When I began homeschooling my daughters, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the use of worksheets other than using blank maps for geography. My plan was to review information by asking each girl questions during our sessions. After several months of experience I now have a greater appreciation for the value of worksheets.
Verbal review takes away from the time that we could use for covering new information. By assigning worksheets I can monitor the learning and retention of data in a way that is more convenient and efficient. The girls can do the worksheets while they watch television or listen to music, and that makes it convenient for them. I can still do some verbal review of the subject matter to make sure they have the information memorized and aren’t just copying it (not that they would do that if they weren’t given permission to do so, but I’m a fan of “Trust, but verify.“).
The first use of worksheets (other than blank maps, word searches and crossword puzzles) was for math. We had been using (and still are using) flashcards for math, but I found a couple of good websites for math worksheets that I thought were useful for supplementing our verbal review (http://themathworksheetsite.com/ and http://www.superkids.com/aweb/tools/math/).
I also decided I wanted to make worksheets that covered the material we were studying in other subjects, so I started a database in an office suite called LibreOffice (which is free to download). I created one table for definitions, which included both the term to be defined and the definition itself; and another table for questions and answers. Each of those tables was linked to a table of topics, which in turn was linked to a table of subjects, which in turn was linked to a table of categories. This gave me the maximum flexibility for creating new worksheets that covered multiple topics. Worksheets that covered only one topic I would save, but others I could generate using queries and a template in Calc (the spreadsheet application in the LibreOffice suite, equivalent to Microsoft Excel).
As I was creating the first worksheets which just covered definitions, I decided to use a set of four worksheets for each topic:
- A sheet of terms and their corresponding definitions
- A sheet for matching the randomly sorted terms with their definitions by drawing a line from one to the other
- A sheet listing the definitions with blank lines for writing in the terms
- A sheet listing the terms with blank lines for filling in the definitions
With this system, each sheet allows for a greater demonstration of knowledge of the material than the previous one. I start out by giving the whole set to each girl, then subsequently print whichever sheet seems appropriate for the demonstrated mastery of the topic.
Each set is saved in a separate Calc workbook, with each page on a separate worksheet. By using a spreadsheet I can re-sort the order of the items to avoid the possibility of the girls memorizing the order of the answers. In a column next to each item I insert the formula =Rand(), then copy it for each row of items. This formula works both in Calc and in Excel, and gives me a random number next to each item. Then I highlight both of the columns and sort ascending by the random number. The first worksheet which has the definitions doesn’t get re-sorted, but the other three do. Then I delete the cells with the random numbers and print the worksheet.
I haven’t done any worksheets yet with just questions and answers, only worksheets with terms and definitions. My anticipation is that I will do both types of worksheets the same way.
When the girls have learned the material for a given set of topics, rather than giving them worksheets for reviewing individual topics I’ll give them worksheets that cover multiple topics. This is where having the information in a database will come in handy, although it could actually be done in a spreadsheet as well. I like using databases because it allows me to write queries that group the data that way I want it, but the functionality could be duplicated in spreadsheets if the person setting them up preferred.
I’ve only done three sets of worksheets so far, but I’ve exported them to pdf files and attached them to this post in case anyone wanted to see an example.