Repeating Patterns and DT: A Christmas Card Project For KS2

Even though I often express concern about our over reliance on the QCA scheme of work units, they are still incredibly useful starting points for thinking about activities or sequences of work we might develop with students. Unit 4b developing images and repeating patterns is a nice starting point for developing images, in a range of graphics packages while introducing the sometimes bizarre vocabulary that relates to how these tools work, and one which I used to frame my favourite unit of work for Y4 students.

The about this unit section says in this unit children will

  • learn to develop visual ideas
  • realise these ideas using ICT.
  • use a computer graphics package to explore and experiment with ideas, amending and modifying their work to meet specific outcomes.
  • learn to save their work as they go along (I would hope that by Y4 they are consolidating this).
  • learn to use ICT tools appropriately and to select areas of an image to cut, copy and change. learn to export their work to other packages and import images from sources such as clip art, scanner or digital camera.

The key statement for me in this whole introduction is that "children will apply what they have learnt in this unit... to produce pictures, plans and maps in art, design and technology, and.. (or).. geography." When I originally designed my unit of work the series of tasks that evolved focused around the Design and make Process for a Christmas card, embedding the ICT skills in moving towards this outcome.

The outcome for the "integrated task" says that children should use

"a variety of materials, created on and away from the computer, and use them to make a final image." This I interpreted to mean, drawing on available designs as well as the use of additional ICT tools and resources. The remainder of this post describes the process in its DT context, through ICT

IDEAS (Investigative, Disassembly and Evaluative Activities)

This unit was designed to fit with and work alongside a mechanisms unit for Design and Technology, where the design brief was to design and make an animated Christmas card. Students were provided with examples of existing cards, to evaluate, discussing and drawing from these common themes and ideas. In ICT sessions we also used the internet to explore Christmas scenes and images. We began also to use tools in Microsoft Paint to develop wire frames, of common Christmas Motifs. We focused on how shape tools could be used to form skeleton structures around which to develop our images, saving individual images, that might later be used as "stamps" in the composition of larger Christmas scenes.

FPTs (Focussed Practical Tasks)

The intention of any DT project is that all children should be able to realise a quality outcome, and in order to achieve this they must be provided with available designs to evaluate , innovate on and or develop. In class the students engaged in a range of making tasks, that involved them in constructing predefined mechanisms, rotary window type designs, the use of cams and lever based mechanisms, pop ups and sliders. As we engaged the students were required to evaluate as a class the outcomes they were creating. Drawing on previous experiences with cards, which parts of the images might we be able to animate, and which of the mechanisms might we use to enable this to happen. In my classroom I see FPTs as early prototyping activities, spaces and activities through which students can begin to visualise the relationships between the skills input, and the final design outcomes they hope to develop. Gill Hope, presents some really interesting ideas about design and technology in the Primary School, and the dangers inherent in requiring young children to draw and record what they want to make before they begin, design as a process is an ongoing sand iterative process, evolving continually as we evaluate and appraise our progress, and solve problems. Prototyping is a key area in the design process, and one which I feel should be as practical as possible. During DT activities, I am never without my digital camera, as I find this is one of the most powerful tools I have available to record and document student activity, and frequently use images captured through the use of Powerpoint to document learning stories. DT it seems for many is a real issue in terms of maintaining evidence, where do we store it? I find my hard drive or flash drive is ideal!?

In ICT sessions the students, were also encouraged to prototype, as we developed our wireframes, using fill tools, brushes, zoom copy and paste to add detail to our motifs. Our outcome in ICT was also to make a Christmas Card, but to use a desk top publisher to eventually achieve our design outcome. The children were taught how to use their motifs to construct a Christmas scene, and to use copy and paste techniques to develop a simple repeating pattern based on example of Christmas Wrapping paper designs we had discussed. This gave opportunities to discuss layering and transparent or opaque selections, and their effects on the images we were producing, to discuss how new layers pasted appeared on top of previous images pasted and the need to pre think and plan sequentially the order in which we would import, or paste our motifs to the image using our chosen tool. Using the transparent select tool we were able to make underlying layers show through, but once the imported section of our image was deselected, the only way back was through the undo tool. This really brought home the reasons why we need to "cascade save" after significant changes have been made. When we had made our wrapping paper designs students were encouraged to experiment with different fill colours, and to think about which made their paper appear most christmassy!!!

The DMA (Design and Make Activity)

In DT sessions the students, made "mock ups," and working models which were separate initially from their cards. They went through processes of trial and error, drawing on the mechanism designs they were familiar with to bring about the effects they were trying to achieve, and when happy that their designs met the success criteria we had established earlier from our design brief, applied their mechanism to a card. These cards then were decorated to match the effect required. Some children used images and objects developed in ICT sessions to apply to their cards.

In ICT, the children now had a range of motifs and design types they had developed that they could use to make their Christmas Card. We used Microsoft Publisher to do this, beginning from a design Wizard, the students used the the step by step process to generate their own Christmas card writing frames. Choosing from the images they had developed they were able to recreate the card the way they wanted it to look, innovating on the presented design to include/import their own images, and to drag them around the page to where they would like to put them. They could also include text in the form of text boxes or through the use of Word Art, and add borders and boxes to break up the pages they were making. Using Publisher in this way the students were also engaging in visual prototyping, discussing the effects they were creating and and making decisions about which images they would like to include and why? Considering text effects, and how these impacted on the overall design and personal aesthetic they wanted to bring to the document. The students were able to use clipart to reform the border art they wanted to apply, or to bring in additional web based or clipart images. When completed the students were asked to publish the card they wanted to keep and take home to the "Published Work folder" on their home drives. We only allow monochrome printing in the ICT Suite, so black and white mock ups were printed by each child to learn the making process, but each child's individual card was also printed out to card on the Colour Laser Printer we have for special work.

Using the tools on the iBoard Christmas site, our year one students last year were also encouraged to make Christmas scenes. See my very first post Photofiltre and screen printing. I used the print screen function to capture and save the images they had developed, pasting these to a graphics package, cropping them to be saved as .jpg files using the student's names to index them. Using MS publisher, I later imported and printed cards individually, that they were able to fill in with their own greetings. They loved the quality of the output, and were really excited that they were able to give something they had made on the computer to a special someone .

Just thinking now how amazing and exciting it might be to develop this further to combine the DT and ICT elements through the use of the plotter cutter we have recently gained...

1 comment:

Doug said...

Hi Simon !!

Love the D & T idea .

Christmas is my favourite time for symmetry as most of the artifacts have at least one line. Textease CT Paint is superb for this as a continuation of your repeated patterns idea.

I have put an example at and have written some notes about the tiling at

Enjoy (I hope)