Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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IntroductionLogic PatternsNumber PatternsWord Patterns


Patterns occur in every sentence we say. We all recognize when a phrase is not a sentence. Syntax Store is about grammar and syntax (the way sentences are put together) as opposed to semantics (what they mean). So, even though the activity doesn't mention nouns or verbs, subjects or predicates, you can use it to get students thinking about the patterns they already know by reflex. Teaching them to be conscious of syntax will help them identify the patterns in alien syntax, such as the non-English syntax of machine language.

Although this activity is about English, a natural language, it has application to mathematics as well. In mathematics curriculum, we have a rule of syntax stating that ordinarily the operator comes between its operands. The phrase "3 + = 4 1" is not grammatical; "3 + 1 = 4" is. (Incidentally, the phrase "3 + 1 = 5" is also grammatical, but wrong, in the same way that "Theodore swallowed a pine tree" is grammatical but probably untrue. This is the difference between syntax and semantics.)

As students become more experienced, they will need increasingly sophisticated ways of communicating abstract ideas, especially when they communicate with computers.

This activity requires reading, but even kindergartners can mostly tell whether a phrase is a sentence or not. The youngest students can read these phrases themselves or have a more experienced partner read the phrases to them.

Younger students may just want to choose a sequence of colors to make the phrases, then decide which patterns are sentences.

Older students can try to generalize the rules for making a sentence. They may even try to discover what colors match what parts of speech, for example, that green are adverbs.

See the overview to Word Patterns.

Rhythm and music have patterns too. See Program I of Math: What's the Big Idea? Andee Rubin and a guest demonstrate the relationship between "Old MacDonald," "The Hokey-Pokey," algebra, and functions.

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