May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Patterns in the Primary Grades: Plastic Lids Activity

Posted: Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

by Valerie Joyner

Primary grade teachers have always understood the importance of patterns in early childhood education. Patterns are used in reading, math, and written language. They are also used with students to assist in their development of understanding and applying science. According to the NGSS, “Patterns in the natural and human world can be observed, used to describe phenomena, and used as evidence”. The importance in patterns in early childhood science education cannot be understated!

The study of patterns in K-2 provides students with myriad opportunities to identify patterns and properties using examples like weather, plant and animal parts, inherited traits, daylight, the stars, moon, and sun. Take a look at the NGSS Performance Expectations and Crosscutting Concepts for your grade level, and you will see that the Crosscutting Concepts of Patterns occurs several times throughout the year in connection with several different Disciplinary Core Ideas.

A great way to start off any study of patterns and properties is to allow students to collect, sort, and identify patterns in their everyday world. One of the easiest collections to make is an assortment of plastic lids, like the ones that come from shampoo, milk bottles, toothpaste, and yogurt cups. The possibilities are endless, and they are free!

Activity: Properties and Patterns

Making the Collection:

  1. Ask families to collect a variety of plastic lids and send them to school with their child. Encourage them to think big and small, colorful and dull, flip-top or screw-on, the greater the variety the better. It is fine to have duplicates. It is best to have at least 200 lids.
  2. Allow the collection to grow in the classroom for a few weeks. As the plastic lids come into the classroom allow students to observe them.

Getting Ready:

  1. Put 15-20 plastic lids in a zip lock bag or tub – one bag/tub for each pair of students
  2. Paper folded into halves or quarters for recording sorts – one for each student
  3. Pencils or crayons to record sorts

Getting Started:

Day #1

  1. With the entire class, discuss the word “Collections” with students. Ask them to identify collections they have or have seen at home, school, or elsewhere.
  2. Next ask students how people organize items in a collection. This is a good time to introduce the word “Properties” using examples like shells sorted by size, shape, or color; clothes sorted by type; books sorted by author or genre; numbers sorted by odd/even, etc. Explain that people use properties to sort and/or describe patterns.
  3. Explain to the students that they will be observing their classroom collection of plastic lids. Demonstrate by sorting several plastic lids by color. Then, ask the students to identify and describe how you sorted the lids. Record the sort.
  4. Next ask one student to sort your lids in another way. Then ask students to identify the new way the lids were sorted.
  5. Explain that each pair of students will be sorting a bag of plastic lids at least 2-4 different ways, and they may not repeat the same sort. As they complete a sort they must record their sort on paper by drawing or writing each of the ways they sorted the lids.
  6. Distribute materials and allow student to begin working.
  7. As the students are working walk around the room asking questions and guiding inquiry. Be sure the students are recording their sorts as they go along.
  8. Allow enough time for students to complete their sorts and record. Then ask each pair of student to show one way they sorted and describe the properties they used to sort. As students are sharing point out and record all of the different properties that were used to sort.
  9. Collect the lids and bags to allow the students to continue their discussions. Ask questions like: Why is it important to sort? What types of patterns did we notice? What other ways might we sort in the future?
  10. Save students records for Day #2.

Day #2

  1. Post the record of prior ways the students sorted.
  2. Repeat the activity and have students sort in new ways. They may refer to their records from Day #1. It gets harder and harder as they continue to look for new patterns and properties. I have seen students sort by bumpy and flat edges, the sounds that are made when lids are tapped or clicked, even by rooms where the lids are used. There are limitless possibilities.
  3. Again, debrief with the entire class sharing and asking for different ways the lids were sorted. Depending on your grade level, you might ask about patterns in weather, seasons, plant and animal traits, the sky, sound, etc. Ask students to identify different patterns in their world, including but not limited to science.

Patterns are critical to the understanding and application of science as a discipline and in our everyday world. As primary grade teachers it is our job to see that science is taught every day. Crosscutting Concepts like Patterns, Science and Engineering Practices like developing models, and Disciplinary Core Ideas like inheritance and variation of traits are taught every school day and every school year!

Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator and is a member of CSTA.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

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Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.