Published at Saturday, 04 May 2019. Worksheet. By Helaine Perret.
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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. In many preschools, child care centers, and kindergartens, young children spend their time on worksheet paper and pencil tasks. Teachers who use worksheets believe they are demonstrating children’s learning progress to parents. Unfortunately for Jamaica and the other children in her class, worksheet activities are not developmentally appropriate and can cause many problems.
Children are born with a need to move (Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 1993). They wiggle, toddle, run, and climb as naturally as they breathe. When we insist that children sit still and do what for them may be a meaningless task, such as completing a workbook page, we force children into a situation incompatible with their developmental needs and abilities. When children cannot or will not do such a task, we may label them ”immature” or ”hyperactive.” We may complain about their short attention span, or as in Jamaica’s case, criticize her efforts. On the other hand, if we allow children to choose their own task from among appropriate offerings, we may see children as young as three and four years old spend 30 to 45 minutes completely engrossed in building with unit blocks, painting at the easel, or listening to stories. When we plan developmentally appropriate activities for children, they will attend to them, work hard, and learn (Bredekamp & Rosegrant, 1992).
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