I tried to come up with a more polite title for this blog post, really I did. It’s coming out of my own frustration when worksheets come home in my own child’s backpack. I’m not trying to shock or offend the publishers of those beloved blacklines or the teachers who use them. But… I am ready to throw this baby out with the bathwater and I’m not afraid to tell it on a mountain (how’s that for mixing metaphors). So… why do I hate them? I’ve got a little list, I’ve got a little list… and they’ll none of them be missed, they’ll none of them be missed! (It’s from the Mikado, enjoy! I’ve got a little list – The Mikado)
Reason #1: This painting by D
D made this painting one day. She is always thoughtful when she makes art so I like to ask her about what she makes.
Mme: D, tell me about your painting.
D: Well, that’s an X and that’s an L and that’s a banana.
Mme: What about that? What’s that?
D: That’s a pattern Madame (said with an “isn’t it obvious” tone)
D is practicing letter shapes, she’s working with colour (she knows many of the colour names in French), she has background and foreground, she understands simple patterns. Why does she need to be bored by a worksheet? What would it add to her learning? Would her “L”s be better if she practiced them over and over on a line or would that just crush her desire to write?
This week we carved the pumpkins that the children brought into class. We scooped out the goop, separated the seeds, rinsed them, I took them home during lunch, roasted them, brought them back, and we ate them. If this isn’t fine motor skill practice, then I don’t know what that is. I also think it’s richer and way, way, way more fun than any worksheet could ever be. We chatted while we worked so we also developed our oral language skills!
I didn’t teach this child how to make an A/B pattern. I talked to her about her pattern and she has access to the materials she needs to make patterns: materials that vary in colour, shape, texture, and size. The patterns happen. I think having them happen spontaneously and playfully make it stickier, make it more transferable, and make it better learning than filling out squares or colouring in pictures of elephants and hippos ever could be.
There… it’s just a little list, right? I could go on. I truly believe that none of them would be missed, per Gilbert and Sullivan. I think there’s often a fear that we wouldn’t know what to do in classrooms if we didn’t have worksheets to assign. We need to trust the children. They will discover, they will grow, they will talk, and they will learn.
I read a great article today about student and school successes in Finland which made me want to jump up and down with delight (I’m prone to that sort of thing). I highly recommend it. Why Are Finnish Kids So Smart