Published at Saturday, 04 May 2019. Worksheet. By Damien Cohen.
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.
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.
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