They're easy. They're painless. They require little lesson planning. They give you as a teacher time to yourself. What is this they, I'm referring to, you ask? They are worksheets, and they do not work in the classroom today.
Yes indeed, you read correctly the ever so beloved teacher's companion is not effective in today's classroom. Now before you slam down your coffee on your worksheet covered desk, and come after me with your white board pointer finger pitchforks of fury, hear me out.
Do not get me wrong; I do not think that worksheets are the root of all evil in education nor do I think that we as teachers should avoid worksheets like the plague or like the cheese on the playground in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. In fact I think that in some cases, worksheets are invaluable to certain educational concepts. For example, I cannot imagine teaching a group of first graders Saxon Phonics without some worksheets to guide them. That's basically like asking a hill of ants to build the framework for the Batman Building. I also understand that without repetitive practice, asking students to fully grasp a mathematical concept is like expecting to win the Super Bowl without showing up to the first practice.
I'm not saying that worksheets do not belong in the classroom, but what I am saying is that education is changing. It always has been changing and always will be changing. Think with me for a moment about the dreaded state standardized monster of a test that you groom your students for all year. Think back to that never ending list of state standards. Are your palms sweating and your blood pressure rising, right about now? Yep, mine too.
Here's the thing, as educators more is required out of us than ever before. We have more students, more restrictions, more responsibilities, and more stress than ever before. There's so much change in education that it's hard to keep track, and we have to change too, or we'll get left behind. So that means that the things that have always worked may not and probably will not work anymore. And that's where worksheets come in to play.
Worksheets can be fantabulous,and at one point, they alone were probably sufficient. But if you look at the standards, it is not enough for our students to understand the concepts that we teach at surface level; the new standards say that we have to strap our scuba diving mask on, hold our breaths, jump into the unknown, and get in depth.
Worksheets, for the most part, cover our surface level understanding. And that is great; don't get me wrong! But it just doesn't cut it anymore. Students need to fully grasp the concept; they have to explore it on their own and create their own meanings for whatever it is that they're learning. When that state test comes around, they will not remember the answer to #17 on the worksheet; I promise you that, but they will remember the moment it clicked for them, and it all made sense.
Worksheets can be helpful, but we can't rely on them to teach our students. That's our job. Worksheets can aide us, but they can't complete the process for us. It is our job to rise to the occasion, take on the challenge, and make our content part of a larger learning process. Worksheets are not effective as the main form of instruction in today's classroom. They just don't cut it anymore.
Worksheets don't work in today's classroom because we have to. So strap on your scuba masks and let's dive deeper!