Monday, 13 January 2014

Worksheets vs. Writing Frames

Why We Don’t Use Worksheets in the Early Years

Worksheets have no place in the Early Years! For a start,no worksheets the children can’t read to answer the questions on the sheets!

I do cringe when I see worksheets used in focus groups or as the main part of the lesson. Every child is writing the same answer, it’s very prescribed and formal.

The Early Years curriculum is designed to be creative, free and individual. There is room for every little person to express themselves and explore their own interests.

Saying all that, I have used worksheets, everyone does. I tend to use them as independent activities that the children can access at their own level. I also use guided work when doing handwriting or letter formation. Worksheets have their place but if you can use an alternative, that’s by far the better option.

Writing Frames vs. Worksheets

I should really confirm the difference between a writing frame and a worksheet. A writing frame can have anything written or drawn on it. It is open and free for the children to choose what to write. A worksheet is prescriptive and looking for a specific answer.

6 copy 3 copy
This is a maths worksheet that I made from the Space Journal. It asks specifically for the name, age, height and weight of the alien. Every child will write the same and each sheet will look identical. This is a writing frame. While the children are guided to write some non-fiction information about Space, they can write and draw anything they like on thus page. Each piece of work will be different and unique.

Worksheet Alternatives

In maths, it is difficult to avoid worksheets! The nature of maths questions, every answer is the same!


This is a lovely bright maths worksheet from Twinkl. This is the kind of worksheet I would leave out for the children’s independent work. They can access it at their level, or even not do it at all, as they choose.

However, there are two alternative ways that I would teach the same thing without using a worksheet at all!

In focus groups working in attainment groups with the teacher or teaching assistant, I like to play the scavenger hunt!

Scavenger Hunt

This works best as a small focus group activity. Ask the children to run of and find (for example) five books and return to the group. Then run off and find (for example) three pencils. When the children return, ask them to tell you how many objects they have all together.

Addition in the Early Years is

Mathematics: Numbers 40 – 60 months, Finds the total number of items in two groups by counting all of them. In practical activities and discussion, beginning to use the vocabulary involved in adding and subtracting.

And the Early Learning Goal for addition in Mathematics: Number is

They add and subtract two single-digit numbers and count on or back to find the answer.

Which means that the basic aim of addition in reception is that children find the total of two groups by counting them. This very practical activity, usually done in the Autumn term, is a fantastic way of introducing addition.

Question Cards

Instead of worksheets, I give the children question cards.

question card addition

You can copy this question card and past it a few times onto one A4 page. I cut the cards out so that children can stick them onto a separate piece of paper or into a book.

These question cards mean that each sum is different. The children write the + or -and = symbols themselves and choose the numbers they want to use. Obviously the children need some modelling and some support when first using these cards but children quickly get the hang of it.

Avoiding Worksheets

If you can, turn worksheets into individualised and unique question cards. You can target the lesson outcome to differentiate, for example your lower attainers could aim to do 3 question cards, while the higher attainers could try for 5 or 6.

If you have any other avoiding techniques for worksheets, add a comment!

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