2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.  Looks like #NoWorksheetWeek was the most popular post.  Stay tuned and join us for NWW 2015!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 35 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

(Wûrk’ shēt)

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


  1. Increase the 4C’s – Creativity, Critical thinking, Collaboration and Communication in the classroom.
  2. 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

Bold vs. Rogue

courtesy of m4rtin's on Flickr

I received an email today that I wish I hadn’t.

It made me think.  Obsessively.  Nonstop.

Bob Dillon (@ideaguy42), one of the organizers of the upcoming #edcampstl, an unconference on all things educational in February, posed a very interesting question:

This week, we are thinking about being BOLD and being ROGUE. What would a bold school look like? What would happen if your school went ROGUE?

THAT reminded me of a post by Will Richardson (@willrichardson) on his blog where he asked:

What qualities do “Bold Schools” share?

He posited that there are nine different characteristics: learning centered, questioning, authentic, digital, connected, literate, transparent, innovative, and provocative.

But then I got to thinking, “What would happen if we took BOLD a step further into ROGUE?”  The term ‘bold’ implies something that remains in the realm of possibilities, that there are probably even schools with these (maybe not all, but at least one) characteristics already in place.  ‘Rogue’, however, to me implies a truly out-of-the-box mindset – a situation where 99.9% of teachers, parents, and administrators would yell, “Foul!” before the idea even obtained fledgling status.

For example, a boldly collaborative school would engage the parents, the learner, the community-at-large, and a network of national or even global partners in an open environment where authentic learning takes place using real-time data.  A roguishly collaborative school would have ad-hoc learning groups, meeting anywhere anytime they wanted/could, since the learning group would be comprised of people from all over the world – not necessarily the same age, since learning would be by interest and ability.

Using the characteristics outlined in Will Richardson’s blogpost, here’s a quick rubric-style table of how I think BOLD schools would differ from ROGUE schools:

AUTHENTIC Lessons use real-time data in real-life situations.  Writing is in response to current events or current needs. Physically going outside the school to collect data, students would be involved in publishing their own science journals, literary critiques
DIGITAL Everyone has a computer; most work is done digitally.  Still internet filters and limits on some social media Everyone has a computer supplied by school and whatever else they bring in.  Free access to everything, 100% paperless
CONNECTED learners are connected with the outer world with emphasis on US connections. Learners connected with global emphasis.  No set time frames to learning because of globalization
TRANSPARENT Every student has regular correspondence with their own Learning Network. School very open to community. Every student product is available for anyone to see.  Assessment is by a committee of peers and adults.
INNOVATIVE Risk-taking is encouraged As long as no one gets killed in the process, go for it.
PROVOCATIVE leaders advocate for change in local, state, and national venues. students, teachers, and leaders advocate for global change and equality. Projects are results-oriented.
LEARNING CENTERED students and teachers promote emphasis on becoming a learner over becoming learned. Everything is questioned, and a main thread of instruction is how to constructively question and search for new meaning.
COLLABORATIVE Cross-curricular assignments/projects between students, teachers, schools No set subject-area classrooms.  Meeting spaces for ad-hoc groups depending on learning decisions/goals.
REFLECTIVE Students and teachers in regular personal reflection. Students and teachers in regular, published personal reflection with the addition of comments by others.
INCLUSIVE Everyone in the community is included in the learning process. Community members and parents are continually coming in and out of the school as instructors and assessors.

What do YOU think a ROGUE school would look like?