Children's author, Laura Numeroff is famous for her "If you give..." series of children's books. Each one demonstrates the relationship between cause and effect. Her books fabulously illustrate the practice of strategic thinking. There are obviously many factors to consider before giving a mouse a cookie or a pig a pancake. The same is true for educators ---there are many factors to consider when planning to give an assignment to students. What if a part of my planning was visualizing the outcome of the educational experience I am designing for my students? Would it change what I would do? What are the outcomes when I give a student a worksheet, or when I give my class a lecture....
If I give a student a worksheet, he will pick up a pencil and fill in the blanks or circle the best answer or perhaps write a short answer to surface level questions. This will demonstrate compliance by completing the assignment and demonstrate memorization by answering correctly. Then, he will turn the worksheet in to me to grade. Once I grade and return the worksheet, he will look at the grade, shrug his shoulders and stuff the worksheet back in his binder. At the end of the school year, he will take the worksheet and toss it in the recycle bin.
But if I give a student a blank page, he will demonstrate his learning through drawing, writing, and designing his own explanation of his learning. He will utilize critical thinking and creativity. Then, he will be able to explain his learning to his classmates and me, demonstrating not only compliance and memorization, but also application and understanding. He will experience learning....deep learning.
If I give a student a lecture, she will demonstrate compliance by listening quietly as I talk. She will be a receptacle for knowledge dispensed by me as she fills in a graphic organizer with words and thoughts given to her by me. She will turn in the graphic organizer for me to grade. Once I grade and return the graphic organizer, she will look at the grade, shrug her shoulders, and stuff the organizer in her binder until she pulls it out to memorize the facts given to her by me for the test she will take. At the end of the school year, she will take the graphic organizer and toss it in the recycle bin.
But if the student gives me a presentation, she will demonstrate her learning verbally and visually by explaining her learning to her classmates and me; she will talk while I listen and respond. She will be a dispenser of knowledge who has researched and designed a visual representation of her knowledge utilizing technology. She will utilize critical thinking, decision making and creativity. She will experience learning....deep learning.
Let's be real ----you and I are most likely products of a worksheet-laden, lecture-filled educational experience, and truthfully, you turned out just fine. So did I. After all, we are now rock star educators, but what we experienced does not align with what our students need. In an age when they are bombarded with information constantly ---information that may or may not be reliable--- they need to become experts at discernment, decision-making, and problem-solving. Worksheets and lectures may not be the best way to prepare them for their time (not our time) so we must invite them to be active participants in their education.
Whenever possible, embrace and implement alternatives to the traditional worksheet or lecture, but if you just can't resist an occasional lapse consider these hacks for student engagement:
*Infuse it with discussion: Add expectations to the worksheet requiring students to discuss with one another or explain items to the class. Provide opportunities within the lecture to turn and talk with those around you.
*Allow students to re-design a worksheet: Have them upgrade a basic worksheet to one requiring more from the students.
*Incorporate movement. With worksheets, cut them into strips and hang them on the wall around the room. It goes from completing ten items at your seat to visiting 5 stations where you complete items collaboratively with other students. For lectures, allow for brain breaks where students stand and compare notes with students across the room. Give a strolling lecture, where you stage the lecture at different locations across the campus. While walking to the next stop, students review the previous information with one another.
For more information about the use of worksheets and lectures in the classroom, click on the links below:
- Worksheet Curriculum, a blog post from ASCD
- Letting go of homework and worksheets from Mark Barnes
- How to build a dynamic lecture from Edutopia
- Golden Rules for Engaging Students in Learning Activities