Published at Thursday, April 18th 2019. by Ninette Dupont in Worksheet.
Before a child can hold a pencil and make an accurate mark on paper, he must have a great deal of small motor control. He needs practice with various materials and objects that require grasping, holding, pinching, and squeezing. He must have ample opportunity to make his own marks with objects such as paint brushes, chalk, fat crayons, and felt-tip markers. Only later, when he has achieved the necessary finger and hand control, should he be asked to write words or numerals with a pencil. The timing of this accomplishment will vary among children. Some four-year-olds and most five-year-olds are ready to write a few things, notably their own names. But, we must remember that each child develops on his or her own schedule, and some six-year-olds may be just starting this task. If they are encouraged, rather than criticized, they will continue to learn and grow and feel confident.
Problem solving involves an element of risk. If we want children to learn to solve problems we must create safe environments in which they feel confident taking risks, making mistakes, learning from them, and trying again (Fordham & Anderson, 1992). In a play-based curriculum, each day provides opportunities to learn about reading, writing, and math through real, meaningful situations. For instance, children set the table for snack so each child has one napkin, one straw, and one box of milk. Children string beads to match the pattern on a card or wait their turn because there is room for only four children at the art table. Through these meaningful experiences children begin to understand number, quantity, size, and other mathematical concepts.
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.
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.
Well that should be a clue right there! If you are frustrated and your child is frustrated when worksheets are being used, then it’s not an effective learning tool. I know what you’re thinking! But what if my child loves doing worksheets?. I’m not going to tell you that a young child isn’t going to love worksheets because I was the type of child that loved worksheets. I would sit for an hour and complete a whole workbook. My mom couldn’t buy enough workbooks to keep me satisfied, so I know that some kids do love them. I’m not saying you should never use a worksheet, especially with those kids who LOVE them. Really you should only be using them with the kids that love them. If your child doesn’t love worksheets, you should be finding a new way to learn. Now that doesn’t mean you give them worksheets everyday, all day. Think of it this way, what if your child loved candy as much as they loved doing worksheets and they wanted to eat candy all day long? Would you let them? Most likely not. Just like candy, worksheets should be used in moderation with the ones who love doing them.
Really all worksheets do is test rote memory, a way for children to just spit back information to you. In the end, do we want a child to memorize concepts, or do we want them to understand them and apply them to different situations? I bet it’s the latter. By using a hands on approach to learning, we give kids the opportunity to test the concepts in different situations, so they can understand how this concept can be applied to different areas of their life. Hands on learning gives children the opportunity to use and refine their problem solving, creativity, and critical thinking skills. Again, worksheets are there for spitting out information. Where is the thinking in that?
These are NOT good reasons to use a steady diet of worksheets: “My kids love worksheets.” Actually, I loved worksheets as a kid. My daughter loves them too. But we shouldn’t give our kids something just because they like it. My kids would love to watch TV all day and eat candy for dinner, too. We might also do well to determine why they like worksheets. Is it because they are easy? Because it means they don’t have to think as hard? Because worksheets let them be passive learners? I’m just preparing my students for the next grade – because that teacher uses a ton of worksheets and workbooks. Believe me, this was a real concern of mine as a classroom teacher. How would my students be ready for the stacks of workbooks in the next grade if we didn’t do some in my room? Then I read somewhere — “It’s not your job to prepare your students for bad teaching.” That was a great comfort!.
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