Early in my teaching career, I was completing a worksheet that came with our textbook series the night before I planned to give it to my students. I did everything I could to not complete the worksheet. I found distractions, talked on the phone, even did some laundry. It was a single worksheet and I, the teacher, didn’t even want to finish it. I thought I just wasn’t motivated… until I really thought about the reasons I didn’t want to finish it. I was bored. So bored. Black print on white paper, question after question of the same thing. I had no motivation to get the work done. I wasn’t engaged in what I was doing. I had zero interest in it. Me – the teacher!
That evening, I decided to make a change. I would no longer use my textbook in class — or even the resources that came with it. At least, I wouldn’t use them in the way they were given to me. That evening I took 10 problems from the worksheet I was having a hard time finishing, and typed the problems into a table. I made them multiple choice questions and decided to have the answers connect to specific colors that students would use to color in a picture. I took out a plain sheet of paper, hand-drew a picture of some animals, and added some numbers to the picture. I had just created my first coloring page. I LOVED making the answer key because I knew I was going to be able to color. I had motivation to get the work done! That night really changed who I was as a teacher because I realized that if I was bored making an answer key, my students would most certainly be bored doing the work. That night, I committed myself to getting out of the textbook and going beyond the worksheet as much as possible.
Going Beyond the Worksheet: 5 Engaging Ways to Bring Middle Schoolers Out of the Textbook
I want to share with you five tips for getting your students (and yourself) out of the textbook. Going beyond the worksheet is quick and easy if you have the right tools — I hope this post will inspire you to try something new in your classroom!
1. Know your students
Understand how they learn. Think of ways you can allow them to demonstrate their understanding to you, without simply reading and answering questions from a textbook. I love the idea of choice boards or menus to give students options. One of those options can be a worksheet, for students who like that kind of thing. Other options can be creative for students who are artistic — create a brochure, a song, a poster. Students who are good with technology could make a commercial or PowerPoint presentation. We have long understood that students don’t all learn the same. Once we grasp the understanding that they also don’t demonstrate their learning in the same way, we will open doors for them.
2. Don’t reinvent the wheel
There is SO much available out there for you. From digital to print, creative resources are being created every single day. Think about the skills you are covering in class next week. Then take a few minutes to search and be inspired to try a new activity or project that relates to that skill.
3. Use the worksheet in new ways
Take the problems from one of your worksheets and type them into a PowerPoint game template or coloring page template. Let your students show mastery in the ways that work best for them when you use choice boards. And reinforce skills and offer enrichment when you incorporate task cards.
4. Consider using interactive notebooks
… or at least foldable-style notes to mix things up a bit in your classroom. They don’t have to be a lot of work if you don’t let them take over your classroom. Pre-cut templates using a paper cutter (or student volunteer) to make things move a little quicker. Fold and flip notes provide students with instant flash cards, and studying becomes more interactive and engaging.
5. Try out stations
Even if you’ve never used them in your classroom, give them a try. Stations can be made quickly by cutting a worksheet into sections, spreading them around the room, and breaking students into groups to work on the questions together. Stations work fabulously in both elementary and secondary grades because they provide students with the opportunity to get up and move around the room and work cooperatively.
Lindsay Perro is a full time Teacher-Author, developing resources for middle school math teachers. She is a wife, mother, coffee lover, and Disney fan. Follow along with her on her blog Beyond the Worksheet, and check out the resources she has to offer in her TpT Store.