Saturday, December 15, 2012

Move Beyond Worksheets and Workbooks

Many adults' school experiences consisted of lots of  worksheets and workbooks!  Blah!  Oh, what fun those were, relentlessly filling in the blanks, rewriting the sentences, writing down the answer to the problems, drawing lines to match words with definitions...the list of monotonous activities could go on and on!

Most engagement that came from the worksheets I remember doing, may have involved solving a puzzle when you get all the answers correct or getting to color in pictures with specific colors based on my answers.  Kind of makes me cringe thinking of that as engagement.

As educators, we need to give students access to the curriculum in ways that make them want to take part in the learning process.  By increasing that engagement piece, the students will be more involved in what they are learning, which in turn will likely increase their understanding of the skill.

So, what to do if we don't use worksheets and workbook pages?  Here are just a few ideas!
Games!  You can often accomplish the same outcome you do with a worksheet through the use of a game. 
  • Instead of having students fill in a bunch of antonyms on a worksheet, have them play a memory game, where they have to find antonym matches and then record them on a recording sheet or in a journal
  • Have students play the Product Game, where they have to use logical reasoning to choose factors in order to get four products in a row or to block their opponent from getting four products in a row, instead of filling out a page full of multiplication problems
  • Do a vocabulary match game with word cards and definition cards in social studies or science instead of having students sit and write definitions of words or doing a match worksheet
  • Have students play Fact and Opinion Kaboom, where they have to identify statements as fact or opinion (unless they pull a Kaboom! strip, which means they have to put  all their statements back into the container
Scavenger Hunts!  A scavenger hunt can be incorporated into most subjects!
  • Put informational texts in students' hands, such as newspapers, magazine articles, books, or websites and have them look for:  antonyms, synonyms, homonyms; cause and effect relationships; facts and opinions; possessive nouns; figurative language; etc.  This allows students to see how their learning fits into the world around them
  • Have students look for geometrical concepts in their environment:  types of angles, 2-D shapes, 3-D shapes, types of lines, etc.
  • Students can find examples of arrays around them when working with multiplication
Projects!  Especially when you want your students to demonstrate their understanding of a skill, have them use their creativity to create some type of project!
  • Replace a worksheet about the types of nouns by having them create their own informational text that describes and gives examples of common, proper, possessive, and plural nouns.  They can also show their understanding of the components of an informational text by including a table of contents, chapters/section headings, a glossary, and an index
  • Allow students to create a project of their choice (brochure, poster, Power Point, book, song/rap, diorama, model, mobile, etc.) to demonstrate their understanding of a concept in any curricular area
  • Create a Geometry Town that must contain specific geometrical concepts
  • Have students measure different body dimensions (arms, legs, shoulder to shoulder, shoulder to hips, head, neck, etc.) and then shrink their dimensions by a certain amount (fractions can be differentiated:  1/2, 1/4, 1/3, 1/8).  The students record the shrunken measurements (helps students apply understanding of skills such as measuring linear units, finding fractional parts of a number, fraction equivalences, and multiplying fractions).  They then use those measurements to create a shrunken version of themselves on tag board.  We even connect this activity to writing by having them write a story about their experiences as their shrunken selves
  • Students can build actual square or cubic units (inches, feet, yards, etc.), determine what they can find the area or volume of using those tools, and then use the tools to find the area or volume of those objects
Hands-On Activities!  There are also plenty of simpler activities to replace those monotonous worksheets that may not be considered projects because they are not the multiple-step, lengthier activities.
Honestly, the list of alternatives to worksheets and workbooks could go on and on and on and on!  I encourage everyone to think about what skill they want their students to practice or apply, and then think of how they can make that practice or application more engaging!  It may take some time at first, but once you create the activity/project/game/scavenger hunt/etc, you have it to use each year!  :-)   

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