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.
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!
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!
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!
- 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!