Wassup With the Worksheets?!
It is time for the 2nd annual No Worksheet Week! This movement started as a blog post, and quickly went global, thanks to the help of Rae Fearing in California. To read more about the development of the No Worksheet Week Teacher Challenge you can read here, here or here. Rae and I are collaborating on this post so we can help teachers interested in taking the challenge learn how to to go worksheet free and discover the benefits for their students as well as providing support and new ideas for past participants.
What is a Worksheet?
Going worksheet free is about much more than not using paper. A worksheet-free week is not necessarily paper-free. Remember that both technology and paper are tools for learning. What we are working toward is real learning, and worksheets do not promote real learning. Think about the last time you learned something. Did you have to answer a bunch of true/false questions, or did you have to DO it – demonstrate mastery – in order to prove your learning? In order to move away from the dreaded worksheet, we first need a common definition:
- Worksheets are mass-printed, either by the teacher at the copier, or by a publisher in a workbook.
- Worksheets are given to every student in the classroom.
- Worksheets contain questions with black & white, right or wrong answers. For example, they may be fill-in-the-blank, true/false, multiple choice, or math computational problems.
Why Do We Need No Worksheet Week?
Worksheets do not support deep thinking or reflection. If the answer to a problem is only found in the textbook and must be copied or paraphrased on a worksheet, it only demonstrates the student’s ability to copy down information. A completed worksheet, or getting an answer right on a worksheet, does not demonstrate understanding of the material. When I was in the classroom I used to ask my students three open ended questions about a topic; if they could answer those questions verbally and discuss the topic with me then I knew they were ready for assessment. Try asking a student to explain and discuss material after completing a worksheet, and you will be surprised by the lack of understanding they have obtained. According to Best Practice (Zemelman, Daniels & Hyde, 2012) meaningful and useful assessment “involves students in developing meaningful responses, and calls on them to keep track of and judge their own work.” To achieve this, we need to change the way classrooms work and we also need to involve students in activities and collaborative projects that foster discussion and deeper thinking.
There are many ways to guide students to deeper learning as you ditch those worksheets. Take a look at Matt’s Autopsy of a Worksheet post or Rae’s Thinglink image that takes on a 4th grade worksheet about sentence rules. You can see more examples of #NoWorksheetWeek ideas or share your own on our collaborative Padlet wall.
The Two Big Ideas of #NoWorksheetWeek
- Increase the 4C’s – Creativity, Critical thinking, Collaboration and Communication in the classroom.
- Bring relevance to learning through real world applications of learning and authentic assessment.
What Does a Worksheet-Free Classroom Look Like?
|Do more of this||Do less of this|
|communicate thinking||busy work (work that’s required but which doesn’t advance learning)|
|sharing ideas||learning about other people’s ideas|
|discover answers||trying to put down the ‘right’ answer instead of the best one.|
|communicating understanding||showing the teacher you can provide the answer they like/are expecting|
|creating authentic learning products||using technology as a substitute for a worksheet|
|engaging students in meaningful, academic conversations||asking students for the ‘right’ answer|
Please participate in the No Worksheet Week Teacher Challenge and share your experiences using the hashtag #NoWorksheetWeek. We will be sharing some of your best ideas on our blogs, so get creative!
You can also join our Google+ Community