Published at Thursday, April 18th 2019. by Gala Couturier in Worksheet.
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. 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.
This understanding comes from the interaction between the words that are written and how they trigger knowledge outside the text. Humans are thought to have a set reserve, an established threshold for attention and absorption of information, commonly referred to as processing capacity. This being the case, it is generally believed that proficient reading depends on the ability to recognize words quickly and effortlessly. If word recognition is difficult, students use too much of their processing capacity to read individual words, which interferes with their ability to comprehend what is read. Many educators in the United States believe that students need to learn to analyze text (comprehend it) even before they can read it on their own, and comprehension instruction generally begins in pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten. But other US educators consider this reading approach to be completely backward for very young children, arguing that the children must learn how to decode the words in a story through phonics before they can analyze the story itself. The reason why reading comprehension is such an effective learning tool is that, like art, it teaches students to manipulate particulars in attempt to represent the universal.
When a student reads a text, he or she is forced to absorb a great deal of particular facts concerning an infinitude of seemingly random subjects (volcanoes, molecules, skateboarding, etc.) and assimilate them into the bigger picture, establishing just how they fit in, or relate, to the broader world. Mathematics, the diametrical opposite of art, challenges students in an inverse way; it teaches them to manipulate universals in order to represent the particular. No matter what the number ”3” may come to stand for – volcanoes or molecules or skateboards – the student will be able to manipulate these things given his or her understanding of math. Based on this understanding, one might actually say that reading comprehension shares a unique association with art and math, each providing a way of understanding the world from a fundamental, yet polar, perspective.
Conclusion, There are two fundamental problems with worksheets. First, young children do not learn from them what teachers and parents believe they do (Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 1993). Second, children’s time should be spent in more beneficial endeavors (Willis, 1995). The use of abstract numerals and letters, rather than concrete materials, puts too many young children at risk of school failure. This has implications for years to come. Worksheets and workbooks should be used in schools only when children are older and developmentally ready to profit from them (Bredekamp, S. & Rosegrant, T., 1992). Our challenge is to convince parents and others that in a play-based, developmentally appropriate curriculum children are learning important knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will help them be successful in school and later life.
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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