Oct 11

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Top 5 ‘Hacks’ for making worksheets actually work

Let’s face it. Worksheets and deep learning experiences aren’t exactly synonymous.  One of the major critiques of worksheets is they become busy work: rote, meaningless, disconnected, and lacking creativity. When overused, they serve more as babysitters than learning tools and suck the life out of a classroom.  Now, before you grab your worksheet stack and march them all straight to the recycle bin, I want to share with you some ideas I’ve used to un-worksheet my worksheets. Worksheets can work, it just takes a little reworking!



1.  Thinking of using a matching worksheet?
Try a memory card game instead.  You can cut the worksheet apart, or transfer the worksheet content onto notecards for a hands-on upgrade.  Instead of drawing a line from column A to column B, students manipulate the matches by hand which contributes to greater retention.



2.  Sorting words?
Again, cut them up for physically hand-sorting at a pocket-chart or table-top sorting center.  Ever seen a worksheet with instructions like “label each sentence ‘statement’ or ‘question?'”  Instead, label half of a pocket chart “question” and the other half “statement.”  Students then sort the sentence cards into the correct categories.

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3.  What about centers?
Centers are enhanced by using recording sheets, not worksheets.  There is a difference!  Where worksheets replace authentic learning, recording sheets support it.  Students travel from center to center doing hands-on activities and documenting their work on a recording sheet.  When paired with engaging centers, recording sheets are a way for students to solidify what they learned and come away with documentation.  It is all about the pairing!20140408_141821


4.  Math problem practice?
Knowing the basic facts is important in math, but worksheets are not the only answer!  Solving problem after problem to practice the basics can get a little…well… boring.  So instead of letting your math class grow stale and monotonous, cut the math worksheet apart and let students draw the problems from a hat and solve on mini whiteboards.  I have found that students inexplicably and nearly universally prefer working on their whiteboards over paper and pencil.  A small change like bringing out the whiteboards keeps things fresh!



5.  Handwriting?
Get warmed up for the worksheet by practicing in a multisensory medium first.  Some popular options for cursive practice in my classroom include:  sand tray, chalk board, “glow slate,” Magnatab, BoogieBoard, and even simply writing in the air.  For littles, some other ideas could be: gel bags, shaving cream, even pudding!

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Key Takeaways: 

  • Worksheets are not evil.  Just remember… all things in moderation!
  • When using a worksheet, ask yourself, “could I re-work this into a hands-on alternative?”
  • Small, easy changes like cutting a worksheet apart into cards can make a world of difference for student learning.  It doesn’t have to be cute– it has to be engaging!
  • Recording sheets > Worksheets
  • As a rule of thumb, worksheets are for follow-up, not for new learning.

Now go out there and re-work those worksheets!

Permanent link to this article: http://cloverleafschool.org/making-worksheets-work/

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