Last spring I wrote a number of posts about worksheets and my efforts to eliminate them from my adult ed classes at the time. I was moderately successful in doing that in an environment that consisted of worksheets. Now, however, I am in a totally different situation. And I find that I have no trouble avoiding worksheets — even though I have no textbooks.
The main way that I do this is by using a whiteboard and having students use a composition book. Instead of filling in a chart on a worksheet, they copy the framework of the chart I have put on the board into their composition books. Instead of answering questions on a worksheet, they copy the questions from the board into their composition books and then answer them. It has worked really well. But, on some levels, this isn’t that much different from having them fill in a worksheet, is it? All I am saving is the paper.
As a language teacher, I think there is value in the practice of keeping these composition books above eliminating worksheets. I think that every time students write it themselves, they have invested a little more in the activity. If I hand them a worksheet, they can complete it almost without any personal investment. And that means they probably learn less from the experience.
For the most part I am content that I am not just giving students busy work, but it is something that I still need to reflect on more. It isn’t enough just to eliminate the worksheets; I have to make the learning more meaningful all the time.