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Published at Friday, April 26th, 2019 - 10:42:54 AM. Worksheet. By Laverne Dufour.

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.

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.

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