Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Maybe We Should Ban Worksheets

I've been thinking a lot about homework and the way we have students work in school. I've been thinking about worksheets in particular lately. It's not that I've never assigned a worksheet; I have.

But I'm wondering whether it's time to reconsider what worksheets are for, and why teachers use them instead of other learning strategies?


I took the time to participate in #satchatwc (Saturday Education Chat, West Coast Edition) on Twitter this past Saturday morning. Great chat--wide ranging group who attends, but a little overwhelming because of the sheer number of participants.

This week our topic was student engagement, feedback, and data-informed instruction. (That's a lot for a one hour chat!) This chat uses a question and answer format, so the moderators tweet questions (Q1, Q2, etc.) and we share our answers in response (A1, A2,...)  Our responses to the questions often spark side conversations in which we interact more with the ideas our fellow-chatters share.

About 45 minutes in to the chat, the 6th question was raised: "How can we make learning 'visible' to parents?"

Love that question! There are many ways to share stories from school at home.

As we discussed this question, some folks began talking about sending work home. And since I've been thinking about homework a lot lately, and worksheets in particular, I tweeted this:

Lots of retweets and favorites for that statement. Looks like I'm not alone in this assessment of worksheets.


Why do teachers assign worksheets to their students?

I'm wrestling with this right now. I understand the pressures on teachers to "cover" content. I understand that teachers have a finite amount of time, and that they should have an appropriate work-life balance. (This has been a real struggle for me in the past, to be honest...I'm a bit of a workaholic.) I understand the fear of not feeling 100% confident in your content knowledge, and a desire for some structure as a level of comfort. I understand the desire to demonstrate the learning we are doing, to document it in some way, to justify what we are doing in class.

Worksheets can help address all of these issues in some ways. I get it.

Despite all this, I stand by what I said in the tweet. Worksheets are not awesome. Effective? Maybe. But definitely not awesome.

A week's worth of papers coming home from a 4th grader.
Is this evidence of learning? Or evidence of putting in time?
Image by Wesley Fryer [CC BY-SA 2.0]


No teacher is going to be awesome all the time. We are human. The students we teach are human.

We will have awesome days of teaching.
We will have average days of teaching.
We will have awful days of teaching.

I hope that the awesome days are more often than the awful days.

But here's the twist:

Put yourself in your students' shoes.

Would you want to be a student in your own class?

Maybe we should ban worksheets.

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