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Things We Don't Call Worksheets


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I've been thinking a lot recently about the value of worksheets. When I started teaching, the market was absolutely flooded with photocopiable material, and we couldn't buy the stuff fast enough! Problems began to arise in school because all the teachers were staying late (ie later than their usual late!) in order to photocopy stacks of worksheets for the next week. The Head started to restrict the copier's use, and only gave out one ream of paper per term. Then, we all found other ways to teach the children, and there has been a huge shift in the reverse direction. I'm now at the point where I'm almost scared to use any at all, and Steve and I have now started to call them "things we don't call worksheets!", hence the title of this thread. When I was part of the LEA advisory team, we used to say to course participants "If you can think of an alternative way to teach x, and not use a worksheet, then do it."

The reason for posting this is to find out what other practitioners do; do you have worksheets (eg colouring, dot-to-dot, handwriting-type patterns etc) freely available at the graphics area? This way, children who want to complete them, can, and those who don't, are not persuaded against their will. Or, do you have a blanket "No worksheets here!" policy? Or, is there something inbetween?

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We made a decision over a year ago not to use worksheets in our nursery as they were often too closed, the outcome restricted and they didn't prove whether the children had grasped the topic or were just good at drawing lines or copying the other children. Instead we use white boards a lot (they photocopy well) , or make marks in shaving foam or flour. In mark making the children are all encouraged to have a go!! Our youngest children might make scribbley wool patterns for example or wriggley worms where the practitioner is looking at pencil grip or encouraging them to start their writing at the top left .The results have been encouraging .There is more emergent writing going on and children are much more confident in mark making activities.The mark making area has loads of resources ,pens ,pencils,crayons,note books diaries,shopping list paper no worksheets.On the wall there is an alphabet and some key words that the children might want to use . We did think about whether templates were appropriate or not ...the jury's out on that one.

At the same time we abandoned the use of pre- cut shapes for drawing ,painting and making ,as they restricted creativity . Hope our positive experiences are encouraging for anyone else thinking of doing the same.

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xD I've just typed all this and pressed the wrong button.

 

I don't personally like worksheets or use them very much interstingly only for maths??? which makes life harder in some ways, but means that I can differentiate to my heart's content. However, colouring in can be good for fine motor control and children do love it...and many have colouring books at home, ut some would say that they are wrong too.

 

I think that you have got to think carefuly about why they are being used as opposed to anything else. They are a good back up source, but I feel that some people use them as the basis for ther work ratheer than the other way around. The NLSand NNS have a lot to do with this as companies have jumped on the band waggon.

 

I look forward to hearing the discusion on this one.

 

As with all things, moderation is the key and they are very good for cribbing ideas! :o

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We use the 'worksheets' from the Jolly Phonics programme - but use these more as a resource to send home to show parents what the children have been learning in school and an ever so subtle way of educating our parents. in our writing area we have a weekly timetable of activites where the resources are changed daily (or as often as we rember) to give the children a variety over the week, included in this are colouring sheets, pattern sheets etc so linked to number and alphabet work e.g colouring sheets showing pictures of the sound of the week etc. alongside this there is also a selection of pther papers so the children have the choice.

 

Sarah

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Helen, love this one! I even remember the banda machine!!!!! ( and making my own worksheets)

I had to get rid of them in FS1 (nursery class) as they were being overused and were not appropriate. We are very into emergent writing so provide lots of opportunity for mark making. We arn't even using tracing paper. In FS2, we use the odd one for letter formation and reading(good old biff and chip) but on the whole, like to encourage the children to scribe, draw for themselves.

Templates were another thing I had to stop the Practitioners using! It is lovely to see the childrens own paintings - we have a lovely display of old McDonalds farm with some interesting sheep. Piaget would have loved them! :o

Chris

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I remember the Banda machine too! but could never master the technique! thank goodnes for the photocopier.

however, saying that we do very little in the way of photocopying, prefering to use white boards for alot of tasks and playing!! We don't have the budget for paper for photocoying either but its almost impossible not to give photocopied homework. I try to keep that to a minimum too.

 

I do think there can be a place for said colouring sheets though, as many children do enjoy this, and a place for templates, to encourage hand eye cordination.

 

We are trying to encourage the children to colour in using a range of handwriting patterns.

 

Does all that make sense?

 

Susan

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I remember the banda too, and I still have some masters (now how sad is that?)

We dont use worksheets as such, but I do agree with the colouring as an available choice from time to time. I think what matters is being aware of what they are doing. When I was maths coordinator, I was dead against worksheets for maths when it was of the type 'colour 3 fish' or 'colour the squares red' because that isnt maths and the children rarely know what they are doing other than 'colouring'

But I do lots of things that involve cutting things out- like 5 speckled frogs or 2 dicky birds. The children love to do these and if you ask them to draw the pictures themselves, (some of them choose to do that) they often lose the will to live before they finish. As they become more confident they are more likely to 'do one themselves'

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We still have colouring sheets, templates and tracings simply because the children enjoy them. If they were left on the table all morning then we wouldn't bother but, especially when we put colouring sheets out, we get a lot of boys wanting to be involved. So I am not going to stop something that encourages them!!!

We have white boards and pens, chalk boards, little books etc. as most people do. And pencils and paper in the home corner and role play area. We also have pens with fluffy bits and feathers on or put those funny little characters on top of the pencils which makes them more interesting.

I think that whatever the children enjoy should be of importance and if that is colouring etc. then so be it. I have to be honest that I often sit and colour in as I find it quite therapeutic!!

Linda

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Everyone

 

I feel worksheets do have a place when they are used as a follow up activity.This is providing there are other pre-writing activities available e.g. whiteboards. I agree with Linda, as we use colouring sheets for the reason that they are popular!! :D , and so long as the children have the choice then I don't see any problem.

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Work sheets are wonderfull they make parents think that their children have learnt something during a session!

 

sorry for the sarcasm!!!!

 

but I do find parents value them thinking that they represent their childs ability and many parents think that their child has spent a morning doing something worthwhile rather than just playing in the home corner.

 

maybe there should be a simple book for parents explaining what good practise is and how worksheets are only a small part in the learning that takes place during a session. time and time again I explain to parents that children learn through play but they still ask their little ones "what did you do at playgroup today?" which in code means "how many paintings/ worksheets did you do?" and the worst part of it is that out side parents discuss who does the most paintings like it is a competision

 

I have two children in my group who come in at the start of the session run to the crayon table scribble on a piece of paper then run over to me at the desk to write their names on bearly a minute after they have walked into the room, then as they run off they sigh with releif that they have got that task out of the way they can get on with the session and play. its obvious that they have realised already that at the end of the session mum will ask "have you done any pictures today?"

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Alison,

have you seen the poem in the Research forum?? I suggest you either give a copy to all of your parents or post it very conspicuously on a notice board. Perhaps they will get the message then!!

Linda

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To Alison,

Yes I know exactly what you mean about parents wanting proof of work. I have a cheap digital camera that I use to take pics of the children playing. I print them and stick them in a scrapbook,write down the steppingstones/learning goals that the children are gaining from this activity. At the front of the book I have a little booklet listing the learning goals. All extra work I know but I feel it helps to involve parents in their childs learning. We do lots of drawing,writing,creative activities as a group on a large sheet of paper that we display near the door.If parents really want to take the large recycled model or group collage home at the end of the week they can.

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Hi bubblejack

 

thanks for the idea its a great suggestion I sadly dont have time but it is underconsideration

 

I know of several groups that keep photos as part of their eveidence to show OFSTED and they have said its a great help

 

I never thought about parents..... how thoughtless am I?

 

Linda I have seen the poem its very good I have also posted the one that I have had on file the sentiment is the same

 

back to worksheets we dont actually provide worksheets we are too tight to use the photo copier but sometimes we provide colouring pictures and other times we will sit with a child and handwrite an impromtu work sheet relating to what they are drawing such as when a child has drawn a picture of a dog and then write simple questions like how many legs? eyes ? ears? and encourage the child to pretend to write the answer

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Hello Alison,

Yes Ofsted just love photos as evidence. If they comment that they haven,t seen evidence of a particular activity I have been able to produce a photo to satisfy them. If you do decide to use photos and send them home for absent parents/friends/grandparents to see make sure you have every parents permission first.

On the suject of worksheets I have laminated the master copy. The children can use a non-permanent pen and they enjoy rubbing it off after. It saves on the cost of photocopying and if parents want proof of work I show them the ones their child was given the opportunity to use. I have seen an interesting painting sheet that dries after use ready for the next child to use. I find etcha-sketches are very handy I have them in the book corner,homecorner and at the constuction area. It's all very well for ofsted to say that children should have access to pen and paper in all areas but it's not funny when they scribble on books is it. Merry Christmas to everyone.

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Yes photos are great things - but don't make them too easy to produce...

 

We recently began using our digital camera in conjunction with a really good pc connection and a colour laser printer. Now I can't stop Helen sending hundreds of pictures every day to the printer and putting them in the children's special books. We're running out of toner for the printer, paper and special book pages :o

 

So our next ofsted should go well then, Bubblejack?

 

Merry Christmas to you too! :D

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Know what you mean there Steve. We dont have the luxury of a laser printer but do find the cost of printing off photos prohibitive. We do store them in the child's own folder on the computer which they love to look at (so do the parents on parents evenings). At the end of the year they choose their favourites which we then print off and stick in their scrap books to take home, along the lines of 'my best bits at nursery'. It seems like a sensible compromise otherwise we would use so much ink.. :o

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Hello Steve,

Have gone through the stage of printing too many. Have had camera for about 18mths although I use it most days and at the end of the week I downsize them to fit all on an A4 sheet. I also E-mail parents with any special photos I have taken of their child during the day. Ofsted love them so do parents and most of all the child love looking at them so I feel any extra expense is worth it. All to own I suppose.

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Hi Bubblejack -

I totally agree with you - I just sometimes wonder (as the technical greasemonkey in our nursery) what I've created when I set the mechanism up!

 

I have to say it has met with immense enthusiasm from the staff and from the parents. There's nothing quite as direct as a photograph to prove to a parent that their child is having a great time. We put a lot of these on our nursery website (although I'm so busy with this one that it hasn't happened for some time now) behind a closed area, and they are immensely popular.

 

By the way, if anyone is thinking of buying a colour laser in the near future, I have one I can recommend. At £450 they are fast becoming affordable - kind of...

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Hello Steve,

Just worry when Helen does all the printing herself then you will lose control of the materials used.I think my husband regrets the day that he showed me how to turn the computer on let alone use the E-mail and printer. He works from home on this computer when he can to use it!

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I totally agree about photographs, and especially using a digital camera. Our children wouldn't be bothered if we didn't print them off-they are just keen to see the image on the camera!!! :o As soon as a photograph is taken there are calls of "Let me see! Let me see!" :D

Linda

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Hi Everyone

Happy Holidays :D

 

We use the digital camera all the time and are always printing photos. It is expensive, but well worth it for evidence and documentation. Parents love them and we use them in loads of display work. The children enjoy finding their photos around the nursery. We have a big display in the main entrance describing the 6 areas of learning, with photos depicting activities associated with them. A significant proportion of our parents have English as an additional language or are unable to read, so photos are a brilliant way to communicate.

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Hi Everyone

Happy Holidays :D

 

We use the digital camera all the time and are always printing photos. It is expensive, but well worth it for evidence and documentation. Parents love them and we use them in loads of display work. The children enjoy finding their photos around the nursery. We have a big display in the main entrance describing the 6 areas of learning, with photos depicting activities associated with them. A significant proportion of our parents have English as an additional language or are unable to read, so photos are a brilliant way to communicate.

A Happy Christmas to everyone!! You all deserve a well earned break so put all school work away and enjoy yourselves. :D:o

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Hello all,

 

One more on this, please, before we all put it away for the holidays?

 

In my setting the 'administrator' has control of the camera. I am an underling, and have no say in what happens.

 

How can we get away from the "smile please" and pose because "I'm taking a photo"? We have no photos of children at play. TAbsolutely none. The ones we have

are all full frontal to the camera, with false wide-eyed grins.

 

How do I persuade the setting that we want some photos of children 'doing' as well as 'posing'. OK, parents might like some posed photos. But they might also like to see their child engrossed.

 

The setting seems to be taking the view that if we can show photographically that the children have done/made something, all well and good. OK, but we don't have photographic evidence of the children enjoying doing it. Is it just me being paranoid, or is it the management being paranoid about the impending OFSTED inspection?

 

OK, it is me (at least it is off my chest)

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Hello all,

 

One more on this, please, before we all put it away for the holidays?

 

In my setting the 'administrator' has control of the camera. I am an underling, and have no say in what happens.

 

How can we get away from the "smile please" and pose because "I'm taking a photo"? We have no photos of children at play. Absolutely none. The photos we have are all full frontal to the camera, with false wide-eyed grins.

 

How do I persuade the setting that we want some photos of children 'doing' as well as 'posing'. OK, parents might like some posed photos. But they might also like to see their child engrossed.

 

The setting seems to be taking the view that if we can show photographically that the children have done/made something, all well and good. OK, but we don't have photographic evidence of the children enjoying doing it. Is it just me being paranoid, or is it the management being paranoid about the impending OFSTED inspection?

 

I know, it is me (at least it is off my chest)

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Diane

It's not you! And I would say that OFSTED would prefer photographs of children "in action" rather than posed. We take photographs of children at snack time, listening to story, taking part in Sticky Kids, band etc. When we put them in their folders we add a caption to explain what is happening and the area of learning. We also have a display of the six areas of learning with a list of the sort of things the children will access, we have photographs with these.

Tell your setting this and see what happens! We have some wonderful photographs of children completely absorbed in what they are doing!!

Good luck!

Linda

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Diane

 

Linda et al are right; photos of children doing are essential and give such an insight into learning and are great evidence (as I'm sure you are aware) Could you raise funds in your particular set up to have your own camera. Alternatively, have you ar any colleagues got a camera that you could use? Not ideal I know, but if you could take photos this way, then maybe your administator would ease up a little. Sorry if you've already thrashed through these ideas...

 

Have a good break nad happy holiday

Kate

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Hello everyone- merry christmas!!

Firstly- what's a Banda machine?!!!

Secondly- as a final year student i have seen a few nursery and first schools (yes up north we still have the three tier system... not for long i fear) where worksheets are available in tons. Again its to statisfy parents and prove evdience that the childrn have been working- not the term working. Until we have a change in parents thinking and a definition that suitably defines 'play' occuring in our schools it will remain a problem area.

My daughter attended a worksheet driven nursery and i have droves of completed worksheets that she is very proud of (i'm not just as joyous!!), why send her there i hear you all shout, well the standard of care was exceptionally high and the other facilities available to the children outweighed the worksheets, but the point i am try to make (quite unsuccessfully) is that the nursery was in a area of Newcastle that is known for it middle/high class status and the parents wanted evdience of work and often left moaning about play if their children didn't take something home. (The poem would be good there!!)

Early year specialists need a unified theory and practice that we can shout from the roof tops - play is not just play, ask piaget , vygotsky, Issacs and Macmillian!!! We too often have to justify what we do in nursery/reception far more than KS1... and why is play not in KS1 (another topic?) and worksheets suddenly seen as okish? How many worksheets do we see in year1/2 classrooms? evidnece of learning again?

 

Ok so i had better get back to writing my assignment - Teacher as a Prfosessional AAARGHH bet you qualified teachers are really jealous!!!!????

 

Hope Santa is good to you all

XLizzie

sorry if this is just rambling, you professionals will no doubt be thinking damn third year students... just wait til she gets a class of her own!!

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:oxD lol Lizzie !! Liked your story about the worksheets and your daughter. The thing is, it is often the girls who will choose to produce a lovely "sheet". Try enthusing boys about the values and benefits of being able to sit still, hold a tool,make a mark in the right spot, work out just exactly what it is they want him to do and not watch other children who are not going through the torture!!

Good luck with the studies. Keep smiling. :( Chris

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Yes we find in our pre-school that boys are better at different things and worksheets are not one of them. It amazes me how they be so easily satisfied by the cars,garage and train set. We try and introduce pencil skills into that e.g drawing their own road.We encourage them to draw pictures of their work in the construction area.We provide large scale brush painting outside. We have notebooks in the role playareas when we create a fire-station or workshop senerio .They will do it if an adult is their but will not initiate it or continue the activity.What do others do to motivate boys to do writing? Can anyone who works with older children tell me what age boys catch up.Has the desirable learning outcomes /foundation stage actually helped boys to achieve more.

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  • 2 months later...

Worksheets are OK if there is no better way. Trouble is lots of people use them too much with children just mindlessly colouring in or tracing endlessly. Our Nursery doesn't use them at all as they have lots of wonderful ways of doing things. In Reception I do use them eventually especially for some written phonics work, such as putting in an initial sound. Children do need to learn to record, but I use them VERY sparingly, and just as another way of practising something along with magnetic letters, cards, mark-making area etc.

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