Pattern Recognition and Learning

Recently, while perusing an old Moleskine notebook, I came upon a note instructing me to “see Pattern Learning article from Facebook for possible blog entry–see article in email.” Given my often less-than-stellar organizing skills, I wasn’t surprised to find no such email about this in any of my folders that have to do with professional development or this blog.

Any teacher who has taken the time to think about it–which means most teachers, I guess (and hope)–understand that in the hierarchy of an educator’s responsibilities, assisting students in developing their capacity for pattern recognition ought to be near the top. Indeed, all the domains in which elementary and secondary teachers operate offer them openings to train students in they vital cognitive skill. For math and language teachers, this may well be item one on their agendas.

In any case, I went looking on Facebook for this article on pattern learning and language acquisition. I also found, for you math teachers out there, this nice little squib, replete with rudimentary lesson plans on understanding patterns as the foundation of early math skills. To take this one step further, possibly to the precipice of irrelevance, there is also this very timely article from The New York Times on “learning to see data”. (However, should the arts and crafts of crocheting, knitting and weaving interest you, you’ll find a plethora of articles on them under a “pattern recognition” search on Facebook.)

Simply put, learning to recognize patterns is the first step to language acquisition and early math skills. If students are to succeed at the secondary level of schooling, then at the elementary level they must acquire the cognitive instinct of pattern recognition. For those of us working at any level with early catastrophe kids, this means that from the first day we stand in front of our charges, we must begin the process of teaching pattern recognition. Indeed, at the secondary level, we haven’t a moment to lose in inculcating pattern recognition; the sooner we begin this process, the better for our students.

Over the years I have worked to develop materials that foster and reinforce pattern recognition. One instrument I use for this, which I am now relatively confident is an effective way to foster and reinforce pattern recognition–and build vocabulary at the same time–is the word root worksheet. To persist with this just a couple of steps further, here are a word root do now exercise for ornith/o and a full word root worksheet for the Latin root aqua.

As always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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