The Completed Workbook:
A symbol of triumph or a missed opportunity?
There are some that are coming near the end of their current school year. The excitement is building as both student and parent realize there are a few lessons left or a smaller number of pages in the workbook to be completed. There can be a great sense of accomplishment as the workbooks are filled and finished containing a year of hard work.
We use workbooks as well, but I want to be careful on how I use them. I like the idea of finishing off a workbook and completing all the pages. I also like the idea of just using what a student needs from a workbook to increase their skills and knowledge. It can be tempting to consider mastery of a subject as complete once all the pages are done. Oftentimes I have found that a workbook page can introduce a topic, but the real mastery doesn't occur with just getting all the answers right on the page.
Here is an example...
My boys were getting all the answers right on their grammar exercises. One day I decided to play a game with them instead of using the workbook. I made a story up with blank spaces for parts of speech. I then would call out a part of speech that I needed to complete the story without them knowing anything about the story. The resulting story would be pretty silly based on their choice of words. It didn't take long for us to begin reviewing what I thought they already knew. They started asking questions like: What is an interjection again? An adjective describes things right? What is the difference between a verb and adverb?
Once we reviewed the parts of speech and they became confident of supplying an adverb when I called for that part of speech the fun really started. They wanted to play over and over again and they were getting the correct parts of speech after we did real life examples. The workbook helped to introduce the concepts but the real learning happened when we weren't using the workbook.
A mom once told me she wished they had time to play games and do things like Fun School but there just isn't enough time to have fun and get all the workbooks done. Is our goal to admire the stack of completed workbooks or learn? Ask yourself that question when you feel there just isn't time for fun, perhaps if you think of the fun as learning then you won't see that time as wasted. You won't feel the pressure of having to use all your school time to complete exercise pages because learning can happen even when you don't finish the book!
I have nothing against workbooks, like I said we use them. I do think we need to stop and check to make sure the material is actually being understood. If we can make it fun, then it makes school learning more enjoyable for everyone.