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We had been told previously that we were not to use worksheets with the 3/4 year olds in our Pre-School. However, my son who goes to an 'Outstanding' school and who is now in Reception uses work sheets every day to practice his letters - work sheet has picture with letter and word underneath.

 

Would it be OK if I put a few worksheets out on our literacy table for the children to use if they wanted to. A staff member would then be able to encourage the child to trace the letter, colour in the picture and practice phonics with them.

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I dont personnaly like them, but my current long term setting have just had a really good Ofsted and no mention was made about their use of them. If used as you say then I suppose it cant be a bad thing, so long as you continue with the usual rhymes, singing, etc and other mark making skills then I dont suppose it is that bad :D

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I'm from a day care background, not school, but I wouldn't use worksheets (I have in the past and I've seen the error of my ways :o )

 

In the day of the 'play-based' curriculum, what is tracing letters and colouring in a picture really going to support the learning of? Okay, children will learn an element of pencil control i.e. left/right preference, correct hold and basic letter formation as well as 'colouring within the lines' (which I still can't do and I'm 31!)

 

But for all the development mentioned above, would children not gain more enjoyment from drawing in a tray of sand with tin foil or hologram paper underneath - allowing errors to be quickly removed; making letters with playdough; mark making in gloop or just plain old mark-making for mark-making's sake?

 

You can still do focused activities with the children that are showing an interest in writing for a purpose, but the environment should be rich enough in text - name tags, labels, magazines, books, friezes etc that doing a worksheet, such as a Jolly Phonics one, doesn't hold a lot of meaning to a 3 or 4 year old (in my humble opinion)

 

Engaging boys in writing is always a challenge, so put clipboards and pencils in the construction area and encourage them to draw plans or maps. Don't get me wrong, staff can still support the children with their emergent writing by modelling letters or encouraging children to find the letter/word they want to write but I know what method of learning to write I would prefer if I was three years old!

 

Sorry - I seem to spend my working life justifying myself on this topic, so tend to rant a bit!!

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Running Bunny

 

I agree! Love the idea about holographic paper under thin layer of sand to write in with fingers - brilliant, thanks.

 

Patricia

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totally agree with RB and Marion.

 

another consideration, what if an adult isn't present whilst a child 'writes' his/her letter, tracing over the worksheet , they may form the letter shape using the incorrect direction, this will then have to be 'unlearnt' in the future. A bit like children who are taught / shown/ to write their names in capital letters.

 

There is a well known rhyme called Is an Elephant grey? about a worksheet drawing of an elephant for a child to colour in. Well he/she may get a grey pencil and colour, even within the lines, but what does the child actually experience thus learn about the elephant, how it smells, the texture of his skin, his actual size, etc. We all know that children develop concepts best through using as many of their five senses as possible, experiencial learning in all of an objects dimensions. How many senses are used or dimensions when accessing a worksheet?

 

Another consideration, if there is a picture for A for Apple, is that really what an apple looks like? Normally drawn completely symetrical with a stalk at the top which leans to the left and one leaf coming off the stalf leaning to the right. 'Colouring in' pictures give such a narrow, if not miniscule perception of the real thing. Boring I say. ( not wanting to offend, just my opinion :o )

 

 

and how many trees are cut down to produce all these worksheets......? are they for the childs' or parent/adults benefit...?

 

hmmm, better stop now, I could go on and on and on and on and ......................

 

 

 

Peggy

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Hi, I've copied this from a past discussion regarding creativity, I also mentioned worksheets. This is how I feel....

 

If we as adults force the deepest layers of symbolic behaviour on them, through the transmission-style teaching of early reading and writing, before they have firmly grasped and begun to use previous symbolic-layerings, we actually make it more difficult for them rather than easier.

 

Many children are easily put off. They then become at worst refusers, or reluctant, dutiful symbol users (especially in reading and writing) rather than the confident, enthusiastic and increasingly skilled symbol users that children are capable of becoming.

 

 

PRESTRUCTURED ACTIVITES STUNT CREATIVITY

Activities which discourage imagination and creativity use:

• Templates

• Tracing

• The screwed-up-tissue-paper syndrome of filling in a pre-cut outline, colouring in or using stencils.

These activities are all pre-structured by adults and allow almost no opportunity for the children’s own ideas and thinking to develop. Children might enjoy doing them, but then children enjoy all sorts of things that are not good for them. In the long term, they can even undermine a child’s self-esteem by making them believe that they cannot draw or make things without a template or an outline. Children can become very preoccupied with the ‘right’ or ‘correct’ ways of doing things, and they often end up by learning other people’s formulas. This destroys creativity. Children should be encouraged to develop their own style in their drawings and paintings, models, dances and stories. A child who has learnt to become creative might be rather frustrated and even miserable if their creativity is undermined be prestructured activities.

 

A child who has never ‘had a go’, taken risks or experimented with different ways of doing things, will not become a confident active thinker. Instead, such children only know how to carry out adult instructions or ideas. They do not become imaginative or creative. “Being creative enables children to make connections between one area of learning and another and so extend their understanding.” QCA (2000)

 

“Children’s work is unique and individual. Colouring a picture that someone else has drawn or creating identical cards involves little creativity or independence.

It is what the individual child contributes that matters. We should always keep in mind that the process of creating has more value than the finished product”.

(Featherstone and Bayley)

 

“Creativity is not about pleasing adults or producing adult-determined art, music or dance. While understanding what someone else has done is part of the exploratory process, it is not in itself creative. Creativity occurs when children are able to use that understanding by integrating it into their own work and creating something new. If there is an end product, it needs to be determined by the child and created by the child. Children need access to a wide range of stimuli and ideas. They need opportunities to play with these ideas, incorporating them into their own creations. Practitioners may model and pass on skills and knowledge, but children must be allowed to make things their own.” (QCA 2000)

 

In the past I had observed children’s reluctance to participate in pre-structured activities such as worksheets. I disliked them as much as the children, everywhere we were offering ‘learning through play’ but then would stop children immersed in play and force them to sit at a table and join an activity that they disliked and hurried the task so they could get back to what they were doing. Once I read Bruce and Meggit emphasise that tracing activities or copying letters undermines the process of developing their own code “because the product isn’t their own”, “In the long term, they can even undermine a child’s self-esteem.” I went back to the team and requested we remove them and replace with writing for ‘a purpose’. Some colleagues were perturbed to say the least; they had been using them throughout their careers and protested that “some children enjoy them.” By reminding them that children like many things that are not good for them, and after further persuasion they agreed to give it a try. I couldn’t remove them fast enough, along with templates, colouring sheets, pre-cut outlines and stencils.

 

As I learn more about how the children develop, it is evident that we do not need to sacrifice play in order to ‘teach’ children to read, write and behave appropriately. The structured writing activities of the past have gone for good, and my colleagues have accepted that the environment is more conducive to learning without them.

 

 

 

Bruce, T (2004) Developing Learning in Early Childhood. London: Paul Chapman Publishing

Bruce T. & Meggitt C. (2005) Childcare and Education (3rd.Ed), Hodder & Stoughton

Featherstone S. & Bayley R. (2002) Foundations for Independence, Developing independent learning

in the Foundation Stage, Featherstone Education

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Thank you for that carladimeloe. I particluary like the phrase 'they like a lot of things that arent good for them'. I'll find a use for that as the start of discussions. I kicked them out of playgroup 4 years ago and now I'm working with them at nursery. Very sadly I have no way of removing them.

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I absolutely agree with everything said here about worksheets. As someone who has taught in Nursery, R and Y1 I have seen how mindless tracing over letters can lead to all sorts of problems with letter formation, as Peggy has said. these can be very difficult to undo. I do think that it is important for writing letters, and the correct movements for formation, to be modelled and practised in all sorts of fun and interesting ways. Children who have incorrect letter formation ingrained in them from early on have all kind of problems later, especaily with cursive writing.

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Great link about fluffy duck syndrome - will be handing that out to my TAs one of whom just will not get the whole child initiated thing!

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Sheila, as you can see there is a lot of 'passion' against worksheets and I hope you don't feel got at for even suggesting that they are used. :o

You have asked the right question because your knowledge from previous advice ' don't use worksheets' has been unnerved ( for want of a better term) because of your sons schools' 'outstanding' award.

Like many other aspects of early years, there are different opinions such as worksheets, outdoor play, play versus learning, etc etc.

Hopefully the reasons given will help you decide what to do for yourself rather than follow what you have been told or you have seen. This is called professional development, we all have a lot to learn, and by having our own rationalle after consideration of others views we can become more confident practitioners.

 

What do YOU really feel about worksheets, and why?

I'd be interested to know.

 

Peggy

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Now then, here I go, I'm being very brave but ....

I do not think there is too much harm in the odd worksheet as long as there are lots of other play based activities to support letter formation. I was a reception teacher before I had my little boy (I'm in Year 1 now) and, yes we did use sheets for letter formation. Our school has got a very good reputation and it is what parents expect, But we did make sure we balanced it out. My mum owns a pre-school that feeds into our school and she and I feel that children need to 'learn' how to go along to a table with an adult and work one to one at a sheet, be it a pencil control sheet or a letter sheet. They don't have to spend long there. They all practise their name and off they toddle! No child is ever pressured to go and do it, in fact we have children asking if they can do one now. I really do feel it is a great way to get children used to the idea of going and doing a little piece of work while they have high ratios, before they go into school in to a class of 30. At my mums pre-school they do lots of pencil control things before they would ever move on to letters, and some children would never be asked to do a letter sheet.What i do hate is to see lots of letters drawn in books in felt tip for the children to mindlessly draw over, incorrectly, and use capitals! I couldn't believe what i was seeing at a local nursery when i visited the pre-schoolers who would be joining reception. The adult paid them no attention at all and they all went completely the wrong way over the letters. :o

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Thanks for the Fluffy Duck syndrome, :) I struggle at my setting as prescribed creative activities are offered all the time, if I am brave enough I will put it on the notice board or show other staff, xD

I work with 2-3 year olds and believe that a little support is needed to help creative tasks - but all we ever produce is perfect pre-cut items of artwork that reflect our topic. It is so frustrating yet what can I do? I am only one voice, I have suggested that we have a variety of creative materials available etc, I half-hoped Ofsted would pick up on this but they didn't mention it, other staff prefer creative tasks to be prescriptive and then when everyone has completed the said task (often cajooled into making one so that everyone has one!! :o )it is all tidied away as if that's that done for the session!

 

Sorry I forgot for a moment I was trying to be positive about my setting - couldn't resist a little dig, I want to be in a setting that does all the wonderful things with children that we all talk about here and at college.!!!!

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Thanks everyone for comments and advice on using worksheets. Maybe I won't use them and concentrate on doing some of the other things mentioned like writing in the sand. This is why I find dealing with Ofsted Inspections so difficult. I have just started doing my Foundation Degree (only just started), have started reading books by Bruce (as mentioned above), been on the Birth to Three course etc. and tried to implement that at the setting and then find that my son's school, which got an outstanding, uses worksheets and really pushes the children academically and doesn't I think, do enough through play. However, having said that he does love school so he must enjoy what he is doing.

 

But where does that leave a practitioner at a private setting - it's hard to know what to do right these days. That's why I love this forum, you can ask the question and you get plenty of good advice!!

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Now then, here I go, I'm being very brave but ....

I do not think there is too much harm in the odd worksheet as long as there are lots of other play based activities to support letter formation. I was a reception teacher before I had my little boy (I'm in Year 1 now) and, yes we did use sheets for letter formation. Our school has got a very good reputation and it is what parents expect, But we did make sure we balanced it out. My mum owns a pre-school that feeds into our school and she and I feel that children need to 'learn' how to go along to a table with an adult and work one to one at a sheet, be it a pencil control sheet or a letter sheet. They don't have to spend long there. They all practise their name and off they toddle! No child is ever pressured to go and do it, in fact we have children asking if they can do one now. I really do feel it is a great way to get children used to the idea of going and doing a little piece of work while they have high ratios, before they go into school in to a class of 30. At my mums pre-school they do lots of pencil control things before they would ever move on to letters, and some children would never be asked to do a letter sheet.What i do hate is to see lots of letters drawn in books in felt tip for the children to mindlessly draw over, incorrectly, and use capitals! I couldn't believe what i was seeing at a local nursery when i visited the pre-schoolers who would be joining reception. The adult paid them no attention at all and they all went completely the wrong way over the letters. :o

 

Laura,

Well done for being brave - it's always nice to know other people's opinions on topics such as this and as others have posted the argument against, it is interesting to read a reason for doing them. I used to be exactly of the same mindset as you - what is the harm in effectively managed worksheet-based activities that support pencil control, letter formation etc? Having now progressed in my career and gained a different perspective on how children learn and play-based learning, I can see that there are other ways to achieve the same outcomes (as many have been discussed here) It's good to hear that children are not pressured into doing worksheets and they only form a small part of the session - I've worked in settings where half the morning was taken up with pencil control, letter formation, jolly phonics and cutting and tracing skills - not my idea of fun!

 

I think that more and more (well, certainly in the local authority where I work) Year R and even some Y1 classes are moving to the play-based route, so entering into a class of 30 and having to sit and do work is getting less and less common. Obviously, every school is different and this may not be the case where you are but we have found that children who have not had the play-based approach in their early years actually struggle more when they get to school as they have not developed the necessary indpendence and ability to make choices skills. They expect to have to sit down and 'work' and this is not the norm.

 

Your point about 'parents expectations' is very valid - parents measure their children on counting, saying the alphabet, reading and writing and whilst this is really important, isn't the be all and end all of early education. Parents need to be informed about their child's day in an effective way, by staff who know what they are talking about, in order to tell them that learning through play either 'free play' or 'focused' has more value attached to it.

 

I had a setting that did workbooks with the children prior to undertaking a QA scheme. The scheme specifically stated that the use of worksheets and workbooks was not deeemd an appropriate curriculum, so they went into panic mode. We worked on strategies to change the activities, but gain the same outcomes. Even though their initial argument was 'the children ask for their books', we all eventually concluded that this was a 'safe' activity for them - it gave some structure to their day but when given a choice at a later date, no child chose the workbook option.

 

Please don't take this the wrong way, it's just responding to your well-put points according to my beliefs.

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i find it very dis hearting that i spend lot of time teaching the children and prioviding lots of activites that do not involve a work sheet and then they go into our schools year 1 class and they are bombarded by worksheets. the year 1 teacher last term said the children are really poor. i asked why, she said they find it really hard to sit at their desk and do their worksheets. no wonder they are not used to it and at 5 i still dont think they should have to do worksheet after work sheet. there are 101 different activites they could do to teach the same things with out a work sheet.

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just thoought I'd add my twopeneth... I'm not a big fan of worksheets either... and always find theres a way of doing everything without using them...

 

... but as an experiment for the sake of FSF... I have a girl in my class who is doing great at using her sounds in her writing... she regularly independently uses the medial blends e.g. ai and or correctly... but her handwriting is very poor and unless I've actually been with her when shes been writing I stuggle to decipher what she has written (even though I'm certain the correct sounds are all in there).

 

anyway... to cut a long story short I sent home a few things last week after a chat with mum... a shallow sand tray, some sand, some finger paints, a mirror to go in the bottom of the tray... I also suggested using shaving foam... y'know, all the usual fun/messy ways of practising letter formation, and I also sent home some sheets to practice the letter formation on ("just if she want to" I told Mum...)

 

... anyway for what it's worth... all the letters I asked her to practice she writes correctly now.... in a week! :o and after checking with Mum, she said she loved doing the sheets to practice! ... so even though I deteste using them in the classroom... I'm definately going to send some more letters to practice home with this child if she enjoys them as much as she does, and she improves as quickly as she has done... xD:)

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just thoought I'd add my twopeneth... I'm not a big fan of worksheets either... and always find theres a way of doing everything without using them...

 

... but as an experiment for the sake of FSF... I have a girl in my class who is doing great at using her sounds in her writing... she regularly independently uses the medial blends e.g. ai and or correctly... but her handwriting is very poor and unless I've actually been with her when shes been writing I stuggle to decipher what she has written (even though I'm certain the correct sounds are all in there).

 

anyway... to cut a long story short I sent home a few things last week after a chat with mum... a shallow sand tray, some sand, some finger paints, a mirror to go in the bottom of the tray... I also suggested using shaving foam... y'know, all the usual fun/messy ways of practising letter formation, and I also sent home some sheets to practice the letter formation on ("just if she want to" I told Mum...)

 

... anyway for what it's worth... all the letters I asked her to practice she writes correctly now.... in a week! :o and after checking with Mum, she said she loved doing the sheets to practice! ... so even though I deteste using them in the classroom... I'm definately going to send some more letters to practice home with this child if she enjoys them as much as she does, and she improves as quickly as she has done... xD:)

 

A valid point Paul, if it works for this child then why not, I do wonder however whether she was given the option of using the 'messy' stuff at home. :( .

My stance against worksheets is at a preschool level, if a child is already writing, and already knows the correct formation of letters then, on an individual basis, why not at the teachers discretion.

 

Peggy

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Paul,

 

You struck a chord there. I am very anti worksheets in the pre-school, but we are a DN where a lot of the parents ask for ways to be involved when they are not able to come in. I have found that many of them feel they are contributing if they have a relevant 'worksheet', activity etc so we have introduced a pack of 'take ones' that are relevant to what's going on at the moment, although we encourage parents to let us know what they're taking so we can steer them off something that may be inappropriate for their child 'right now'. The parents seem to appreciate it and it provides some continuity for children who may not attend so often.

 

Sue

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi all

I work in a Reception class where worksheets are the norm however our far sighted Deputy head announced yesterday that in 2 weeks time we are having a "No worksheet week"!!!!!

SHOCK, HORROR :o the staff will be in turmoil!!! I will personally disconnect the photocopier!

I will get back when we have had it and let you know how it goes, I'm looking forward to it!

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I too dislike 'work sheets' and templates, although i must admit to sometimes using large cut outs for children to paint (as they wish) when making a display which I want to look like a particular thing.

 

I am working in a DN with mixed ages 2-4 - we spend a large proportion of our day devoted to free flow play (inside and out) and a lot of the children are really into role play, after hearing stories they take on the characters and we support them to 'take the story as far as they want' and for as long as they want. They really get into character and generally have a good time. We have lots of home made story sacks and encourage/support the children to use whatever materials they can find to create their own outfits and props.

 

The nursery is set up to support all areas of learning and the children self select what they want to do. We have paper/note books and pencils available in each area and children are encouraged to make marks and use them as they wish. Chalk, playdough and paint are also freely available. Although we do have at least one 'adult led' activity each day.

Sometimes this can appear a little chaotic, and comments have been made that we are perhaps not meeting the needs of the few 4 year olds we have - I feel there are those who are wanting to begin sessions whereby some 3/4 year olds 'sit down and work on phonics' at a particular time in the day and I dread the session turning into 'worksheet time'!

 

We use numbers and letters in play - i.e. train/bus tickets, labels, shopping lists and encourage letter formation in sand, mud etc., but would love to hear of other settings examples of 'child friendly, fun' ways to incorporate/encourage exploration of phonics and numbers - perhaps a section on the Forum sharing good examples would help those like me prove that 'work sheets' are not the answer.

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  • 5 months later...

Hi all, I would just like to say a big thank you for all of you. What you have written, in this topic, has helped me so much in my special project, researching the value of play. :o

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  • 1 month later...

The fluffy duck syndrome is so right! It is so annoying when you go into settings & see that happen. I am a YR/1 teacher & would never inflict that on my children! They often produce far better & more creative pictures / objects / cards than I had in my mind because their imagination is endless!

post-7054-1186059368_thumb.jpg

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