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Brainy Apples: No Worksheet Wednesday Kick Off!
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No Worksheet Wednesday Kick Off!

I am SO excited for our new linky this month! I am a FIRM believer in using as few worksheets as possible. Yes, sometimes you don’t have a choice. Students really need that practice, but, most times, a worksheet just doesn’t cut it. Several years ago when I was leading a staff development training about designing and implementing authentic performance tasks, I started off the session by showing a slide with one quote on it: “Worksheets don’t grow dendrites.”
Are worksheets easy? Yes. Do they keep the kids busy? Yes. Do they require students to use higher-level thinking skills? Sometimes. Do they allow students to use their creativity? Usually no. Do they keep kids truly engaged? Most often, no. There is a difference between keeping kids busy and keeping kids engaged. Worksheets are often busy work. Time fillers. A stand-in when you didn’t have time to really plan. So I really hope this linky gives you some great ideas and a little bit of encouragement to move away from those worksheets and dip your toe in the performance task/project-based learning waters.

****disclaimer: I am in no way saying using worksheets is bad teaching. I am just trying to say that using worksheets all the time for practicing skills isn’t the best way to ensure your students have truly learned the material at a high enough level to apply those skills in new context.****

One common “concern” I heard during my session was, “Don’t these take a long time to complete? We don’t have enough time.” Well, I look at it as quality versus quantity. I don’t need to give my kids 6 worksheets when they can complete one task. Yes, I will have one grade versus 6, but is it the quantity of the grades that matter or the quality of what they reveal? (Click {HERE} to see my post about grading versus noticing). I know some schools or districts have requirements on how many grades you must give per quarter or semester, but you can use informal observations as grades, too. And often times, a task incorporates more than 1 skill, so while there may be just one task, you could have 2-3 grades as a result.

Now onto the fun stuff! For my first “No Worksheet Wednesday” post, I wanted to share the activity I had my 6th graders do to help them remember all the pronoun standards. I could have given my kids worksheets to fill out, but I thought this way would be more meaningful. They would be investing more of their own time and creativity into it, so they would have more ownership in the contents and the final product. It took us about a week to complete, but I think it was well worth it. I was able to snag multiple grades from this one activity. I graded if they understood each type of pronoun (there were 4 different types, so that was 4 grades); I graded if they could use correct punctuation and mechanics (that was 2 grades); I graded if they understood antecedents (that was 1 grade). Seven grades came from this one activity that took 5 days. If I had the same amount of grades from worksheets, that would be more than 1 worksheet per school day in the same amount of time. Which do you think would truly engaged the kids?

My students made a flipbook with the following labels:
And, because sometimes you realize you missed something, I had them write “Ambiguous” on the back of the flipbook (one too few flaps).
They gave their own title for the flip book (most had WAY better titles that I came up with!)

For each page of the flipbook, they needed to have the following:
*definition of that type of pronoun
*the pronouns that were of that type
*an example sentence using that type of pronoun
*in the example sentence, they needed to circle  the pronoun and, if present, highlight the antecedent.
*if they wanted to add an illustration of their example sentence, they could
For the antecedent and ambiguous pronoun pages, they obviously did not list specific types (that was the only difference).

Some of the tasks/projects I assign are a lot more involved. This wasn’t one of them, but I wanted them to practice the skills in another format besides worksheets. Did I still have them practice choosing the correct pronoun in a sentence and labeling its function? Yes, but I like to think of making compromises with my students. I know they dislike worksheets (as do I), so I throw in activities that they can exercise their creativity as much as I can.

Here is a {LINK} to the activity above in case you want to use it with your kiddos! Enjoy!

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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  1. Heather, I love this post! I will be using this idea to make little (modified) pronoun flip-books for my 2nd grade English Language Learner group. They will love it! Just by looking at the covers and content of the books, you can really tell your students were engaged and invested int this task. There really is something to be said about "giving" our students less, and allowing them to create, process, and take ownership of their own learning. Awesome job :)

  2. WOW! Your students did an incredible job on their flip books. I love reading what middle school kiddos are up to in the classroom. Thanks for sharing!
    The Techie Teacher

  3. Flipbooks are an awesome way and kids love those...great ideas!
    Teaching and Much Moore

  4. I love your pronoun flip books!!! These are adorable and I'm sure the kids had so much fun making them. Aaaand, they are probably going to remember what a pronoun is now! Thanks for sharing. :)