Published at Saturday, 04 May 2019. Worksheet. By Lacey Guillet.
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 homeschooling will strive to limit their use of worksheets in favor of activities which promote higher-level thinking and hands- on experiences.
Most preschool and kindergarten children are in what Piaget described as the preoperational stage of cognitive development. Letters and numerals typically mean little to the three- to six-year-olds in this stage. These children use concrete rather than abstract symbols to represent objects and ideas (Bodrova & Leong, 1996). Through pretending, children develop the ability mentally to represent the world (Bredekamp, 1987; Stone, 1995). Reading requires a child to look at symbols or representations (i.e., letters and words) and extract meaning from them. A play-based curriculum offers children opportunities throughout the day to develop the ability to think abstractly by experiencing real objects using their senses (Bredekamp, 1987; Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 1993). Blocks can represent an airplane or a train. High heels can transform a preschooler into a mother or princess. Blocks and high heels are three dimensional, tangible objects. Sufficient practice using concrete objects as symbols is a necessary prerequisite to the use and comprehension of print (Stone, 1995).
I go into a lot of detail about meaningful experiences in this post. Basically, a child needs to have a reason for learning the concept. Completing a worksheet is not a good enough reason for a child. Providing activities that connect to real life gives children a reason to learn it. If you present a worksheet to a child and say “Read this so you can answer these questions.” Are they going to be motivated? Most likely not! But if a child is trying to learn how to build a sturdy fort, but must read the directions to learn how to do so, then that gives them a reason to learn. I see parents all the time in different Facebook groups mention something like this… I’m at a lost. My 2 year old is frustrating me with learning her letters. I have tried everything, we do a worksheet a day, but I feel like I’m beating a dead horse.
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