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