Dot Grid Pattern Play, An Art-for-Brains Activity for Kids

Consider Dot Grid Pattern Play the ultimate multitasker. Educational specialists, parents, differentiated classroom teachers and multi-level homeschools will appreciate the versatility of this learning powered printable activity for kids.


Whether you use this fun learning tool for art class, or basic geometry, to practice using a straight edge or even for handwriting practice (without the actual handwriting) sneaky you will help students in grades 2-6 strengthen important learning skills along the way.


Dot Grid Pattern Play, An Art-for-Brains Activity that helps kids build visual figure ground skills, visual tracking, spatial awareness and so much more.  Whether you use it for handwriting skills practice (without the handwriting), basic geometry, pattern recognition, art or other purpose, kids will love finding the hidden shapes in this learning powered printable pack.


I originally designed Dot Grid Pattern Play to target visual figure ground skills. Visual figure ground skills allow us to identify objects or words on a page even within crowded backgrounds.


In the sentence you just read, can you find the word “skills?” Of course you can. Imagine if that were difficult. Would you still enjoy reading? Would you be able to highlight important information?


Students with underdeveloped visual figure ground skills may become overwhelmed with words on a page. While you might become frustrated that your child seems so distractible, often loses his place, or is too slow to copy information from the board, your student is working overtime to locate the information in the first place.


Dot Grid Pattern Play includes 10 dot grids, each with progressively challenging patterns to complete. Some patterns include curves, perfect for strengthening handwriting skills. Other patterns include straight lines, which students may draw with or without a straight edge.


How it Works

Children finish the incomplete pattern on the dot grid, then color the specified shapes. Depending on skill level, children may use the final Hidden Shapes page to find and outline additional shapes within each pattern. I recommend that you find the hidden shapes yourself before giving the challenge to your students. Some shapes may be quite difficult to find!


While visual figure ground skill-building was the original intention for this activity, Dot Grid Pattern Play strengthens a whole host of learning skills.


Skills Strengthened

  • Visual Figure Ground
  • Visual Tracking
  • Visual Closure
  • Visual Discrimination
  • Spatial Awareness
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Fine Motor
  • Attention


You’ll learn more about each skill strengthened with the purchase of Dot Grid Pattern Play, now in my TPT store ($4).


Care to try before you buy? Check out the free sample page here.


Profile of a Unique Learner: The Excessive Studier

If your students truly enjoy studying and completing increasingly challenging homework assignments, congratulations! The unique learner I call The Excessive Studier, however, is not that student.


Your ultra studious child might be working much harder than necessary.  Learn about auditory processing challenges in this Profile of a Unique Learner: The Excessive Studier.

The Challenge

Let’s meet Beth, a good example of The Excessive Studier. In the early grades, Beth had no trouble learning to read and enjoyed a fair amount of academic success.


That success began to dwindle right around the third grade. Beth, a highly conscientious student, started spending an exceptional amount of time completing homework assignments. She strongly believed in doing well at school, yet despite her extra efforts she barely achieved average grades.


At first Beth’s parents brushed off her excessive studying as a symptom of perfectionism. Nothing to worry about, they thought. They regularly praised their daughter for her diligence and for doing her best.


Then Beth’s parent noticed a disturbing pattern. More often than not, Beth arrived home from school exhausted, irritable and moody. She often required a nap as soon as she came home. Then she hit the books until bedtime, only surfacing long enough for dinner.


Beth’s friends would call to chat or invite her to hang out. Her typical reply? “I can’t. I have to study.”


What was going on with this child? Clearly not everyone worked as hard as Beth just to get by.


Auditory processing challenges show up in a variety of ways. Typically they include trouble understanding or recalling what is heard or read. This is just as true when a teacher gives spoken directions in class as it is when a child reads silently, “listening” to her inner voice.


Expectations for active listening and independent reading typically increase around third grade, which is why Beth’s parents and teachers never noticed her auditory processing challenges before.


Beth’s unique challenges, underdeveloped auditory memory skills and slow processing speed, resulted in below average vocabulary and poor reading comprehension.


Not only did she not understand the words on the page, her eyes would track the words much faster than the language center of her brain could interpret. She constantly found herself reading and rereading for understanding.


Once the words made sense she still had trouble remembering it all. Thus, her hours and hours of studying did not translate to the high achievement in class one might expect.


The Good News About The Excessive Studier

Personally I’m more a proponent of therapeutic interventions than of encouraging unhealthy compensating skills.


That said, one compensating skill that I do not object to develops when Excessive Studiers actually avoid the exhausting work of listening to, interpreting and remembering instructions. Instead they give the instructions as bosses of their own companies.


Individuals with auditory processing challenges tend to use visual cues to help them understand auditory input. Add their strong work plus talent for reading people to the mix and you have a recipe for success as top dog.


Reading Help for The Excessive Studier

Not all auditory processing challenges are due to slow processing speed. In Beth’s case, slow auditory processing improved significantly with the same intervention described in The-On-Again-Off-Again profile. Find a few more suggestions for students like Beth below.


Rhythm Repeat

Understanding the rhythm and flow of language strengthens reading comprehension. Some students with auditory processing challenges may love to sing but can’t keep the beat. They may also read without inflection or without pausing at punctuation marks. Any activity encouraging students to listen to, then repeat a rhythm also enhances reading skills.


Visualization Training

Relating heard information to visual imagery builds understanding and recall. At the basic level simply say any word (avoid non-visual words) and ask your student to describe it to you in detail. Practice with single words, then build up to phrases, then sentences.


Auditory Memory

By third grade most students can recall 6 units of information. Excessive Studiers and those with auditory processing challenges may need extra help in this area. Most activities you’ll find in Building Visual Memory Skills THE BOOK easily adapt to focus on auditory memory development as well.


Want to catch up on the previous profiles? Start here. And stay tuned! More unique learner profiles to come.


Dot Grid Pattern Play Free Sample Printable for Kids

Ready for another learning powered printable freebie for kids? You might recall that I’ve mentioned visual figure ground before and why developing this skill is important, especially for reading.


One fun way to help children strengthen figure ground skills is to provide seek and find activities such as Where’s Waldo or I Spy.


This month’s free sample, Dot Grid Pattern Play, you might consider as an amped up version of Where’s Waldo for shapes and patterns. And by amped up I mean that Dot Grid Pattern Play strengthens much more than visual figure ground skills.


This dot grid pattern disguised-as-art activity for kids builds visual figure ground, spatial awareness, visual tracking, fine motor skills, and much more.


Children (in grades 2 and above) finish the pattern on the dot grid, color the specified shapes, then find even more hidden shapes within their completed pattern.


Learn more about additional skills strengthened when the final product arrives later this month. In the meantime, please enjoy a free sample of Dot Grid Pattern Play. I’m providing pattern #5 (out of 10) so you can gauge the complexity of this activity for your own child. Patterns 1-4 are slightly simpler. Patterns 6-10 become more challenging.


The final 10-pack includes an additional hidden shapes page. However, you may still expand the figure ground skill building with this free sample. Once the pattern is complete, simply ask your child which additional shapes he can find within the pattern. You can try too, of course, though don’t be surprised if your child finds more hidden shapes than you do!


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Profile of a Unique Learner: The Flip Flopper

When most people think of Dyslexia they imagine a unique learner similar to The Flip Flopper. Dyslexia encompasses much more than the tendency to reverse letters like b and d, so let’s meet Nathan, a good example of the often misunderstood Flip Flopper.


Profile of a Unique Learner: The Flip Flopper.  Dyslexia is about more than letter reversals. Learn how to help students who fit this profile.

The Challenge

Earlier we met The Storyteller and learned some of the reasons behind this visual thinker’s reading struggles. Nathan is also a visual thinker. While he shares some traits in common with The Storyteller, his particular learning challenges show up in a different way.


Nathan experiences visual symbol confusion. His exceptional talent for imagining objects in 3D makes him gifted in areas like drawing and building. This same talent, however, creates confusion when he’s asked to identify 2 dimensional letters on a page.


Nathan’s mind naturally and automatically “sees” the letter b, for example, from all angles and perspectives. Looking at it one way, the b looks like a b. Looking at it another way, the b could be a d, or p, or q. Thus, the guessing strategy begins. Seeing all of these perspectives at once, with every letter on a page, gives Nathan the impression that the letters and words are moving.


No wonder reading is so difficult.


He doesn’t realize that his perspective is different than most of his classmates. He just knows that they can read and he can’t.


Many Flip Floppers are also non-linear thinkers. This can be a great advantage when it comes to creative problem solving, seeing the big picture, and contributing innovative ideas. Unfortunately for Nathan this also means trouble learning the days of the week, the months of the year, how to tell time, and left/right confusion. Students like Nathan may struggle with basic math concepts (linear/logical thinking) yet excel at complicated algebraic equations.


The Good News About The Flip Flopper

Nathan relies heavily on his auditory strength in order to learn. He easily understands directions if someone reads them out loud. He is also quite talented at memorizing stories especially when he has access to picture clues.


One of Nathan’s greatest strengths is his spatial awareness. This translates to a love of Legos, of building, of taking things apart and putting them together again. Nathan’s parents are convinced they live with an architect or engineer in the making. If you ask this talented, unique learner “Can you fix this?” the answer is probably “Yes.”


Reading Help for The Flip Flopper

For students who fit The Flip Flopper profile, a number of activities provide powerful skill-building support. The following list of tips is just a start.


Visual Discrimination

This skill allows us to recognize the difference between similar objects and symbols. Particularly helpful with visual symbol confusion like Nathan’s. Learn more about visual discrimination activities for kids here.

Clay Work

As with The Storyteller, I highly recommend clay work. The 3D clay letters that Nathan creates help visually anchor the letters in his mind. Using the technique from Ron Davis’ book The Gift of Dyslexia helps Nathan keep similar symbols like b/d, h/y, 6/9 and 5/2 from flip flopping all over the page.


Understanding the order of things helps students like Nathan better learn and understand concepts of time (see below). One simple way to strengthen this skill is to consistently ask what came first, next and last after reading a story or when reviewing the days’ activities. Story sequencing with pictures is another fun tool for this.

Time Awareness

Many students like Nathan have little concept of how long a minute actually lasts. Choose various tasks throughout the day. Estimating how many seconds or minutes each task takes to complete is a fun way to reinforce this skill. For more time awareness tips check out my Pinterest board It’s About Time. You may also enjoy the free memory game Months of the Year.


I hope you are enjoying the series so far. Stay tuned! More Unique Learner profiles to come.


Gratitude Printables Roundup

Want to help kids practice the habit of gratitude? This roundup of gratitude printables may just do the trick.


Gratitude Printables for Kids, including a DIY journal, bingo game, thank you card and more!


If you’re already a newsletter subscriber, thank you! I hope you know how grateful I am for you.


Not signed up yet? Find the box in the right sidebar and enjoy a growing collection of freebies like the gratitude printables below.


Free With Sign Up


Printable Color Me Thank You Card for KidsThank You Card

Thank you cards are easy ways to encourage a grateful spirit, especially around the holidays.





Gratitude BingoGratitude Bingo Game DIY

Even if you don’t win the game, you do win a stronger sense of gratitude!






Gratitude Journal for KidsPrintable gratitude journal for kids / Inner Pieces Gallery

Start them young! This journal has plenty of room for coloring, writing, collaging. Kids choose their favorite way to express themselves.






The Gratitude GameThe Gratitude Game (free printable) helps build empathy, a little auditory discrimination, and of course, the habit of gratitude.

For 2 or more players, this game has different challenge levels to include all ages and skill levels.





Free on TPT (Teachers Pay Teachers)


Gratitude Acrostic PoemGratitude Acrostic Poem

Got poetry? Got gratitude? This easy printable has both!








Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig is not only a Caldecott Award winner. It’s a classic.


The Story

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, children's classic by William SteigSylvester the donkey, who happens to enjoy collecting pebbles, makes an incredible discovery. He finds a magic pebble that makes wishes come true! On his way home to share the magic pebble with his family, Sylvester encounters a hungry lion. When he wishes himself out of danger something goes terribly wrong.


After a great deal of time (and strife) isolated from the people he loves, Sylvester finally reunites with his family. To everyone’s relief, the story ends on a happy note. Sylvester realizes he already has everything he needs.


What I Love About This Children’s Book

We don’t usually use the words sorrow and children’s book in the same sentence. However, Steig manages to use topics like grief, isolation and loneliness to his advantage. Without the devastating separation from his family, Sylvester might never have developed such a profound appreciation for them.


In the end Sylvester realized he had no need for magic wishes. His family had each other, and that was plenty to be thankful for.


As far as children’s picture books go, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is a long one. It appeals to kids from age 5 all the way to grade 5. It’s a great tool to open up any number of discussion topics. Family, separation, grief and sorrow, magic and wishes, being careful what you wish for, you name it. And let’s not forget some of my favorite topics, gratitude and giving thanks.


Want to see Sylvester and the Magic Pebble on video? Check it out here. While you’re at it, pick up a few discussion question ideas by clicking on the Teacher’s Guide.


By the way, if YOU had a magic pebble, what would you wish for? What’s that you say? You wish to find an entire collection of Inspiring Children’s Book Finds like this one? Well okay then. Wish granted!


The Gratitude Game

More and more researchers these days happily report on the many benefits of gratitude. To help encourage kids to invite these benefits into their own lives I decided to create The Gratitude Game.


The Gratitude Game (free printable) helps build empathy, a little auditory discrimination, and of course, the habit of gratitude.This free printable game for kids has four different challenge levels. Everyone from your little ones to the big kids to the adults can join in on the fun and choose whichever challenge level they wish.


Primarily The Gratitude Game helps us think of the countless ways to be grateful. But why stop there? Inner Pieces Gallery is, after all, all about learning.


When you progress through the various challenge levels you’ll notice a few auditory discrimination components as well as a fun exercise in empathy.


When and How to Use The Gratitude Game

  • As a unique character education tool in the classroom (small groups).
  • As a fitting family game during the Thanksgiving season.
  • As a fun homeschool activity for all ages.
  • For speech or educational therapy targeting auditory discrimination.
  • Any time of year you wish to exercise those gratitude muscles (perhaps whenever the kids catch a case of the grumpies)!


For access to The Gratitude Game AND the entire Free Printables Collection, please sign up in the upper right sidebar. Subscriber privileges include monthly freebies, weekly updates and the occasional bonus freebie. Already subscribed? Please sign in.