The problem, of course, is that unless this piece serves as a purposeful tool for some greater purpose, children are minimally engaged and see the flimsy sheet behind the posed ‘learning activity’– a left-field attempt to make up for a skill to which they haven’t been properly introduced. You might initially perceive it to be a hopeful patch for a missed opportunity or lost time, but we all know that worksheet will be finished half-heartedly across the 20-something heads in the room, and thrown into a stack of ‘things’ to be graded.
Beware the busy work, and attempts to teach a new skill without proper modeling and guidance. When in doubt, reinforce a skill already learned – students need more practice with skill building than many rookie teachers often realize. Wait until you’ve wrapped your head and planned out a step-by-step approach, and have planned a path for fully introducing a new skill.
A pre-assessment is always a good idea as well. The skill or content may be on the to-teach curriculum, but if most of your class already knows how to integrate or use that skill? Well golly gee, don’t waste valuable planning and instructional time teaching a skill that’s already taken; hold them accountable for using that skill, and find ways to help instruct and support those few who need additional help.
Pre-assessing and keeping the patience (and persistence) in planning can help us steer clear of this ominous cliché. Planning, unless of course one of those teachable moments crops up in that blooming field that is the classroom, and you feel the need to improvise and introduce the skill right-then-and-there – but then, those worksheets will likely be nowhere in sight. A case of less is more.