Is there any value to using worksheets in the classroom?In an earlier post regarding substitutes, I made a few strongly worded comments about worksheets. Bluntly put, I refuse to use them and...

Is there any value to using worksheets in the classroom?

In an earlier post regarding substitutes, I made a few strongly worded comments about worksheets. Bluntly put, I refuse to use them and consider them worthless. I am curious to know how my colleagues feel about them.

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like using some kinds "worksheets" in the classroom. I usually use them to prepare students for vocabulary tests. I try to get them to illustrate a word with a small picture, and sometimes I even give a review (not worth a lot of points) so that they can use pictures I provide (graphics) to define the words. It's more work for me, but some students are visual learners and some are auditory learners. I worry about the visual kids when we discuss things, but feel that everybody gets some benefit from some kind of review that is entertaining and valuable. If they remember the picture, it may well help them to recall the definition.

I also have students make up their own worksheets, in a way, by having them draw pictures recalling the highlights of stories we read from The Odyssey. We read the stories from the text, discuss them, offer suggestions on how we could represent some of the creatures (e.g., Charybdis), and I never grade on whether they can draw. If they use colors, I give a couple extra points; students also need to summarize each picture with a sentence or two. I don't mind stick figures or speech bubbles that explain what's what in a picture.

Busy work? I don't do it. Kids resent it and I can't find any educational value for it. Answering valid questions, using crossword reviews, etc., I find sticks with kids more than filling out a paper. If my kids are not engaged by my work, they won't be engaged in my class.

mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I found that I hated the provided worksheets more than the students did. For grammar, I much preferred to use small white boards to try out sentences, have the students correct the four at their table, choose one to share with the group, and then have the class offer suggestions to make it a better sentence. If I was teaching how to prove a topic sentence, we did an in class paragraph using several vignettes from a movie such as The Christmas Story.  Students at their tables had to choose the best one, share it with the class, and again each student would vote whether the paragraph proved the topic sentence or not.  The method was simple, effective, and fun for students who each wrote in different colored ink and, of course, decorated the paper.  I sometimes used a self-created sheet for taking notes which was short and involved more discussion than writing.  I just found that worksheets became cheat sheets, and that we all hated them.

pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It depends! I teach a few science skills that are rather similar to puzzle solving; working Punnet squares, balancing chemical equations, things like that. For these particular items, some practice drill seems to be necessary for most students to retain the skill, so I have practice sheets, aka worksheets, for those topics. I also have some for reteach/relearn work; if a student doesn't master a skill well enough to pass the test the first time, they are expected to do practice work before they can retake it. (Test retakes - a different test, not the same one-  are required to be offered in my school.)

Overdoing the worksheet thing is a sure way to lose students, but some skills are only gained by practice. I point out to kids that they do layup drills in basketball practice. A properly used worksheet serves much the same purpose.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You're a history teacher like me, right?

I would never use the ones that come from the lovely ancillary materials for the text.  Those are pointless exercises in finding a word and copying it.  (In my humble opinion, of course.)

When I talk about worksheets, I mean things that I make up that ask students to read and to, for want of a better word, interact with their texts.  For example, I'll take a word that I'm sure they don't know and ask them to infer its meaning from the text.  I'll ask them to look at a phrase in the book and try to write it in a less biased way.  They are worksheets in the sense that they are things that the students are supposed to sit at their desks and work on, but they are not the kind of junk (I hope) that come with the book.

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I hate worksheets and believe me, the kids hate them as well. Everyone (you, the kid, the sub) knows it's just mindless busywork.

Like booboo, I have had them make their own puzzles and games. Jeopardy! is a popular one. They have to create both the questions and answers, and then they get to quiz their classmates. Even at the Freshman college-level that I teach, you would be amazed at what they will do to earn a candy bar or a few points of extra credit.

My son is still in elementary school. The amount of worksheets he brings home is ridiculous. I would much rather have him engaged in meaningful discussions than all the nonsense they make him do.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I used worksheet-type materials, but they were usually something other than provided by the textbook company. Students loved doing word searches, scrambles, crossword puzzles to get vocabulary words and definitions in their heads. I frequently provided a format and some key words and then had students complete the outline of material to help them write and see how the different aspects of information fit together. Textbook-derived worksheets occasionally were seen in my classroom as review exercises before tests, but certainly weren't used often or for actual instructional purposes.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that most of the auxiliary worksheets that come with text materials serve only to regurgitate previously discussed info. They do come in handy for short notice subtitute teachers on occasion, but I generally make up my own worksheets if I use them at all. I think they can be useful if used properly, but many fill in the blank style sheets only serve as a reason for students to copy one another's work. My own worksheets usually require short paragraphs or essays in the hope of getting some creative thought as a response.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Worksheets are very useful for direct instruction of a grammar topic.  If I am going to teach comma rules, I am going to start with a worksheet with sentences that need commas for any number of reasons before I have the students write their own sentences that demonstrate their understanding of the various reasons for a comma.  Worksheets provide notes and examples that can then be used as a common reference for editing activities students will do with their own writing.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, if by "worksheet" you mean meaningless work to try to keep students occupied when you have a sub or as a filler for real teaching, I vote no. If I have to be gone unexpectedly without time to prepare something effective, I have my students play Scrabble tiles. At least they are using their minds and, ideally, stretching their vocabularies. Busywork is a waste of valuable time, and it discourages students from wanting to do real work when they need to.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I use worksheets (that I create) so as to add to the information presented in lectures. I also let students use the worksheets as 'reminder guides' so that they have immediate access to the most commonly used ideas or devices we are going over.  As for mass created worksheets, I do not use them because I do look at them as a waste of time. If I create the worksheet then I can focus it in a way that helps my students.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Worksheets have value for practice. For example, practicing math facts by doing timed tests. In general, I don't use worksheets in the usual sense. I make my own handouts and sometimes they require filling in blanks and answering questions. Sometimes I also use worksheets for review. Kids like ocassional mindless activity. That was a joke. I mean repetition of course.
bigdreams1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I normally don't use worksheets. There are many other much more effective ways to teach what I teach (English, Speech, Theatre).  However, I can see where a worksheet might be a valuable tool in a math class as a means of practicing problems as a review for an upcoming test...or along those lines.


ravinderrana | Student

Worsheets are definitely an asset provided the teacher knows when and how to use them. I have always relied on worksheets in my classes to bring together all the points on one level so as to make my children read and then work as THINK PAIR SHARE methodology.  Additionally, in a worksheet, I put questions which are out -of- the- box type or those which help cover the entire chapter in  a nutshell.

Besides, if you compile them together, they constitute a great tool to help you recollect all that was taught meaningfully in class.

evelynguy3 | Student

I, too, use personally made worksheets. I make sure that I include higher level thinking skills questions that require students to think instead of regurgitating information they have memorized (or copied from a neighbor). I teach special eductaion, so rarely find a premade worksheet that works for us. I do use a lot of multiple choice, as most of my students have trouble putting thoughts into words. If prompted with a stem and answer, they can show the higher level knowledge they have, which they couldn't do verbally or with an essay or paper.

I have lots of different levels in one classroom, so have to have a way to individualize assessments. Also, repetition is needed extensively by some, but not others. So, with worksheets I can provide the repetition as needed. I do try to limit them, however, as they are not good teaching tools, in my opinion.

murphyp | Student

Using worksheets as busywork is a waste of time. However, I use worksheets as lesson starters, guided practices and occasionally for homework. I also use a number of handouts that I create myself to reinforce objectives that I have taught. I do not agree that all reference handouts that come with the textbook kits are useless. When approaching them, I am selective, and I use only what will reinforce or enhance my students' vocabulary, writing or syntax lessons. Handouts that contain graphic organizers are extremely helpful because it saves class time; some students take longer than others to create venn diagrams, t-charts and the like.

bingo10164 | Student

no no no no no every kid hates worksheets and we all cheat on them


my favorite thing in school are ''skeleton notes''