Patterns and Sound

Guest blogger: Debbie Lee, Ed.D.

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!

Debbie Lee, Ed.D.

Debbie Lee, Ed.D., has spent 44 years teaching in the field of early childhood education. She came from a family that valued education. Her grandmother, born in 1896, had a master’s degree and taught at the college level. Lee initially planned to teach geometry but, after working with young children in a day care center, she discovered her true passion: early childhood education. After earning her bachelor’s degree in early education from Marycrest College in 1979, she spent the next 20 years teaching preschoolers and kindergarteners, operating her own home day care program and serving in a variety of positions for the Moline School District in western Illinois. She received her master of science degree in early childhood education from Western Illinois University in 1986 and her doctoral degree in early childhood education and teaching from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2003. Dr. Lee recently retired from her position as an associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Western Illinois University, where she taught methods, family engagement, play, assessment and inclusion courses. She has also served at the local and state level for the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Dr. Lee believes that the developmental foundation built during the early years has a major impact on a child’s future, so she is thrilled to be writing for Math at Home’s guest blog!

Read more posts by Debbie Lee, Ed.D.

7 Replies to “Patterns and Sound”

  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

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