Should you use worksheets in your classroom?



I'm going to break ranks here. I'm going to stand my ground and say proudly that I love a good worksheet! Let me correct that, I love a GREAT worksheet.

Alright, before you crucify me, let me explain my logic.

I'm writing this blog post in response to numerous teacher conversations I've overheard that go along the lines of:

"death to worksheets!"

and

"ugh...then she pulled out a worksheet..."

and

"goodness she uses so many worksheets in her class, what's wrong with her!"

Now I'm not saying all worksheets are bad, nor am I saying all worksheets are good. However, let's take a moment to explore the good, the bad and the ugly of worksheets.

THE GOOD

A good worksheet is one that challenges students and the best worksheets are the ones that move students from lower to higher order thinking. Let me refer back to my tried and tested old friend Bloom's Taxonomy to demonstrate.



A well set out and informative worksheet is one that allows students to move towards understanding, applying and analysing (don't contact me, I'm Australian, this is how we spell it). The best kind of worksheets really push students to evaluate and give them the opportunity to create.

Good worksheets work for teachers as well. They provide teachers with inspiration and direction on how to teach a new subject and give experienced teachers a refreshing outlook on how to structure content to learners' needs. They also provide valuable feedback to teachers and parents as a moderation tool.

A great worksheet guides your students through your lesson and suggest ways of teaching the content in an age appropriate way. A set of great worksheets allows for differentiation, particularly with younger students, giving them options to cut and paste, draw or write a response to demonstrate what they know.

I've often scoured the internet for activities and sheets on particular topics and have stumbled upon a fantastic idea embedded within a worksheet! High quality worksheets are like gold dust and worth hanging on to for years. Visit any experienced teacher's office and you will find a handful of precious "I only have one copy!" worksheets they return to year after year because they are so effective in assisting students to break down a subject. 

THE BAD

Alright, we're here. Yes you're right. There are A LOT of bad worksheets floating around the internet (and in some older textsbooks in some cases!). 

The rules for bad worksheets are the reverse of good worksheets. 

Worksheets should be fairly self-explanatory. Obviously, young students will need guidance to complete a worksheet. However, a good worksheet acts like a graphic organise to extract thoughts, put them in order and create something new (Blooms higher order thinking). Bad worksheets make little or no sense to students when used independently. 



Worksheets should be used as a learning tool NOT a teaching tool. The moment a student is given a text book (often the same as a printed worksheet) or bunch of worksheets to complete independently, they will zone out and they have lost their purpose as a tool for building conceptual understanding. Some students will love independent quiet time with a worksheet, however, the goal should be to build on concepts already taught, not to teach them.


THE UGLY

Well I'm not one to judge but... 

My personal pet peeves for ugly worksheets are:
  • fancy borders: they often get chopped off in photocopying and take up too much room, they just aren't necessary
  • fancy lettering: those cute fonts often don't work for young students, keep them clean and clear for copying purposes
  • colour elements: anything colour is a bit of a no no for me as we don't have colour printers in our rooms
  • photographs: this comes back to only having a poor quality black and white printer available in my classroom and photographs don't print well
These are just my thoughts. I'd love to know what you think? Do you ever use worksheets? When do you use them and for what purposes? What do you consider an 'ugly' worksheet? Leave your comments below.


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