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Published at Monday, April 29th, 2019 - 14:00:36 PM. Worksheet. By Maddy Besson.

The Worksheet Dilemma: Benefits of Play-Based Curricula. It was three o’clock and preschool was over for the day. Four-year-old Jamaica, her arms full of papers, called out to her mom. Jamaica’s mother smiled and asked, ”What’s all this? Your school work?” Jamaica nodded and handed the papers to her mother. Jamaica had spent a large part of the afternoon in her seat, pencil in hand, filling out worksheets. On one she had drawn lines from the letter ”A” to the picture of an apple; from the letter ”P” to the pear; and from the letter ”O” to the orange. On another sheet she made her pencil go from the dot on the top line to the dot on the bottom line, thus making the lower-case letter ”l.” Jamaica’s lines were a bit shaky, and her teacher had written, ”You can do better” on the page. Jamaica’s mother was concerned when she saw the comment and worried that her daughter was not performing well. In truth, Jamaica’s work was fine. Her teacher’s expectations were the problem.

Problem solving involves an element of risk. If we want children to learn to solve problems we must create safe environments in which they feel confident taking risks, making mistakes, learning from them, and trying again (Fordham & Anderson, 1992). In a play-based curriculum, each day provides opportunities to learn about reading, writing, and math through real, meaningful situations. For instance, children set the table for snack so each child has one napkin, one straw, and one box of milk. Children string beads to match the pattern on a card or wait their turn because there is room for only four children at the art table. Through these meaningful experiences children begin to understand number, quantity, size, and other mathematical concepts. Early childhood education experts agree that the years from birth to age eight are a critical learning time for children (Bee, 1992; Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 1993; Willis, 1995). During these years, children have many cognitive, emotional, physical, and social tasks to accomplish (Katz, 1989). While children may have the ability to perform a task, that does not mean that the task is appropriate and should be performed. Educators agree that learning to read, write, and compute are undeniably important skills for children to acquire. The question is how and when they should be learned.

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