Teaching without worksheets is easy

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In a recent post about the misconception of greatness in teaching, I shared an anecdote about a new teacher explaining how a so-called great teacher shared all of his worksheets with her. I immediately cringed at this, because of my strong belief that worksheets and the like erase any interest students might have in the subject matter.

Want a quiet classroom? Worksheets will help.

I have written widely about how a results-only classroom uses year-long projects in place of worksheets. Some educators are skeptical, most likely because they don’t want to let go of their precious files filled with the worksheets that make teaching so easy, while putting students to sleep faster than a 30-minute lecture.  

Education researcher, Louis Volante, has found that among other things, worksheets have been proven to waste valuable class time and focus on teaching only rote skills (2004). Founder of MAX Teaching, Mark Forget, has suggested that worksheets eliminate the collaborative approach that is conducive to learning (2004).

My own experience tells me that worksheets are a crutch, used by traditional teachers, who have either no interest or no experience engaging students in real learning. The year-long project provides students with a menu of choices for demonstrating numerous learning outcomes over the course of an entire school year.

The teachers provides mini lessons (typically brief videos, discovery activities and models) and plenty of class time for project work. Students are engaged by the freedom that a workshop environment creates. Plus, since students help create the projects, they are intrinsically motivated to move forward with them, to watch them grow. 

So, if you build a powerful year-long project that integrates learning outcomes and provides students with plenty of choice, collaboration and time to work, you’ll see that teaching without worksheets is very easy.


Forget, M.A. (2004). Max teaching with reading and writing: classroom activities for helping
students learn new subject matter while acquiring literacy skills. Portsmouth, VA: Trafford.

Volante, Louis. Teaching to the Test: What Every Educator and Policy-maker Should Know.
Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy.
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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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