When your little learner comes home toting a backpack full of worksheets, you're right to worry. Whether your grade schooler is getting an overload of worksheets at school or you are piling up the printables at home, using this type of learning tool in excess may not maximize your elementary student's educational outcomes.
Before judging your child's educator and assessing her use of worksheets as overly indulgent, understand why teachers use these educational tools. Some schools institute a specific or set curriculum that includes the use of preprinted worksheets. Your child's teacher may have little or no control over the amount of worksheets that she uses in class or sends home. Additionally, some teachers may feel pressure to teach rote skills in preparation for state-required accountability tests. For example, if every third grader in your state must take a reading and math standardized test, your child's teacher may start handing out extra worksheets that focus on exam questions a few months prior to testing. This doesn't make the over-use of worksheets educationally appropriate, but it may help to explain the reasoning behind excessive assignments.
Hands-On and Hands-Off Education
When it comes to your elementary school student's learning, a hands-on approach will always win out over a more passive method. A hands-on approach to learning means allowing students to gain knowledge by exploring materials. Hands-on educational activities can help kids build critical thinking skills, develop creativity and foster communication abilities. That said, sitting quietly and circling answers on worksheet after worksheet goes against the interactive nature of a hands-on activity. While worksheets are certainly not void of educational value, the overuse of them may mean your student misses out on the chance to explore and experiment on her own.
If you don't like it when your rote work tethers you to your desk, just imagine how your young child feels when his first grade teacher forces worksheet after worksheet on him. Too many worksheets in the elementary years can quickly bore a barely attentive young child and lead him to put learning on the back burner. Young grade schoolers should have choices, the opportunity to express themselves creatively and time to engage in learning activities, say child development experts at "PBS Parents." Too many worksheets opposes these desirable facets of learning and may turn your student into a bastion of boredom.
Unique Learners Need Unique Experiences
It's likely that your child doesn't learn in the same way as her BFF, your neighbor down the street or her same-aged cousin. The cookie-cutter focus of worksheets doesn't account for the unique learning style of your grade schooler. For example, if your social butterfly learns well when he engages in small group discussions or team learning practices, worksheets aren't necessarily the best fit for him. To combat the ill-effects that overuse of worksheets may have on your child, talk to the teacher and explain that his learning style may necessitate a different method.
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.