I quite like worksheets myself. They look so organised when planning a curriculum. You can see exactly what you have covered, and what you plan to practice next. There is a real sense of accomplishment when the book of worksheets is completed.
Many people give out a small prize at the end of a set of worksheets, and why not? It is a highly visible goal. Also, there are just so many of them for all subjects. Of course that is the way things are done.
It is unfortunate then, that my son hates worksheets. Hates them with a passion. He flat out refuses to do them regardless of rewards or punishments, and went noticeably backwards when I insisted that we use them.
Although he struggles to verbalise exactly why he dislikes them so much, what it really comes down to, is that it is extremely difficult to directly relate them to anything. Although they are always fairly simple, the repetition of simple tasks with no context is just plain dull, regardless of the topic.
I have been involved in quite a bit of adult education at work over the last couple of years. I use six principles of adult education which are widely recognised. One of them is that ‘adults are relevancy oriented.’
I have searched for principles of childhood education, but none of the lists I have come across agree with any of the others. Even more interesting, I thought, is that I did not come across any which said that children like their lessons to be relevant.
I find this last point especially, quite bizarre. It is such a regular complaint from kids of all ages that they do not see a reason for their efforts. It is so common to see kids struggle, not because they do not have the capacity to learn a subject, but because they cannot understand why they would want to.
This seems so very unfair. In much the same way that kids will study almost anything if you engage in it with them, they will also be happy to study most subjects if they can see how it relates to their lives. I spend a lot of thought trying to bring relevance to our lessons. On the whole, we get a lot of success based on this. At the same time, it becomes painfully obvious when our lessons are not relevant to the boys.
Without doing maths worksheets exactly, we work out lots of similar problems through games, counting things around the house, or checking shopping receipts. We also play around with mathematical principles quite a lot without ever actually attaching numbers.
I like to view history not as lists of dates and names, but as an immense story of how people survived (and hopefully prospered) in different scenarios. We often explore how universal problems were solved by different methods, and then try to imagine ourselves using historical technology to get through our day. There is lots of hands on play involved with both history and science lessons.
I do not believe that relevance in lessons can be underestimated. Difficult topics become so much easier when they have a practical application. It is what sparks curiosity. It is the rationale of all education.