is the conclusion,' teachers guide students through their discovery and create the environment as it occurs." And even though it’s a Preschool resource, TCC is aligned with GSB's early childhood program and extends to the foundations of PreK and Kindergarten classes.
Jill Fedon, LS Dean of Student Life and music teacher, appreciates how the offerings fit seamlessly into other classroom experiences, such as Spanish or music. "I extended the lesson about patterns into my music lesson," she said. "We created musical patterns with rhythm sticks, jingle bells, and our hands and feet, with beats of four repeated."
Back in the Preschool classroom, Ms. Hanks guided her students to make patterns through movement. "Show me a pattern with your hands," she said.
Oliver McSweeney '35 clapped his hands and hit his legs repeatedly, and the whole class jumped up to join in.
Then Kimberly twirled one way, then the other, as everyone repeated her moves.
Fourth Brooks '35 stood up and clapped his hands, hit his legs, and jumped.
"I got this!" he cried. His classmates copied his pattern, and they repeated it faster and faster, until they all fell down.
"That was a tough one!" said one worn out student.
"That was tough, but it was fun!" said Ms. Hanks. Then she called everyone to take a seat as she read Patterns by Carol Diggory Shields. Her students became pattern detectives by figuring out which animal the author described through her rhymes and the fur pattern depicted.
"Splotchy coats of gold and brown for Savannah is where we’re found…" she read. "What animal is this?" she asked, displaying the picture.
"Yes, and what's the pattern?"
"Gold, brown, gold, brown…" answered her class together.
"Can you say it really fast?"
They answered at warp-speed: "Gold, brown, gold, brown…."
Fourth plopped his head on his elbows. "Patterns make me tired!"
Just then Ms. Prosen wheeled in her science cart. "Let's go find some patterns in nature!" she said.
Everyone quickly perked up for the fun pattern adventures that awaited them outside.