How Do We Break The Cycle?

How do we break the “worksheet” cycle? I was talking with a few coworkers yesterday and we realize that our students this year want worksheets.  They only do the work if in worksheet form (those few that do it). The parents want worksheets and want them to do it for homework. It is like they thrive on them.  What on earth have they been doing all these years to think that worksheets are the only reliable way of learning? Why is this class my largest percentage of failures all because they have never been made to think beyond a worksheet? I am not getting this? Mostly I am sad by this.  How do we break this cycle? I will  not concede to worksheets and homework. I will not! My students will think and learn!. But how do I break the cycle?


***To those leaving comments (which is always welcome): If there is no “anti-spam” word when leaving a comment, click “change users” next to the comment box. I will show the :anti-spam” word! I do not understand why it does this.***

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Damian says:

    I was having this conversation with a colleague today, and I think the answer we came up with is “through sheer brute force”.

    Maintain high expectations, provide supports and guidance as necessary, and give them interesting problems/projects with no one, clear-cut answer to solve and/or work out, on their own and in teams. There will be resistance, and it will get worse before it gets better, but ultimately I believe that with the right support, guidance, and encouragement, they will rise to meet/exceed your expectations.

  2. Cheat. Send home some kind of project, but… make it look somewhat like a worksheet. Give them a rubric or some type of table that asks them to examine each step of the process of the projects. Ask them good thinking questions to answer in another table or long-answer… something MORE than a simple yes/no, fill in the blank, or multiple choice. Maybe the project is to create a podcast about the topic- they write scripts that include info about what they’re learning. The rubric would be each step of the podcast, including reflection.

    Eventually, you can wean them from the physical worksheet and transform the project idea into work on a reflection blog, class or small group wiki, Google Doc, etc.

    Just a thought. 🙂 Keep your chin up, kid.

  3. I’m sorry you are hitting a worksheet wall. When I started to move toward a paperless classroom, I had some students and parents that were annoyed at not having work they could hold in their hands. It took some time, but the kids came around. Once they realized I was not going back, they had to come to my side or they would fail. They are HS kids, so they fought hard, but I broke them.

    Keep fighting the good fight and know that your PLN is there for you.

    – Nick

  4. Carl Lidstone says:

    Have the same problem! I have looked through some books and there is only worksheets in them. I agree that parents are sometimes the hardest to convince; remember that a flood starts with just one raindrop and there are many ‘raindrops’ who think the same as you. I am trying bit by bit to get rid of homework sheets in our school. It is a start.

  5. Ike says:


    Their assignment is to create a worksheet.

    They must demonstrate what they know by creating a one-page worksheet with at least ten points of knowledge, and one of mastery and/or application.

    Spend time showing them how to make a worksheet, and maybe the little buggers will understand how much work goes into them.

    THEN they might stop complaining about not getting worksheets for everything.

  6. I went to a Stephanie Harvey workshop a few weeks ago about making thinking visible and inquiry models. She said that she uses thinking sheets, not work sheets. They resemble a worksheet in that they’re on paper but that’s where the similarities end. There are no close activities, no lines for answers, no long lists of similar problems, no questions that ask for regurgitation. Instead, there are column headings and sometimes just titles so that students essentially create the worksheet and it looks different for every child. I wonder if you can use that concept idea in your classroom of if parents will think it too abstract. Project zero has some similar models that make thinking visible. Good luck!

  7. Lyn Hilt says:

    I find you to be clever and resourceful and have no doubt you can break the cycle! Definitely get creative with it. If we don’t give students worksheets, they can’t do them. 🙂 In my school right now, the team leaders have identified our areas of need in math at each grade level. Good, right? However now they’re compiling stacks of packets of worksheets and distributing them to other teachers in the grades as if to say, “These worksheets will help us fill in the gaps in our curriculum!”
    Buuut… they won’t. Thankfully one of the teachers told me about this binder-filling-mania and she has expressed her concern. Help your kiddos jump head first into the content, I have no doubts you can do it!

  8. I hear your frustration and i have been trying to break the cycle as well.
    Here are 2 quick ideas. I often ask my students to make up a test or in this case a worksheet and I shuffle the papers around and each student works on a worksheet made up by another student.
    I also use Tic-Tac-Toe activities which gives the students choices so even if one choice is a worksheet they still need to do two other activities, and I set it up so that the other activities are more high order thinking skills.

    Good Luck!

  9. ktenkely says:

    This is a hard cycle to break, mostly because we have become a society where mediocrity thrives and is accepted as the way things should be. I wrote a blog post on why I love worksheets I loved worksheets in school because they were easy. They didn’t require thinking and I knew how to work the system. Worksheets are demanded because they are the easy. Students can fill them in with minimal thinking and then move onto the next subjects worksheet. Parents like them because they are easy. We need to get out of the habit of believing that the easy way out is the best way. Students may not initially appreciate it but hindsight is always 20-20. Today the best teachers I had were the ones who challenged me to do something greater. I love the suggestions above to cheat and make your thinking activities look like a worksheet through rubrics or tic-tac-toe activities. Don’t let them get you down, do what you know is right for them!

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