By Laurette Pons. Worksheet. Published at Friday, April 19th, 2019 - 05:48:41 AM.
Worksheets do not teach. They check what kids know. If someone handed me a basic calculus worksheet and said, “Here you go. This will help you learn calculus,” I’d be at a complete loss. Now if I got on the phone and called my twin brother (for whom calculus is simple math), he could talk me through it and I might have a chance of understanding it. Please keep this in mind when handing your child a worksheet. If it’s a new skill, sit right there and coach him through it. Worksheets can be a cop-out. Sound a little harsh? My opinion is that teachers and homeschoolers who rely on worksheets are choosing not to find ways to really challenge and interest their kids. It’s the easy way out. Worksheets might not allow higher level thinking. Most worksheets have just one right answer, or one way to complete them. If we consistently keep our kids inside a box, they won’t be able to stretch. Teachers who use worksheets may not be teaching what their students are ready to learn. It really, really makes me cringe when a teacher or homeschooling parent has an entire year’s worth of worksheets printed and ready to go before the school year starts. (And yes, I’m including pre-printed workbooks here.) How do you know that’s what your child will need to learn? Maybe your first grader struggles with addition in August. But she could have a firm grasp on it by December. Are you still going to give her all those pre-printed worksheets or have her complete every page in that workbook? Challenge her with something new.
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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.
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