Teaching English or writing requires that students learn grammar and structure. However, learning grammar phonics or structure using worksheets isn’t as effective as teachers may believe. Students benefit from authentic learning, not rote memorization from a worksheet.
There are many alternatives to worksheets in the modern classroom. These include games both in class and online, shared and guided reading tasks, group and individual projects, flipped classrooms, multimedia tasks and more. Teachers should seek out as many ways as possible to engage and motivate students.
Why You Should Have Worksheet Alternatives In An English Classroom
- Worksheets only benefit a small number of students, and even then unless careful thought is put into their implementation, it will be for purposes of revision more than anything other educational outcome.
- They do not incorporate multiple teaching or learning styles. Worksheets only measure memorization of rules or styles and do not allow students to be creative with language or skills.
- Additionally, worksheets are not used anywhere except in classrooms. While we may not write essays in our daily jobs, writing blogs, reports, and emails require excellent writing and communication skills. Worksheets do very little to encourage those skills.
- They look for, again unless crafted correctly, a right or wrong answer. There is little creativity or personal thought encouraged in most worksheets.
- We do not perform these tasks when we walk into most new employment situations. The only employers who might give worksheets these days are temporary agencies hiring for office work.
- Education, and our understanding of it, has moved on from rote learning, memorization, one answer styles of the last century. The demands and distractions that todays students face are much more, well, demanding and distracting, than in previous years. Education has to catch up to remain relevant.
- There is no longer a focus on ”knowing things”, and we are pushing for a more skills based educational environment. Skills are learnt through practice and trial and error. Worksheets are not by any means an optimal way of encouraging skills based learning.
What Alternatives Are There To Worksheets
When choosing what to do in the classroom, alternatives to worksheets may not come naturally to you. You are probably thinking, how else can I measure learning while improving its presentation and engagement?
We have hundreds or (yes worksheets) but other activities here on the site, which you can access though the link below and if you want some of our recommendations we have a collection at the end of this article.
In the mean time here are a few alternatives that you can use in your classroom.
Interactive Online games
Games, constructive ones of course, are great worksheet alternatives and can be one of the best things you can offer students for learning. Online games meet students on their turf. Many students are gamers or spend a lot of time on devices, just look next time you are in a restaurant or public transport to check if that’s true.
There are whole industries now devoted to producing Apps and games for education. Some of these are free and some are not. However there is plenty of choice and we have an ever growing series of articles that are highlighting the best free ones ( for English mostly) that we have found and use.
You can see a link to one of these below ( the past tense list) , but within this there is also a list of links to all the other online English games as well.
As we said it is being added to whenever we find enough decent games to create a new article so might be worth book marking one of them if you have the means to use online educational tools as worksheet alternatives in your classroom.
Other options include: Freerice which can help students strengthen vocabulary skills through synonyms in this simple online game. Additionally, if your student is an English Language Learner, there are other sites such as FluentU that can help strengthen English skills in a more formal, and individual setting.
Worksheet Alternatives: Board games
Board games can be a great way to incorporate learning and gameplay in the classroom. Many traditional games can even be adapted to create appropriate games. Synonym or antonym Bingo (or heteronym, definitions, or anything else), Scrabble, Categories, Boggle, and Upwords all naturally lend themselves to the English classroom.
You can also add games like Life, Monopoly, or Uno if you adapt them to meet the English classroom. We also discovered a game a few years ago, called Trugs (an Uno style card game for phonics instruction) It is actually awesome but is has quite a steep price. You can check out more information below.
If none of the current games meet your standards, don’t be afraid to make one up.
We have made a selection of board games that can be played alone of in pairs/groups. These are also free and a couple of English board games are selected below. However the full selection is in the shop ( with free options don’t worry)
Worksheet Alternatives: Books
Books are fantastic for English instruction. Fiction books usually contain dialogue and narrator thoughts and descriptions. Typos and editorial mistakes may also be considered in the English classroom. Frank discussions can center around dramatic license, purposeful misspellings, and intentional poor grammar.
Additionally, the comprehensibility of dialect can be explored using some regionally significant texts. Southern literature often used African American Vernacular or even Southern American English Slang. Using these dialects can help your students see that the way they word things can make some text lose meaning.
If possible in your educational environment the setting up of a guided reading programme is a great way to offer an alternative to worksheet heavy lessons. Students get to spend time with a group of peers and a teacher and really get to grips with the language at their level. We have an article details how this works on the site linked below.
If this is not possible, even story telling and shared reading are great for engaging younger learners, and are strongly recommended to use.
Giving students the chance to undertake project work is one of the best worksheet alternatives that teachers can do for their classrooms. Projects can help students use their knowledge to create something extraordinary.
They can use their creativity to decide how they want to present the information and letting them have a degree of autonomy with how much time they wish to put into it are great for more holistic skills like time management and organization.
If we are looking at Bloom’s taxonomy, project work fits securely in the create portion, but the production of such projects can include evaluation, analyzation, application, understanding, and remembering. We know that the first few levels are the basis of knowledge, but the goal in the classroom is always creation and evaluation.
Rather than listening to a lecture in class and attempting to do assignments at home, the flipped classroom has students watch the lecture at home and do the assignments in the classroom. Worksheets are not encouraged, and students can work together or with the teacher to produce the project or assignment.
This allows students to hear the same lecture they would have gotten in the classroom while at home, but the teacher can provide more detailed instruction one-on-one in the classroom.
It means the resources and teaching materials are actually able to be access repeatedly and at a time when the students are ready. Then they can come with ideas and questions into the classroom.
Videos can be produced by students to demonstrate how to do something like constructing an essay, recognizing pronouns, or diagramming sentences. They do not need to reproduce a worksheet. They can use technology to demonstrate learning. This obviously teaches and uses technology skills which are transferable , but it also prepares students for editing and reviewing their responses as well.
Worksheet Alternatives: Speaking exercises
Verbal presentations and exercises are a great worksheet alternative. So much of language is spoken. It is also where we sometimes fail to follow grammar rules. Students can practice speaking appropriate English in a variety of situations. it encourages quick thinking and adaptation.
Likewise, speaking exercises can spark conversations on wearing our speech like we do clothing.
Sometimes you need to dress up in a suit or formal gown. In those cases, you would speak proper English using grammar and structure learned in the classroom. Likewise, job interviews and career fairs require polished dress codes and speech patterns.
However, when speaking with family members, you might relax your speech a bit. You probably wouldn’t throw too much slang your grandmother’s way, though. She might not understand the slang of today’s teens.
You also tend to dress more relaxed but maybe a little more modestly than you do with your friends. Finally, when hanging out with your friends, slouchy joggers and tees might be acceptable, as is slang. Speaking exercises can allow students to see how each situation might change speech patterns.
When Is It Appropriate To Use Worksheets In An English Classroom
- Worksheets may be okay in the English classroom when working with sight words or something that requires rote memorization, but grammar rules are generally not a good idea. These rules require students to be able to transfer the information to their own writing.
- Students retain this information best through correcting their own work. If you create individual worksheets using each student’s work, you can use worksheets for most anything. Worksheets could be used if it is more of a list of things to do.
- For instance, your worksheet might say to find the fifth sentence in an essay and rewrite it using an active and passive verb. Students are doing the same task, but they are using their work to do it.
- Worksheets tend to be more about a right or wrong answer rather than the process, and English is generally about a process. Answering a set of questions about a reading passage may also be okay for a worksheet, but students should be able to write about their reading rather than answer straightforward questions.
- Multiactivity worksheets are better, as they have options for different learning types to engage with the work.
- If there are specific aspects that need to be assessed for examination or testing purposes then worksheets give you a snap shot of your children’s or students knowledge.
- If you need that snap shot to be able to check and design future activities for your class then worksheets could be of use.
Worksheet Alternative Resources.
We have put 10 links below, all are free to download and use. However the main aim is to start the creative process in you. All of these games, crafts, pair works and activities can be reimagined and used for almost any subject you are teaching.
Hopefully they give you some ideas to try in your classrooms or homes, and if you don’t want to re invent the wheel some of the editable options are in our shop, and the free ones are in the free teaching resources here.
Hopefully this article has given you a few ideas and a few useful resources to help you differentiate your instruction and offer some alternatives to worksheets.
We are not saying that worksheets are not to be used or that they have no role to play. They certainly do. However, times have moved on and with the alternatives on offer to students now we should make the effort to engage our students in ways they are familiar with.
As one of my students tell me, even when I mess up
The first thing teachers must do is know what they want from a lesson. Then bringing in one or more of the above suggestions can help students solidify their learning. Don’t be afraid to have high expectations.
Students need to know that their teachers expect the best from them. Students will rise to the occasion.