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Pattern Play Promotes Problem Solving at Miss Lee’s Preschool

Posted on February 12th, 2016

Every day is an admissions opportunity at Grace-St. Luke’s, and I want to shine a spotlight on Miss Lee’s, the place where so many of our students and graduates first began their educational journeys. It is a place many of us remember fondly as a warm, loving, nurturing environment for our children. We remember class parties, caring teachers, and meeting fellow new parents on the playground. It seems our kids always wanted to stay on the playground a bit longer, and to see how happy they were, we were willing to let them play. However, there is so much that goes on at Miss Lee’s underneath all that play that equips them to learn and grow in many ways.

Recently I visited classrooms at Miss Lee’s Preschool; I had the opportunity to observe some of our JK students working on a game called “Pattern Play”. Deceptively simple, it asks the student to replicate a pattern using colored blocks of wood. Working from a photo on a card, students sometimes play together and sometimes play on their own, to make blocks match what they see on the card. Each block is a different size and shape but will readily fit together with any other block in the set. Adding to the complexity is the requirement that the pattern is duplicated within a square wooden frame. Once the pattern is successfully recreated, the blocks are dumped out onto the table, and the game begins again with a new, more complex pattern to duplicate. 

Teachers are nearby, watching and observing as each child manipulates the blocks into place for their puzzle. Sensing a difficulty, the teacher pauses for a moment, and then, rather than showing how to solve a tricky placement, she asks the child, “What if you…”, thus giving the child a chance to reflect. As the student ponders the question posed by her teacher, the student manipulates the blocks this way and that, finally unlocking the correct placement and proceeding on with the puzzle. The child smiles, laughs, and races on to the next colorful pattern to duplicate.

Contained within this apparently simple exercise are several key lessons for our students. Even though they are not working directly with numbers, the pattern recognition and manipulation of shapes are critical elements in the development of mathematical and geometric thinking. Each child’s problem-solving ability is nurtured by a caring teacher who is aware of their role as a “guide on the side” rather than a “sage on the stage”. Through this combination of carefully selected challenges with subtle guidance, our students are nurtured throughout their preschool experience. What feels like play to a preschooler is, in actuality, a thoughtfully structured lesson which helps develop a confident learner. And these confident learners continue to thrive throughout their tenure at GSL, ultimately graduating as creative problem solvers who have the skills to tackle a wide range of challenges. Be sure to tell your friends about the magic that happens at Miss Lee’s Preschool and invite them to be a part of our thriving community.

Sincerely, 

Thor Kvande
Head of School 

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