What Is A Worksheet?

It's time for teachers to stop feeling guilty about using worksheets.

Today I was tweeting with a well-intentioned teacher who was proudly boasting that she never uses worksheets, and she said she was proud to be striving for a paperless classroom. I argued that new teaching techniques and technology are wonderful additions to a teacher's toolbox, however some printable worksheets should still be embraced by teachers as useful resources.  In short, I believe that great  teachers can - and should - use worksheets to enrich their lessons.

SMART Boards, iPads, computers, chalkboards, and worksheets are all important tools of our trade. But remember: Tools can't enrich the learning process; only great teachers can.

Worksheets are simply printable teaching resources that, when combined with good teaching, can help students learn important concepts.  Before you condemn worksheets, ask yourself: What, exactly, is a worksheet?

  • When you glue an educational board game into a file folder and use it as a learning center, should you feel guilty because it's a worksheet?

Truth is, any printable lesson resource is a worksheet.  And using high-quality printable materials - *ahem* worksheets *ahem* - is nothing to be ashamed of!

In an elementary school classroom, worksheets are used for games, as manipulative math tools, as learning centers, and so much more.  Before embracing the belief that "worksheets are evil," consider the types of printable materials that teachers - even a great teacher like you - may be using in their classrooms.

  • If you print out the words to a science song, and invite students to sing along, you're using a worksheet in the classroom.  This would not make you a lazy teacher because you're using a worksheet; it could make you great teacher who found a fun way to teach science!

  • If you post daily clues to a secret number, and have students use their math skills to determine what the number is, you're a worksheet user. Poor teaching? Of course not! This is what an awesome teacher does to motivate kids into applying their math skills by solving a mystery!

  • If you hide science facts all over your classroom, and you invite students to participate in a classroom scavenger hunt, you should feel good about the way you've used worksheets. You've inspired children to discover new facts and concepts that are related to your curriculum!

  • If you have your kids, color, assemble, and read a phonics mini-book, then you're using worksheets to teach basic phonics and sight words in an age-appropriate way that aligns beautifully with the Common Core Standards.

  • If you teach place value by having kids place manipulative Base-10 blocks on a mat, you're a worksheet user who communicated difficult concepts with a manipulative, hands-on approach to learning.

  • If you give kids a list of spelling words to study, you're using a worksheet.  And if you've found a way to make reviewing spelling words fun for kids, you have helped empower them to become better writers.

  • If your kids write their own puppet show, and perform it with finger puppets, you have used worksheets to teach literacy and foster creativity.

  • If you're an elementary school teacher doing a lesson on communities, and you allow your class to make dioramas to visually see the differences between the urban, rural, and suburban coommunities, then you have used worksheets to appeal to visual, kinesthetic, and tactile learners alike.

  • If you use printable fraction strips or fraction pizzas to show students how to build equivalent fractions, order fractions, and compare fractions, you're empowering them to discover mathematics independently using worksheets.

  • If you play a bingo game to teach students how to tell time, you've used a worksheet to transform a dull lesson on clocks into a whole-group game that makes learning to tell time fun.

  • If you hand out an award certificate for perfect attendance, honor roll, good behavior, or achievement, then you've used a worksheet to show kids that success in school is something to be proud of.

  • If you teach geography by giving your kids a map to label, color and assemble, you've used worksheets to make social studies concepts clear in a visual and hands-on way.

  • If you use worksheets to empower young children to write their own research reports, you're teaching important Common Core skills to students in a way that systematically guides them through the research process.

  • If you invite students to write a book report on a fun poster template, you've used worksheets to build a child's relationship with books and publish his love for reading in the classroom.

Worksheets do not have to be mundane drill-and-practice rituals for students.  They can be engaging, interactive, creative, hands-on, fun, and useful tools for classroom teachers.

Yes, great teachers CAN use worksheets in the classroom.  In fact, great teachers SHOULD use worksheets in the classroom.


Do you agree?  Are you for or against the use of worksheets in the classroom?  Chime in on Twitter (@superteacherwks).  Let's have a discussion on this topic.


Back to: Super Teacher Worksheets Homepage

P.S.  If you still don't believe in using worksheets in the classroom, you may like our other site with interactive SMART Board lessons - ModernChalkboard.com.

Book Report
Classroom Scavenger Hunt
Phonics Game
Fraction Game
Telling Time Bingo (Clocks)
Phonics Mini-Book
Book Report Posters are worksheets.
Classroom Scavenger Hunt Games
are also worksheets.
Phonics Learning Centers
can be considered worksheets.
Whole-Group Math Games
are worksheet too.
Phonics Mini-Books
are terrific worksheets for
teaching early literacy skills.
Small-Group Math Card Games
are worksheets for reviewing
challenging concepts.