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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Worksheets Have a Place in Education

Recently, there was a discussion on Twitter about the "homework packet." Many were dismissing its value.

I chimed in and said that sometimes the homework packet is a valuable tool because it provides practice opportunities for students.

As I teach, I notice the value of practice. Those that practice do better.

For example, I just looked at a host of reading scores, and those that read regularly scored better with regard to fluency.  Similarly, those students who complete math practice regularly score better on assessments that demonstrate fluency and skill with math thinking, calculation, and problem solving.

Worksheets are one viable avenue for practice if designed and assigned well.

Typically when I create a worksheet for student practice t it's a mind path on the page. The worksheet is designed with the following:
  • An introduction to the topic.
  • A review of important vocabulary.
  • An example.
  • A "walk-through" practice that is stretched out to give students a step-by-step way to access and learn the skill.
  • Follow-up practice opportunities.
Assignments typically include the following:
  • An opportunity to complete the page or pages within a few days time.
  • An opportunity to have the page modified or a different assignment upon parent request, specialist modification, or student need/request. 
  • The chance to email the teacher with questions seeking help, or to ask the teacher for help during the school day and if possible the teacher will provide that help or ask a helping teacher to provide the help.
Overall, I prefer online practice to worksheets as there is a quick feedback loop for online practice that responds to the child right away, but there is also merit in having to write down words and numbers and solve problems by hand as the hand-mind connection can support learning.  

In education, there's no one way to teach or learn. The key is to be aware of your learners and goals, and design learning opportunities with and for your students that make a difference.

At times, the worksheet or packet is part of that learning opportunity, and remains a learning path that works when done well. 

Do you agree? If so, why, and if not, why not?