Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rethinking Worksheets as a Teaching Tool

Yesterday I tried to work on a worksheet with my little guy, just for fun, to give him some “work” to do.  He is almost 5, and can do lots of things already like write, spell his name, count, and he knows a lot of signs in ASL (American Sign Language). 

The objective of the worksheet was to color code the pictures based on the letter the picture began with.  For example, if the picture began with “w”, you colored the picture brown.  If it began with “d”, you colored it yellow.  If it began with “r”, you colored it orange.

For my son, this was confusing.  Watermelon was one of the pictures he was supposed to color brown.  I could sense what was going on in his mind.  A watermelon is pink and green.  A donut was one of the pictures you were supposed to color yellow.  Donuts definitely are not yellow.  They are brown, so we should be coloring that picture brown and not the watermelon.  A rainbow was one of the pictures he was supposed to color orange.  A rainbow isn’t orange.  It is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.  He knows that.  He has seen a lot of them in person because we lived in Hawaii for a few years.

He ended up not coloring the pictures.  We still went through all of them to identify beginning letter sounds, but he didn’t want to color the pictures.  I really didn’t blame him and didn’t make him do it.

It seemed like the point of this particular worksheet, which was to teach beginning letter sounds, was diminished by the instructions.  In the end, the main focus of the activity was whether or not the learner could follow instructions.

There are so many other ways that this skill could be taught to your homeschooler in a natural manner.  My son was already familiar with many of the pictures, because he had seen them in real life, learned about them in literature or movies, or learned how to sign the word in ASL.  Some of the word included other than the ones I have already mentioned were wagon, duck, rug, robot, door, and web.

Some simple ideas for learning beginning letter sounds with the above objects could include taking a ride in a wagon.  You could have a conversation with your child about the wagon, about the beginning letter and teach them the ASL sign, which looks like the letter all in a very short ride.  To continue with the letter w, you could observe and draw a spider web, most likely during the spring and summer.  (Later in the day, he was actually trying to teach his older sister how to draw a spider web.) This activity would overlap into science.  There are so many hands-on activities that you could do that would help your child connect with and retain beginning letter sounds better than a confusing worksheet.

Just a note, I am not completely against the use of worksheets.  It is fun sometimes to sit down and answer questions about what we know.  I like to take tests.  However, I don’t believe that worksheets should be used as a teaching tool.  The object is to help the child learn and retain this information, and that is best accomplished by helping them connect with the information.

I hope I have given you some simple ideas on how to teach your homeschooler using real world scenarios, and critical thinking about using worksheets as a teaching tool.

Many blessings to you and I hope you enjoy your journey!


  1. Good ideas for use instead of worksheets! That sounds like an odd worksheet and I think I might have been confused if I were him too! :)

    1. Thanks Marla. I think it was an odd worksheet. I believe my thoughts about education have changed a bit. Before I might have pressed him to complete the worksheet because that was the thing to do.