Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Study Bliss: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites

Hi, Teaching Friends!

Have you noticed lately how many teacher bloggers are admitting to being nerdy? Even the ones who you know really aren't? ;)


Here's my nerdy confession: I am somewhat of a geek for professional books. I love to read them, and I tend to keep them forever. I've always wanted to be part of a book study but couldn't get anyone else interested. The one time we had a book study at school, it fizzled like a wet firecracker after the first few chapters.


So I am Very Excited  to be embarking on a study led by a terrific group of bloggers who also like to talk books and teaching. I even love the title of this one, Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites.



 bookstudy


Boo to the trend toward worksheets that seems to be rearing its head again. {it's that old swinging pendulum thing...}  I know that active teaching is physically demanding and handing out worksheets isn't.  I know that probably every teacher has had moments of wishing her classroom was at least a little bit quieter at times. { True confession: I may have occasionally let Writing Workshop or silent reading time run beyond the scheduled time because they tend to be the quieter times of the day! Wild and crazy, huh? } 

And I also know that some districts/administrators require some sort of written accountability piece from each student for everything you teach. Seriously, people, in K/1??? Does your school require this?

All that being said, we all know that both the research and our own classroom experience show that the best, long-lasting learning is active, not passive. That's why I'm kind of uneasy about the appearance of  all these no-prep resources. Some of them are games, or surveys, or "semi-active" learning that at least includes interaction and conversation. But in my opinion far too many of those new resources are just plain old worksheets fancied up with cute clipart, but worksheets nonetheless. I don't think that's the best use of our students' learning time.  A little bit of paper and pencil here and there is one thing, but too much of it takes the fun and excitement out of learning.


That's the underlying premise of this book. But the great thing is that the author, Marcia Tate, goes beyond the research to the reality, with very specific suggestions for including active learning throughout your day, regardless of what you teach.


Chapter One focuses on the importance of conversation. That's where I found my *aha!* connection: Think-Pair-Share! It's one of my favorite strategies to keep children actively listening and processing information. When my students come to the rug, they sit with a "Rug Buddy", a partner that changes every week or two. Students expect there to be times when they will "turn and talk" to their buddy, in response to whatever I'm reading ( "How does this character feel? How do you know?", "What do you predict will happen next?", etc.) or teaching ("Explain to your partner how you would add these three numbers", etc.).  This expectation keeps them listening, and the pause to review consolidates their learning. 


The twist to my use of the Think-Pair-Share strategy was the last step. Sometimes, I'd ask a student to share what his or her partner had said in their conversation. Voila! It's an easy way to provide multiple opportunities to talk, listen, interpret, process... and understand and remember! And most of the time that learning is going on, the teacher's mouth is closed and the kids are doing the talking.


I love that so many bloggers will be sharing their reactions to this book!  The linky today is being hosted by Elizabeth at Kickin' It in Kindergarten.  Visit to find new ideas for keeping the dendrites growing in your classroom!

Grab button for Kickin It In Kindergarten



Happy Teaching!



18 comments:

  1. Hi Linda,
    I feel exactly the same way about the no prep resources that are selling like hotcakes! I understand that teachers need resources that cut down their prep time but there are so many more ways to do that than hand them a worksheet. Your take-aways are so very similar to mine! I also do the same thing with think pair share where they have to share what their partner said. You and I share a lot of the same philosophies about teaching. Glad to meet you!
    Joya :)

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  2. Hi, Joya!
    I just this minute finished reading your post and thought the same thing - you are a kindred spirit!! What a happy surprise to come back here and find your comment!
    I'm enjoying the book so far and finding it to be an affirmation, as I'm sure you are, too. It's nice to know that we're on the right track, and of course it's always great to get new ways of looking at things, too.
    Have a great weekend!
    Linda

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  3. I hear what you're saying about the influx of printables on the market - but I do feel that balance is really key. I think worksheets have their place - I really do. As long as you aren't hanging your teacher-hat on them!

    Love this book, right!?!?

    Holly
    Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade

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    1. I agree, Holly - balance is key! I think worksheets are great and actually necessary for assessment, both formally and informally, so we really know accurately the specific strengths and weaknesses of each student. I'm just a bit uneasy that the "cuteness" of some of the newest worksheets might disguise the fact that they're still worksheets. Like you said so well, just don't hang your teacher-hat on them! :)
      Thanks so much for stopping by!
      Linda

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  4. Linda- What a great post! Thank you for all of your great thoughts. I'm the same way about some PD books (not all of them...if I'm being honest) but I was really excited about this one! I love your idea of having the kids share their partners ideas...that makes them really have to listen when they turn and talk. Great idea! Thanks for linking up :)

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    1. Well, yes! Some PD books (like some PD workshops) aren't worth the time put into them, sadly. But so far, I'm liking this one a lot!
      Thanks for hosting today's link-up, and for stopping by to comment!
      Linda

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  5. Hi, Linda! Thanks so much for commenting on my post. It was very encouraging. I'm really excited about participating in this book study....and I guess that puts me in the nerd category!! :) I agree with you, worksheets are good to use for formal and informal assessment. Also, when I use worksheets, I really want them to be engaging for my kiddos, and not just writing words or letters on paper. Your post was really interesting. I can tell this book study is going to be a great learning experience! Enjoy the rest of your weekend! Linda from Linda's Learning Loot

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  6. Linda,
    Great post! I love your sense of humor!!! I think good teachers are the ones who are reading professional books and reflecting on their thinking!! Happy weekend! Melissa

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    1. You're so sweet to stop by and comment, Melissa! Enjoy your weekend, too!
      Linda

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  7. HI Linda, GREAT post!!! I don't think you should feel one bit bad about letting your Reading and Writer's Workshop time go over. During those times students are actively engaged in the Reading and Writing process!! I Thanks so much for participating in the book study. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

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    1. Actually, I NEVER feel one bit guilty about that! I'm much more of a "go with the teachable moment" sort than a fanatic about sticking to the schedule. If it doesn't get done in class today and there's a good reason for it, then ... well, there's always tomorrow! I agree with you - why stop when they're so engaged in learning?
      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment, Deanna!
      Linda

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  8. Ignore that extra I in there. I wish we could edit comments! :)

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  9. Hi Linda,
    I agree about always wanting to do a book study. We did some when I was teaching during our staff meetings. While good, it wasn't always fun when it was a book I didn't want to read. I think that is why this book study is so appealing to so many of us. We chose to do it because we are interested in it and want to better ourselves. Pretty awesome! What other profession does that sort of thing on their own time?

    Sara
    Sara J Creations

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    1. Funny that you should say that, Sara. It relates to what I was thinking the other day- is there any other profession that has as many bloggers as we do in education? Fashion and food, maybe, but in most cases, their blogs are their direct contact with the public and sometimes even their whole job. Teacher bloggers teach all day and then fill their evenings and weekends with exchanging ideas to improve themselves and share their passion for teaching with others. I think we deserve to give ourselves a little pat on the back! :)

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  10. I read that book several years ago after going to a brain based workshop. Active learning really is more likely to stick than passive learning. I get the need for worksheets between active learning activities or as assessment tools, but it is so hard on the kids when worksheets are all that fill their days.
    ✿April✿

    Grade School
    Giggles

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  11. I agree, April! Worksheets can be drudgery for kids. For our lower students, they often require small motor skills that are still a challenge, but best improved in ways other than trying to fit big handwriting on little lines!. As for our most capable students, one of the issues is that they whiz through them so fast that it's hardly worth the time and paper for copying. I think the challenge is to seek out either non-traditional worksheets that require cooperative work, higher order thinking skills, etc., or to reserve worksheets for assessment.
    Thanks for your comment!

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