ARTSEDGE Lessons for Elementary School

Creating AB Patterns

Recognizing and predicting a simple pattern in nature and the manmade world


Key Skills

Developing Arts Literacies: Analyzing and Evaluating - Critique, Applying Vocabulary
Creative Thinking: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving


Patterns exists both in the natural and man-made world. Patterns are an element in art, as well as math and science. Knowledge of patterns allows the learner to systematize and predict outcomes. In this lesson, students will have the opportunity to construct this concept using visual arts designs and math manipulatives.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Understand the meaning of the words pattern and repetition.
  • Recognize AB patterns in nature and manmade objects or material.
  • Construct an AB pattern using small manipulatives.
  • Practice an AB pattern using simple items found in the classroom.
  • Participate in a group activity that reinforces the AB pattern.

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Cooperative Learning
  • Experiential Learning
  • Hands-On Learning
  • Group or Individual Instruction

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
Technology Notes

This lesson makes use of multimedia. Be sure to test all resources prior to teaching the lesson.

Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Teacher should be familiar with basic concepts of rhythm and AB pattern structure.

Prior Student Knowledge

Basic vocabulary and concepts of mathematics, such as pattern and repetition.

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Outdoor Recreation Space


Gather blocks, paper, ribbon samples. Take a quick pattern walk around the school looking for AB patterns.

Accessibility Notes

Students with physical disabilities may need modified movements.


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.



1. Warm up! Start with a pile of blocks that contains two colors. Have the students sort the blocks by color into two separate piles. Next, have the students lay out the blocks in a long line alternating color. Explain that they have just created an AB pattern.

2. Introduce students to AB patterns. Gather the students around you in the front of the class. Have them take a seat on the floor. Ask two students (one boy and one girl) to come to the front and have the girl hold a large sheet of paper with the letter "A", and the boy as "B" and arrange them in an AB pattern. Explain that it is called AB pattern because the letters A and B represent when the first pattern changes to a second new pattern. (A is one thing, B is something else.)

3. Have students create AB patterns. Bring up several more students (even number of boys as girls) and instruct the students to arrange themselves in AB patterns. Write the pattern that is created on the board and explain that pattern is something that repeats. Label this as an AB pattern.

4. Create AB patterns through clapping. Make one clap for "A" and two claps for "B". Ask the students to say "A", "B" aloud and in time with the claps as you point to the students that are arranged up in front of the room. [NOTE: You can try more complicated patterns if you think that they understand the concept. Older students should easily be able to try ABA and ABBA, etc.]

Large sheets of paper with letters A and B.

Build Knowledge

1. Show students pictures exhibiting the AB pattern. These pictures can come from all different areas of life: inside or outside; at home or in school, playing in the pool or at a playground.

2. Ask students to think about where they have seen patterns. Write or draw them on the board. Keep the conversation positive and give students an explanation of why each is or is not a pattern. If the example is not a pattern, ask students what they could do to make it a pattern or challenge them to find another type of pattern in the same category.

3. Reinforce the AB pattern by showing them examples of AB patterns in textile samples. Find patterns in students clothes, like alternating stripes, or polka dots.

Pictures illustrating the AB pattern. (Magazines are a good source for these pictures.)


1. Students practice arranging manipulatives in an AB pattern. Students are given a set of manipulatives, such as Unifix cubes, in two different colors. Students practice arranging them in AB pattern. (If time allows, they may try other patterns as teacher instructs.)

2. Students analyze AB patterns. Gather the students together. On the board, create simple AB patterns using shapes. Ask students to write the pattern down on large newsprint paper. Ask the students to duplicate this pattern with their blocks.

3. Students analyze more complex patterns. On the board, create an ABA or ABBA pattern using shapes. Ask students to write the pattern down. Ask the students to duplicate this pattern with their blocks.

4. Students explore classroom for AB patterns. Students may go around the room and search for patterns in anything they see. (You may have previously set out some of the patterns.) Students may share what they found in the room regarding pattern.

5. Create AB music patterns by clapping. Clap once for A and twice for B for both simple AB and more complex patterns still on the board or found in the classroom.

6. Check for understanding by asking students to make instrumental music using patterns. Using two different instruments (rhythm sticks, bells, cymbals, triangles, etc.), assign one instrument to the letter A and another to the letter B. Put AB patterns on the board. Ask the classroom musicians to play the patterns. Depending on the number of students and/or instruments, each student may have only one instrument to play.

7. Assign homework to take patterns outside the classroom. Ask students to look in their closets and drawers for clothing that shows an AB pattern. Ask them to wear or bring that clothing with them to school tomorrow. Examples can be a shirt or scarf with two-color stripes, a repeated set of images on a belt or socks, etc. (The teacher may want to bring a few extra clothing patterns to the class for those students who do not bring or wear a pattern.)

8. Have a pattern parade in the classroom (or into the hallways and school). Put the class into an AB pattern by alternating girl-boy-girl-boy. Give each girl one type of instrument and each boy another type of instrument. As they march, establish a left-right (AB) pattern and play the instruments on the same pattern. For example, girls strike rhythm sticks on the left foot and boys shake the tambourine on the right. As each student enters the “grandstand area,” have him or her stop and explain the pattern he or she is wearing.


1. Make a wall mural of the pattern parade. Using a large roll of paper, have each student drawn himself or herself in the order he or she marched in the parade. Have the student label if he or she was an A or B, what instrument he or she played, and the pattern he or she wore.

2. Take a pattern walk around the school, playground, nature trail, etc. looking for AB patterns. Have each student draw one picture reflecting what he or she saw. Put the pictures together to create a classroom book. It could be called “Patterns on our Playground” or something similar.


Assess the students' work using the Assessment Rubric located within the Resource Carousel.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education
Visual Arts

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 1: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 2: Using knowledge of structures and functions

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

Visual Arts

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines


Grade K-4 Music Standard 2: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music

Grade K-4 Music Standard 8: Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts

National Standards in Other Subjects

Math Standard 5: Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of geometry

Math Standard 8: Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of functions and algebra



Barbara Gardner
Original Writer

Carol Parenzan Smalley

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