By Tiffanie Maurice. Worksheet. Published at Tuesday, April 30th, 2019 - 03:11:23 AM.
Worksheets, workbooks, and printables. Is there a place for them in the early childhood setting? Today I’m explaining why I think worksheets are not appropriate for young children. Welcome to the Child Led Environments Series where we are exploring how to set up and cultivate an environment conducive to child-led learning. How to Cultivate a Love of Learning, Toy Rotation: Why It’s Beneficial for You and Your Child, How to Incorporate an Encouraging Home Preschool Environment,9 Reasons Why Worksheets Are Inappropriate for Young Children,4 Aspects of the Adult’s Role in a Child-Led Approach. As a parent and educator, when I walk into an environment with early learners, whether that be in a homeschool setting or preschool setting, I want to see those kids engaged in their learning. Young children should be manipulating materials, testing hypothesis, and exploring the world around them. No matter where I look, I should not see a child doing a workbook. Worksheets are not appropriate for young children for many reasons. Let me start off by explaining what a worksheet means to me.
School should be a welcoming, peaceful place for children – an environment to which children come eager to see what challenging, stimulating, and fun activities are in store. Children know they may not succeed at everything they try, but also know they will be valued for who they are. Children’s efforts should be rewarded, so that they will persevere and they will see themselves as learners (Kostelnik, Stein, Whiren, & Soderman, 1993). Physical Development, Children are born with a need to move (Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 1993). They wiggle, toddle, run, and climb as naturally as they breathe. When we insist that children sit still and do what for them may be a meaningless task, such as completing a workbook page, we force children into a situation incompatible with their developmental needs and abilities. When children cannot or will not do such a task, we may label them ”immature” or ”hyperactive.” We may complain about their short attention span, or as in Jamaica’s case, criticize her efforts. On the other hand, if we allow children to choose their own task from among appropriate offerings, we may see children as young as three and four years old spend 30 to 45 minutes completely engrossed in building with unit blocks, painting at the easel, or listening to stories. When we plan developmentally appropriate activities for children, they will attend to them, work hard, and learn (Bredekamp & Rosegrant, 1992).
Worksheets might be a useful assessment tool. If your child is doing a worksheet on a learned skill, you might see what he understands and what you need to revisit. In the early childhood community, however, some educators believe that worksheets are inappropriate for this age level and may not tell you what a student truly understands. My kids like them. Wait, doesn’t this contradict a point I made above? Not really. If my kids want to sit at the table while I’m making dinner and do a few worksheets, I don’t have a problem with that. It can be relaxing for them. It’s not a replacement for other learning because I wouldn’t be teaching right then anyway… and I don’t have the space or time to set up a big hands-on learning center while the stove is on, the baby is crying, and the toddler is hanging on my leg. Sometimes a parent or teacher just needs a break. You’re going to use worksheets once in a while? I won’t judge you. Planning hands-on activities takes time and resources we don’t always have. Sometimes we just need something simple. Like when you’re 9 months pregnant to the day and the baby shows no sign of making an appearance. Ahem. (Update: our baby finally made her appearance, two weeks late!). My bottom line? A steady diet of worksheets is bad news. For some preschoolers, worksheets are never appropriate. For preschoolers who enjoy them, I don’t think worksheets are harmful every once in a while for a change of pace. For older kids, worksheets are appropriate when nothing else will do the job. Thoughtful teachers and homeschoolers will strive to limit their use of worksheets in favor of activities which promote higher-level thinking and hands- on experiences.
Conclusion, There are two fundamental problems with worksheets. First, young children do not learn from them what teachers and parents believe they do (Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 1993). Second, children’s time should be spent in more beneficial endeavors (Willis, 1995). The use of abstract numerals and letters, rather than concrete materials, puts too many young children at risk of school failure. This has implications for years to come. Worksheets and workbooks should be used in schools only when children are older and developmentally ready to profit from them (Bredekamp, S. & Rosegrant, T., 1992). Our challenge is to convince parents and others that in a play-based, developmentally appropriate curriculum children are learning important knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will help them be successful in school and later life.
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