Published at Saturday, 04 May 2019. Worksheet. By Nathaly Marchal.
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.
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.
As a parent and educator, when I walk into an environment with early learners, whether that be in a home school setting or preschool setting, I want to see those kids engaged in their learning. Young children should be manipulating materials, testing hypothesis, and exploring the world around them. No matter where I look, I should not see a child doing a workbook. Worksheets are not appropriate for young children for many reasons. Let me start off by explaining what a worksheet means to me. A worksheet is paper and pencil. There are no other materials used in conjunction with the worksheet. These include handwriting practice sheets and coloring pages. Sometimes parents like to pull out manipulative for math worksheets to help the child “build” the answer. I still count these as worksheets. You really only need the manipulative anyway, and the child will get far more out of the lesson if he writes his own equations rather than writing an answer down on a worksheet. A worksheet is not a printable that is used to enhance a hands on activity. Do you see the difference here?
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