Just the word “worksheet” is enough to incite a groan.
Paper-based assessment often limits self-expression, as it usually involves having one answer to a question. However, their fill-in-the-blank nature discounts the importance of play and inquiry in the learning process. The way to initiate ideas, imagination and a love of reading in our children is not through traditional worksheets.
So why is cramming worksheets still a common practice in Singapore? Many Singaporean parents continue to adhere to the mindset of doing more worksheets as a means to improve their children’s performance, even when it may not be as useful as they think.
How effective are reading comprehension worksheets?
When it comes to reading comprehension, the quality of learning is more important than the quantity.
In learning, how much you absorb depends on how engaged you are with the material. It is hard to be engaged with worksheets when they are dull. Think about it: When was the last time a child was enthusiastic about completing worksheets in a row? Now, compare that to how easily a child gets excited about a storytelling game or activity.
In addition, many traditional reading comprehension worksheets follow a formulaic approach. Typically there is a reading passage, followed by straightforward questions with right or wrong answers.
One of the reasons why reading comprehension worksheets are not very effective is because their “fixed” nature requires so little creativity and deeper thinking, that the answers could be easily copied from a whiteboard. Cramming worksheets does not equip your child with open-minded problem solving, critical thinking and higher order thinking skills.
Simple tips to improve your child’s reading skills at home
In Singapore, many parents look to reading programmes for kids to prepare their kids to take on the MOE curriculum. But there are steps you can take at home too.
Other than the known advice of encouraging your child to read more, try the following useful tips:
Dramatise and engage in interactive play
While reading, utilise simple props, puppets and different character voices to bring the book to life. Create a story sack, from which you pull out “mystery” toys and objects related to the story.
You can also act out a favourite scene in a skit with your child and family members, and even put on costumes. The possibilities are endless. For reading to not feel like a chore, it needs to be presented as an enjoyable activity.
Here is an example of interactive storytelling, and how fun and useful it can be for kids:
Make up an alternative ending
There can be so many different endings to a story. Just because a book finishes does not mean the story does. Ask your child questions like, “What do you think happens to so-and-so afterward?” This prompts your child to be open-minded and reimagine the story’s direction.
Children may even attempt to draw or write the ending as they wish to see it, which trains them to narrate stories in their own words.
Alternatively, before reading the last pages of the book, you can pause and ask your child to predict the ending first. This trains them to express an idea using prior information in the book.
Ask open-ended questions
English language and literature is full of nuances and part of the goal of reading comprehension is to sift through the layers of meaning, in order to get at the heart of the message.
While this may seem too advanced for your child at the preschool age, keep in mind that the sooner you can hone his or her critical thinking skills, the better. Start by bypassing any “yes-no” questions for more open-ended ones. Ask, “Why do you think this is happening to this character?” and “What would you do if this happened to you?”
Refrain from telling your child if his or her response is correct. The purpose of open-ended questions is to get them thinking. This way, they can practice constructing their own knowledge and thinking process behind their answers – a valuable learning technique that can be applied beyond English language to all subjects.