Published at Saturday, 04 May 2019. Worksheet. By Lacey Guillet.
Teachers who require young children to perform passive tasks like worksheets may be heard exhorting them, ”Do your own work. Eyes on your own paper.” There are few situations in the adult world in which we cannot ask a friend or colleague for help with a task, or for their ideas about a problem. In fact, leaders in business and industry say they need employees who can work in teams to solve problems. Yet we ask children to do what are often impossible tasks, and insist that they suffer through them alone.
In any group of young children asked to do a paper-pencil task, some will succeed and some will be less successful. The successful children may truly comprehend the task or may simply have guessed correctly. The less successful ones often learn to think of themselves as failures, and ultimately may give up on school and on themselves (Katz & Chard, 1989). These children may react to the stress created by fear of giving the wrong answers by acting out their frustrations and becoming behavior problems, or by withdrawing and becoming reclusive (Charlesworth, 1996). Parents may report school phobic behaviors such as stomach aches in the morning or refusal to get into the car to go to preschool. These children have learned, at an early age, that school can be an emotionally painful place. 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).
There are many active, and far more interesting, ways for children to begin understanding words and numbers than via worksheets (Mason, 1986). A classroom with a developmentally appropriate curriculum is a print-rich environment. The walls are covered with signs naming objects, stories children have dictated, lists of words they have generated, pictures they have painted and labeled, and charts of classroom jobs (such as feeding the pet and passing out napkins for snack). At the small motor activities table there may be sandpaper letters to feel and puzzles to complete. Creative activities may include squirting shaving cream onto the table and having children make designs and write their names. And always there are many books to explore, examine, wonder about, listen to, and love as they are read aloud. In these ways, children learn that reading and writing are useful skills, not simply tedious activities adults invent to make school boring. It takes a lot of experience with words and print for children to understand why it is good to be able to read.
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