Why I have a ‘thing’ about worksheets.

I used to have a spare table in my class devoted to the worksheets for that week. They were neatly sorted by days and further sorted by subjects. That table epitomised organisation, efficiency and added to the fact that any passing line manager could see at a glance that all was beautifully in order.

Except, once those sheets left that table, everything unravelled.

And it unravelled in more ways than one.

Despite my best efforts, I could never quite seem to rescue and retrieve all those sheets. Those unfinished sheets. I had labelled boxes, traffic light boxes, ‘what to do if you’ve finished’ boxes but still those pesky unfinished sheets remained just that. What to do with a half attempted sheet? Do I stick it in the book with a cheerily penned ‘please complete’, do I keep the child in at break with a less than cheery ‘please complete’ or do I neatly guillotine the sheet and smoke and mirror the fact that it was now miraculously A. Complete. Sheet. Those sheets plagued me.

But then, I was only giving them out.

It dawned on me, albeit rather slowly, that the worksheets often represented a ‘doing’ culture  rather than a ‘learning’ culture. When I asked children to reflect on their learning over the course of the week and they could eloquently talk about what they had done but struggled to verbalise what they had learnt; I realised that those sheets plagued us all.

When I ventured into the World Without Worksheets I discovered that children took themselves further in their learning than I might have catered for. They felt they had choices, they took more ownership and they stumbled across new learning naturally. Their misconceptions were easier to spot.

Take a fresh look at the next worksheet you are tempted by. How could you share that learning without the prop of the sheet? Go on, give it a try.

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