Thursday, July 07, 2005

To worksheet or not to worksheet

I got through a couple pleasure books these first two weeks (I highly recommend the Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker), and finally picked up Regie Routman again. I came across this tidibit on page 142 of Writing Essentials that is worth thinking about.
I have not been able to locate any research showing that worksheets or drills carry over into students' successful application of skills in authentic reading/writing contexts. In fact, decades of research show that drills do not improve student writing. Much like passing the Friday spelling test, students can perform the skill in isolation, but they don't apply it in the course of daily writing and reading.

She goes on to explain that the skill we want students to master islearned best in the context of a meaningful piece of writing where the student can see how the skill being taught makes the writing clearer and more understandable to the reader. Food for thought as we consider purchasing a truckload of workbooks for our literacy program.


Junie B. said...

It is exciting to think about the academic progress our students could make if our time was spent on authentic writing activities for an audience instead of practice exercises. The example Routman uses on page 151 illustrates how we can reach beyond the standards if the focus is on excellent teaching of writing. Less time spent on worksheets would allow more time for whole class sharing/celebrating, independent reading/writing time, shared writing and conferences with the students. Having time for 1-1 or small group conferences also allows us to differentiate and help each student make progress at his/her own pace. Routman has excellent examples of how the whole to part and back to whole approach makes the learning easier and more meaningful for students.

danw said...

I'm encouraged to see you have caught the spirit of Routman's book. Authentic writing pieces for real audiences should be our mantra. I can see our students writing a school handbook, grade level newsletters, letters to soldiers, persuasive letters to city council and many others. We'll brainstorm more of these in the fall and start our kids on some writing adventures. I can see one little 2nd grader (MC) leading the charge.

Junie B. said...

You should probably expect a persuasive composition from MC on why the youngest students should be able to take a field trip to Soak City. I have already heard the verbal rendition of this written piece! :)