By Geneva Pereira. Worksheet. Published at Wednesday, May 01st, 2019 - 00:42:06 AM.
Why I occasionally* pull out a worksheet: By occasionally, I mean less than once a month with my preschoolers at home. In the classroom, when I taught first grade and above, we used a couple of worksheets each day — but if I didn’t need sleep, I would have replaced even those with more thoughtful activities. Sometimes, a worksheet is all that will do. When my kids have created letters in a variety of hands-on ways, it’s time to practice writing them. You need a handwriting worksheet for that. When kids have explored math concepts in hands-on ways, a worksheet may be helpful for additional practice. In my opinion, an occasional worksheet doesn’t hurt. Many educators would disagree with me on this one, and I respect their opinion. But I think that when worksheets are the exception, rather than the rule, of what we give our kids (even preschoolers), it’s okay. I do think that we should never force young children to do worksheets. If your preschooler is not interested in (or even resists) a worksheet, Put. It. Away. You may also find that your preschooler is excited about a worksheet but wants to stop after a few problems. Let him! I don’t think it’s a bad thing to teach kids to sit for a few minutes and complete a simple pencil-and-paper assignment. And for young kids, I mean it when I say “a few minutes.” Thirty minutes is not a few.
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.
What is a Worksheet?
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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