Published at Saturday, 04 May 2019. Worksheet. By Lauren Lemoine.
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).
Mathematical understanding is more than recognition of numerals and amounts. Sorting, categorizing, putting items in a series, and problem solving are all important math concepts (Raines & Canady, 1990). The teacher may believe that Jamaica understands the concept of ”four” if she circles four flowers on the worksheet. But until Jamaica can transfer that learning to other situations, such as the number of places at the table for four people, Jamaica does not truly understand what ”four” means. Similarly, Jamaica may be able to print the letters ”R,” ”U,” and ”N” on a worksheet, but be unable to read the word ”run” when she sees it in a book. The mere accomplishment of the worksheet task does not signify the child’s ability to read or comprehend.
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.
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