Repeating Patterns

Download the video and lesson plan by clicking here


  • To help children focus upon sequences that repeat, to help them to look for the unit of repeat
  • To provide practice in creating repeated patterns at various levels of complexity
  • To highlight a range of attributes which can be used as repeats
  • To help children to verbalise and record repeated patterns that they have seen and used

Introducing the Topic

  • Make up a simple clapping rhythm
  • Ask children to join in, and to listen carefully for any changes
  • From time to time change the rhythm in some way and continue the new sequence
  • Let children take turns to lead the clapping, once they get the idea

Qusetions During Activities

  • What do you think might come next?
  • Try to explain your pattern
  • What else could have come next?
  • Can you continue it in the other direction eg backwards?
  • Can you find a way to record your pattern?

Things To Think About

  • In making a sequence of shapes, if you saw [circle, square] What would come next?
  • If you saw [circle, square, square] What might be next?
  • If you saw [circle, square, square, circle, square, square] What could be next? Can you ever be sure?
  • Can you think of any examples of repeated patterns in nature eg patterns on wings, petals, cats etc?

Experiences to build on

  • Copying simple repeat patterns
  • Explaining and describing repeated patterns
  • Sorting according to attributes of color, size and shape etc

Organizational Points

  • Most activities work best for pairs of children working together. Children may need free access to classroom equipment and space to arrange it. The music activity could be noisy!

Assessment Observations

  • Can children describe what it is that’s repeating?
  • Can they devise their own repeated patterns using colors, shapes, sizes, orientation
  • Can they appreciate the uncertainty in what might come next? (Do we ever know that the unit of repeat is complete?) Can they discuss different possibilities for what might come next?
  • Can they continue other people’s sequences?

Before showing the video clip

  • Look for any patterns you can see in your classroom
  • Are there any colors or designs that repeat?

What you may need

  • Beads
  • Percussion Instruments
  • Access to everyday classroom equipment
  • Printing equipment
  • Multilink

Things to do

  • Make a string of beads with a sequence repeated a few times. Choose first whether to make your sequence using repeated colors, shapes or sizes. Swap beads with a partner and try to work out how the repeated patterns are different. Continue you partner’s pattern and then check them both.
  • Invent your own repeated patterns in printing, using repeats of color, turns, shapes. Make a repeated pattern board/display table. Use everyday classroom equipment such as crayons, counters, animal and transport shapes. Use repeats of color, size, shape and orientation.
  • Make sequences in physical education or outside in the playground eg Left-Right-Hop, Left-Right-Hop. Stop somewhere and see if others can work out what should come next.
  • Make some repeated sequences in music with percussion instruments. You could have repeats of instrument sounds, rhythms, loud/quietness, fast/slow. Try to explain your sequence to someone else. Can they continue it?

More Activities

  • Make paper chains at Christmas with repeated patterns
  • Use Multilink to create a repeated sequence. Make good use of the colors, twists and ability to make 3-D repeats. Swap with a partner and try to work out each other’s sequences
  • Eat your lunch in a repeated sequence eg meat, veg, potato, meat, veg, potato or sandwich, drink, sandwich, drink
  • Hide a pattern you have made and try to describe it so that your partner makes exactly the same one

Ideas for the whole class

  • Country Dancing
    Do some country dancing. Talk about what parts of the dances repeat.
  • Sing Hymns and Songs with Choruses
    Sing London’s Burning, Row Row Row Your Boat, Frere Jacques … as a round
  • Arrange Children
    Arrange the children in the class into repeated patterns eg boy, girl, boy, girl or forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards
  • Following Instructions
    Ask the children to Jump, Hop, Skip, Jump, Hop, Skip (1st child jumps, 2nd child hops and 3rd child skips)