Published at Monday, 15 April 2019. Worksheet. By Elaina Garcia.
Ah, worksheets. I hesitate to even write this post because I don’t want to open a giant can of worms. The truth is that “worksheets” is one of those words that stirs up a lot of emotion among educators. Actually, I get pretty worked up about worksheets. I’m not going to claim that today’s post is indisputable fact. It’s my opinion — and while you may or may not agree, I want my readers to know where I stand. Are worksheets good or bad? First of all, what do I mean by “worksheet”? My definition of worksheet: A printed page that a child completes with a writing instrument. No other materials are needed, multiple choice questions, matching exercises, handwriting practice, coloring pages, math problems, fill-in-the-blank book reports, word searches and crossword puzzles, copy work.
Teachers who require young children to perform passive tasks like worksheets may be heard exhorting them, ”Do your own work. Eyes on your own paper.” There are few situations in the adult world in which we cannot ask a friend or colleague for help with a task, or for their ideas about a problem. In fact, leaders in business and industry say they need employees who can work in teams to solve problems. Yet we ask children to do what are often impossible tasks, and insist that they suffer through them alone.
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.
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