Patterns Are Important
The Plains Indians of North America often decorated their teepees with signs and symbols. Your students will have fun doing the same
with this teepee math activity using pattern block cut-outs or stickers
Kick off your lesson by providing background knowledge. You can share several stories about Native Americans who lived in teepees. Two great literature resources for students of this age are The Very First Americans, by Cara Ashrose and selections from If You Live with the Sioux Indians by Ann Mcgovern.
Create Patterns on Teepees
Understanding patterns is key in mathematics. Patterns occur in numbers, and being able to identify patterns and them use them when problem-solving is an essential skill. Developing this skill early will allow children to benefit as they begin their more formal math instruction in Kindergarten.
For this first math activity, students will use colored pattern block stickers or shapes cut from construction paper to create simple patterns on their teepee. Homeschoolingsupply.com is a great resource for purchasing pre-cut stickers, and at the time of this publishing is offering a pack of 900 reusable stickers in assorted colors for $6.89 - not including shipping and handling.
If you have not taught patterning before to your class of preschoolers, you will want to introduce the concept of patterns before beginning this activity. Or, if you have, you may still want to take some time to review what a pattern is, how to create a pattern, and how to extend a pattern.
18" x 24" sheet of brown construction paper (one per child)
pattern block stickers or pattern block shapes cut from assorted shades of construction paper
black sharpie marker
scissors (one pair for each child)
glue (only is using construction paper pattern block shapes)
If you do not have pre-cut pattern block shapes or stickers, you may create your own by using colored construction paper and the pattern block templates shown below. (Only use the Pattern Block shapes, not the Geometric shapes shown.) Use the image provided above as a color guide for creating your pattern block shapes using the colored construction paper. However, for the purpose of this article, we will assume these shapes have already been created or you are using the pre-made pattern block stickers.
Also, before beginning the activity, use the black Sharpie marker to trace a large circle on each piece of brown construction paper. The circle should cover the entire face of the paper - from edge to edge. Draw one, straight line from the outer-edge of the circle to a
point in the center. (See circle template image below.)
Place the children into small working groups, and give each group a pack of pattern block shape pieces to work with. Provide each child with one large sheet and scissors. Have the students use their scissors to cut out the circle from the sheet of construction paper. Also, have the students cut up the line from the edge of the circle to the center. Preschoolers may need assistance with this step.
Show students how to cross the circle over itself to form a teepee or cone shape. Staple the cone in place for each child. If you wish, you may use the scissors to cut a triangle shape in the cone teepee to form a door.
Now students may begin using the pattern block shapes to decorate their teepees by creating patterns. Keep in mind that students using the construction paper pattern block shapes will need glue to attach the pieces to the teepee. Encourage the preschoolers to make either color or shape patterns. You may wish to demonstrate ahead of time. While the students are working, be certain you are circulating around the room, checking patterns and lending assistance when needed.
For students needing extra assistance, you might consider creating an initial pattern for them and then simply asking the child to complete the pattern by adding two or three additional pieces. For students needing a challenge, suggest they go beyond the simple AB pattern to create something more complex. Conferencing with each student about the pattern they have created will give you a better understanding of how well they have grasped the concept.
Give each child the opportunity to share the pattern they have created with the rest of the class. Learning from one another is often the best tool for preschoolers!
Extend the Learning
You can use large pattern block shapes to extend your teepee math activities for preschool fun. Draw a large teepee shape on the board, or on a piece of chart paper. Attach tape, magnets or velcro to large cut-outs of the same pattern block shapes you were using for the activity listed above. Invite students to come up and identify, create or extend patterns by attaching them to the teepee you have drawn. You can even make the activity a daily classroom challenge