Nature is an incredibly powerful aspect of classroom environment design. It provides an infinite supply of experiences. It also conveys a sense of calmness and a home-like quality to provide a conducive learning environment for children.
Therefore, we decided to make number posters from sticks and pebbles (in 2019). Note: This is a great activity that can be done while still maintaining social distancing between students!! Add to the activity by taking the class outside for a much-needed breather and break to collect the pebbles and sticks. You can then add in additional objectives prior to gluing them such as counting, sorting, placing in length or size order, patterning, etc.
This activity not only brought in some nature to the environment but it was also incorporated multiple learning targets:
Numerals- how they are formed= straight and curved lines
The vocabulary of horizontal, vertical and diagonal
Measurement: measured with cubes to determine the length of the stick needed
Young children learn best through hands-on activities (not from worksheets.) Parents can continue to engage with their children practicing the letters of the alphabet using developmentally appropriate strategies.
Children love their names. Learning will stick with children when we can connect it to something in which they have an emotional connection.
Here is a document to send home with ideas of how to learn the letters of the alphabet by sorting the letters in the child’s name…
Add in some practicing of fine motor skills by providing the child a pair of tweezers to pick up the letters.
During this most unprecedented and challenging time in history, we all want our children to continue to learn and families want information on how to support their children.
However, I am dismayed by the number of worksheets that are being shared and ideas that involve lots of needed items such as pompons, playdough, rainbow mats, different colored Solo cups, etc. Don’t get me wrong- the ideas are very cute but they are also unrealistic for many of our families. Our families cannot travel to purchase these items- they should not be in stores and many cannot afford them or afford even the gas.
So here is an idea to share with parents for learning letters through sorting that uses only letters cut from cardboard food boxes or magazines. I have revised this from a document of ideas that I shared with teachers- I removed the colored background, etc. so that it is easier for you to print for parents if that is needed. It can be printed and sent along in food bags to families.
Reason Number Six: Worksheets do NOT develop social skills.
In the adult world, it is rare that we are told to do our own work and keep our eyes on our own paper. We collaborate on challenging tasks with colleagues. We gather information and learn new perspectives when we can work, brainstorm, and problem-solve together. This is the same for children. They are social beings who need multiple opportunities to engage in hands-on and inquiry learning experiences with their peers.
Reason Number Four: Worksheets do NOT develop problem-solving or critical thinking
If we want children to learn to solve problems we must create safe environments in which they feel confident taking risks, making mistakes, learning from them, and trying again (Fordham & Anderson, 1992). Worksheets do not involve critical thinking or problem-solving. Children instead develop a habit of guessing with passive thinking.
Reason Number Five: Worksheets do NOT develop Fine Motor Skills
NAEYC developmentally appropriate practices (Bredekamp and Copple, 3rd Edition) states, “Writing, drawing, and cutting with precision are activities that can be difficult for young children, who are still developing comfort and agility with fine motor work… Young children should have access to many kinds of materials and objects to help them develop and practice fine motor skills, such as small objects to sort and count and pegboards and beads to string… Pushing children too early into precise fine motor activities (as required on worksheets and color in the lines coloring sheets) is likely to be both unsuccessful and frustrating for young children and may leave them feeling incompetent and stressed.”
The clipping clothespins activity above not only accomplishes the same objective as the worksheet pictured but it also serves to strengthen students’ fine motor skills!
Reason Number Three: Worksheets shut down thinking and only require passive thinking.
Worksheets are stressful since they usually have a right or wrong answer. When children are just starting to learn how to navigate school, how to learn and how to become confident learners, they will gain more from open-ended, hands-on activities that promote risk-taking and persistence. A worksheet shuts down thinking and promotes a mind-set that learning is all about guessing.
NOTE: Response sheets where students are illustrating or writing an idea based on a response to a prompt from a piece of literature, such as draw the setting or draw your favorite part of the story OR a documentation sheet, data collection sheet or “lab report” where information from science observations or data is begin recorded are NOT considered worksheets. Worksheets typically have one correct answer such as “circle all of pictures that start with the letter H” or “underline the words that rhyme with car.”
NO Worksheets in Early Learning (Grades Pre-K through 3rd)
Reason Number One: Children learn best through hands-on experiences.
NAEYC shares with us that children learn best through hands-on experiences. In order for learning to stick with them, they need to feel it, touch it, manipulate it, and experience it. Worksheets are a passive activity that does not activate the learning center in young children’s brains.
Reason Number Two:Children need real objects to develop symbolic thinking.
Based on Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, most young children, including Kindergarten and many first grade children, are in the preoperational stage of cognitive development. Letters and numerals abstract symbols that hold very little meaning. Children require play-based activities to begin to understand symbolic thinking. A play-based curriculum offers children opportunities throughout the day to develop the ability to think abstractly by experiencing real objects using their senses (Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 1993).