math, Measurement, Problem Solving

First 2 Weeks: Bulletin Board Borders

One of the things I love about the first 2 weeks of school and the last two weeks of school is the freedom I feel to do fun and interesting things without feeling pressure to stick to curriculum or assess and document what happens all the time. I can focus on relationship building and connecting with my students.

One of the activities I had planned for this week is something that many of the kindergarten classes in my school have done. It doesn’t represent a whole lot of creativity on my part, but I’m so glad we’ve done it!  We have been creating our own borders for the classroom bulletin boards!

A few more than half of my students are looping from grade 2 into grade 3 with me.  I love this!  Last year we completed a Context for Learning math unit called “Measuring for the Art Show.”  In that unit we use cash register tape to measure things and create number lines. For this activity, I gave each group a roll of the paper and asked them to use it to create their borders. I assigned each group one bulletin board to work with.  I asked them to measure properly, and decorate the paper with patterns.  Those are all of the instructions I gave.

Three of the four groups actually measured.  One group has decided to keep cutting pieces of paper, different lengths, and then piece them together like a puzzle.  I was happy today when a child in that group told me exactly where to put one piece of paper.  It fit exactly in a gap, and the child said she measured before she cut the paper to make sure it would fit.  So this is a bit of a “guess and check” strategy, but I feel like it’s evolving into measuring.  They still have a few big pieces to do, and I think they will use this strategy going forward to create bigger pieces.

Of the three groups that measured, two realized that they could measure the bottom, easy to reach edge and then cut two of that length.  They didn’t have to reach up to measure the top because the top and bottom are the same.  They also realized that the left and right are the same. The third group needed some prompting for this.  I think if they could have reached the top they would have simply measured 4 times.  Of the three groups that measured, only one used a tool (measuring tape) to measure instead of simply using the paper.

It has been very interesting to note that there has been very little actual patterning occurring.  Some of the groups have drawn on the paper.  We’ll have to work on that a bit. I want to make sure they understand the difference between patterns and designs.

There has been a lot of cooperative work happening.  There has been some arguing.  C’est la vie! That’s how a community of children often gets started in their work together.

I have already decided I will do this activity several more times throughout the year.  I want to see how it evolves.  I am going to keep the groups the same each time.  I can’t wait to see how their thinking and group-work skills grow.

Why yes, I do need to straighten out “hooray” now that you mention it.
I got the pretty yellow signs from @sarahlalondee (on Twitter).  Pretty, right?
Nice pattern!  Pretty shoes!
I got my word wall headers from Lindsay Hill on Teachers Pay Teachers. 
Beautiful!  But not a pattern.



Work in progress! This is the group that is making random sized pieces and fitting them in wherever.  I think we’re about to transition to some measuring with this group.


5 thoughts on “First 2 Weeks: Bulletin Board Borders”

  1. Lisa, I’m really intrigued by this. When you spoke to the kids, did they think that their work was a pattern? Why or why not? I wonder if showing some border samples (like from a decor store) in patterns and not in patterns might help. Could children sort between them and explain their thinking? Would this lead to identifying what constitutes a pattern? I think about the emphasis on manipulatives in early math classrooms, especially when it comes to creating patterns. If this is what kids know, does it make it harder for them to extrapolate their knowledge and apply it in what you were doing here? Makes me think again of the value in authentic math learning opportunities. I bet most kids are used to boxes to draw one image for each part of the pattern. I wonder if the blank canvas made them think more of art and design. Hmmm … you have me really wondering here. How I’d love to come to your classroom and find out!


    1. Yes, I think it was difficulty transferring the idea of patterns to paper. We spent the previous two days exploring our class math manipulatives so I had seen lots of patterns (and some designs) being created. When I questioned each child about their “pattern”, they unanimously told me they’d decided to just do some art instead. I’m already noticing that quite a few of them feel like the things I say are optional suggestions, so this is clearly something we need to work on! Some things are optional, but quite a few things I tell them to do will not be, so I think I’ll need to be explicit about that. One group, after I asked them about their lack of a pattern, proceeded to create a “heart, soccer ball, heart, soccer ball” pattern on the next strip of paper. I’ll build on that work for the next go around! I think the tools I had out for them influenced the work too. I gave them art tools- markers, crayons, pencil crayons. Next time I’m going to round up some stamps or sponges & paint. I wondered if part of what happened here was some laziness and wanting to just get the job done, as well as some groups giving up on the negotiating that creating a long pattern together would require. Thanks for reflecting with me!

  2. What a great way for you to get some great observations of kids with measuring, and patterning while working on class community! Have you had a chance to consolidate/debrief the process with the kids yet? Discussing the different measuring strategies and understandings of properties of rectangles would give you a chance to set norms for classroom discourse as well. I love how you’ve created an authentic context for this mathematics!

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