One of the students worked for a long time on constructing a trap. By the time I reached the carpet to see what he was building, he had already added a piece of paper with circles and squares on it. After observing and inquiring about what he was doing, I was drawn in to his excitement.
On his "booby trap" the paper was actually a secret panel. He explained to me that in order to get in his friends would have to guess the secret pattern code that he programmed into it. A few friends came over to see if they could "crack the code".
As his peers made guesses by touching the circles and squares on the secret panel, he would say..."great pattern, but that isn't my secret code!".
He asked to keep the trap set up over lunch and created a sign to tell his friends not to put it away. When we transitioned into lunch, he had the opportunities to share his structure with the class and explain what they would have to do if they wanted to get in.
It was interesting to watch them try to guess patterns and to use patterns in such a genuine, engaging context.
I wanted to use this exciting experience to extend and challenge the children in their thinking. So I posed the problem to them..."I wonder how many different secret pattern codes you could make using only circles and squares?" To make it easier for them to record their patterns we used shape stickers.
In small groups throughout the day, the children tried to think of as many different patterns as they could using only circles and squares. Interestingly, some of them turned the squares sideways to make diamonds.
The next day, we sat as a class to ask this student if any of the secret pattern codes we had generated were the right ones to "crack" his code.
This sharing time was incredible as many of the children who struggled to think of more than one pattern were exposed to their peers thinking. We encouraged the children to verbalize their thinking and explain how they thought of the different patterns. Some children shared 1 pattern, others thought of 4-5 patterns.
This experience just further proved to me that if you slow down and listen to your children, you can foster a lot of learning out of their interactions. We presented a 3 part problem to the children based on an observation at building. The children actively worked on a rich problem with their peers and then challenged their thinking when listening to the sharing piece of the problem solving process.
I reflect on some of the previous problems I have presented when investigated patterns...never have I created something so genuine, engaging, or exciting.