Do Worksheets Belong in Preschool?

As more and more parents and state agencies push for academics in preschool, many programs are turning to worksheets. It’s a simple and cheap solution.

To parents, worksheets look like school work. Even if their child only scribbles across a worksheet, it makes parents feel like he is being exposed to an academic program. For teachers, worksheets are a simple and cheap way to keep children busy and parents happy. Some even say that worksheets facilitate parent/teacher communication by enabling parents to see their child’s progress. What’s wrong with that?

The short answer is that worksheets are not developmentally appropriate for preschool-age children.

  • Worksheets are an abstract way to present a concept. Young children learn best through concrete, hands-on experiences. In fact, abstract ideas make no sense to children unless they have had related concrete experiences to think about and draw upon.
  • Worksheets don’t engage the whole child. Instead they limit children to visual stimulation and fine motor practice. This is stifling for children, but more importantly, it represents a lost opportunity to encourage a child’s development in a host of other important areas simultaneously (large muscle movements, language, musical, social, emotional, creativity, problem solving, etc.)

When a child is required to do worksheets, programs run the risk of creating self-esteem and behavior issues. This narrow approach to teaching goes against what we know about how children learn and does not suit the temperament of most preschool children.

When worksheets are presented as a choice, programs run the risk of enabling children to be passive learners, taking the easy way out. After all, the children most likely to choose worksheets are those who find the narrow task comforting.

So how can programs provide the pre-academic learning that parents want?

Begin with this great brochure created by the Associate for Childhood Education International about the use of worksheets in preschool. It’s easy-to-read question and answer format is full of great information for parents and teachers. Here is an excerpt:

Worksheets only permit children to copy or match numerals or letters, often out of context. Furthermore, it is more meaningful for children to see letters in their natural surroundings, such as in the “EXIT” sign by the door. Introduce sounds by reading and discussing well-illustrated, exciting, thematic alphabet books.

What are other ways to communicate to parents all that their child is learning?

  • Send home some work samples and collect others in a portfolio for each child that you can periodically review with parents
  • Have a checklist of skills for each child and have it accessible to teachers throughout the day
  • Have regular parent conferences or invite parents to come and observe, then talk with them about what they saw and all the learning that took place
  • Send home a monthly newsletter for parents outlining concepts or themes your group is working on
  • Send home ideas for hands-on learning activities that parents and children can do at home together. In addition to explaining the activity, be sure to outline all that a child might learn by doing the activity. World of Wonder activity binders are a great resource for this. Even if parents don’t do the activities, the act of reading them over can help to educate parents about hands-on learning.
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9 Responses

  1. Thank you, I wish every preschool teacher in the country would read this. Just because there are no worksheets doesn’t mean the child is not learning the basic concepts. They’ll have plenty of years with pen and paper tasks. Learning can be fun.

  2. Wroksheets do not belong in preschool. Children of preschool age learn more effctively by hands on experience. Paper/Pencil tasks do not keep preschool children interested. Lack of interest leads to unwelcoming behaviors!

  3. thanks for the information.
    I agree with the other people who responded.
    In pre-writing for example we should be more concern on emergent writing than handwriting.
    thank you
    yolanda

  4. It hurts a little when I see teachers using worksheets for preschool! Worksheets should be saved for children and adolescents who are able to think abstractly…and used in moderation even then. Preschool children should only be worried about playing.

    Play is a child’s “work”.

  5. […] 25, 2011 by wowkits It has come to my attention that the link in the popular blog post “Do Worksheets Belong in Preschool?” was not working. The link has been fixed. You can access it here: […]

  6. 🙂 this artical made my day…..yes it is a waste of time and money with the stencils , children dont learn with dot to dots or tracing they learn from interaction discovery and fun learning .Parents have been steriotized with these stencil word docs they are out like yesterdays weather !!!!!!!

  7. I am so happy to read this! Just what I needed to share with my preschool teachers.

  8. I teach preschool and I am happy to say that we do not use ANY worksheets in my classroom (the only exception being when we graph things). We are all about hands-on activities (both teacher-directed and student guided), making our own choices, and using our senses to help us learn. 😀

  9. I’m really inspired with your writing skills and also with the layout to your weblog. Is that this a paid subject or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice high quality writing, it is uncommon to peer a great blog like this one these days..

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