15 criteria for kindergarten worksheets

By Alex Case

Choosing a good worksheet is even more difficult for pre-school age students than for other children and adults, as they are not only more likely to find a bad worksheet boring but might also be totally unable to write, draw or read what you what them to. Here are some tips that should help you find or create the perfect worksheet for your classes:

1. Right physical development level
…but helping push them to the next level. This means things like moving towards using a pencil rather than a crayon, using scissors, pressure to keep inside the lines of increasingly small and awkwardly shaped objects when colouring, and making shapes that will lead onto writing, such as loops.

2. Right mental development level
For example, adding a more and more complicated puzzle element for 4 to 6 year olds, starting with things like colouring something in to reveal what it is or join the dots and moving up to maths puzzles etc.

3. Just challenging enough
Very young children love being mentally and physically challenged, but are also prone to feelings of frustration. As well as keeping a close eye on what they can do and pushing them further in very small increments, it is also worth taking a step back in challenge level from time to time to give them a rest and a boost in confidence. You might also want to take account of the time of day, challenge level of other things they are going to do in the same day etc when you judge this.

4. Can be displayed
The universal desire of parents to display their kids’ work is something that can be educationally beneficial in all kinds of ways too. Criteria for good worksheets to display include making them things you can use in future lessons, e.g. in the same way as you would use a teaching poster, having things written on them so that parents can see the language point (even if the students can’t read yet) and making them seasonal so that they can be displayed for a very good reason and then taken down at the end of that period without any protest.

5. Can’t go horribly wrong
Or won’t need more than two attempts to complete successfully. For example, don’t make the first practice with scissors something that you can’t patch up if they cut off the wrong bit, e.g. a circle rather than a spiral, and don’t get them to colour in to a model, e.g. copying the original flashcard, until you know they can stay within the lines.

6. Finish at more or less the same time
This can be difficult with colouring, for example, where the most boisterous can finish in seconds and the most perfectionist take half an hour for the same thing. You can change the activity so that the kids are only given one pencil at a time or have to wait for instructions for each part, and the design of the worksheet can help in this by having several clearly distinct objects or having objects whose colour is not obvious until the teacher tells them. Students who finish early can then describe what they have done, e.g. “How many red socks are there?” “There are five red socks”. The design of the worksheet can help with this too, by having extra details that the students don’t do anything with but can discuss, e.g. spiders scattered around the scene. Similar tactics can be used where students are reading and suffering from different reading speeds.

7. Involves lots of language
E.g. can’t just pick up your pencils and colour it in without listening to or reading any English.

8. Involves the right classroom language
As well as the language that students will need to read, write, listen to and/ or say while using the worksheets, you will also need to think about the passive instructional language being at the right level and recycling similar language you have used in the past. For example, if you were chanting “Cut cut cut cut cut” during last week’s worksheet, it might be worth moving onto “Cut slowly/ cut quickly” or “Cut round cut round cut round” and so you might want to choose a worksheet that provides an opportunity for you to give them exposure to that language.

9. Fits in with long term goals
For example, if you need to teach them how to write in English then you will want to teach them the shapes they will need and to concentrate on phonics more than whole word recognition.

10. Contains useful language
This could mean things that are on the syllabus, come up in their daily life, are useful for classroom language or will be recycled in the songs and storybooks that you use.

11. Fun/ funny
This could be colouring things in unusual colours, combining strange elements (e.g. sticking spiders and grass on a pizza), having strange amounts (e.g. three hands), strange positions (legs on the head or a dog on the roof of the bus), or including characters and real people they know in unusual ways. Alternatively, you can choose a worksheet that can be used in a fun way after it is finished, e.g. something that flies or moves in other ways.

12. Balance of familiarity and novelty
This means both for the language and skills that are involved and for the final products that are produced. You can ensure this is true either by alternating familiar and novel worksheet types or by making each worksheet a variation of the last one until you reach a completely different type.

13. Not too messy
For example, all the gluing can be done at one time or all the paper to be cut off will come off in one piece rather than in little pieces.

14. Creative
The demand to let the students express themselves in their work, which has the same positive effects as personalisation and the use of games in an adult class, often clashes with the need to make them follow the instructions and so use English during the activity. One easy way is to let them choose which colour they are all going to use, thing they are going to draw or number they are going to add (e.g. number of eyes to the monster), but making sure they listen to an English question and answer in English before they start drawing or colouring. If you want them to follow written instructions, you could at least let them choose which one they want to do next, or get them to point at a flashcard where the thing they want to do is written, e.g. point at “two” if they want to “draw two monkeys on the bicycle” or “red” for “colour the teacher’s nose red”.

15. Predict and check
Having a worksheet where students can make some kind of prediction before they start which they can check against when they finish not only gets their brains fully involved but could also help with the logical powers they need to predict what people are going to say from the situation. Possibilities include guessing what object will come out when a join the dots or other uncompleted picture is finished, and predicting which exit of a maze you will come out at before drawing and checking.

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net July 2008
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.

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