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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Put 15-20 plastic lids in a zip lock bag or tub – one bag/tub for each pair of students
- Paper folded into halves or quarters for recording sorts – one for each student
- Pencils or crayons to record sorts
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Next ask one student to sort your lids in another way. Then ask students to identify the new way the lids were sorted.
- 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.
- Distribute materials and allow student to begin working.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- Save students records for Day #2.
- Post the record of prior ways the students sorted.
- 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.
- 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!
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…