When I see some of the work or homework students have, I get a grumbly feeling in my belly. I just don’t understand how worksheets and busy work helps students. Repetition is one thing, but if a student understands a concept or skill, why does he need to continue doing more of the same work? If we want students to like learning and care about our subject area, why are we making them do work, which they find boring and unnecessary? When students are asked about how they learn best and the modalities that are most effective in teaching them, they almost always say the same thing. Students like to be engaged with hands-on, collaborative work which is relevant to them as individuals. Our students like to be challenged. They like to create and try new things. They like to solve problems. They hate worksheets and mundane tasks. They don’t see the value in most classwork and homework. They see most busy work as work the teachers give them to waste their time. So then this research begs the question, why do we keep boring our students?
Everything we do in our classroom has to have a purpose that is directly tied to the neuroscience of learning and the standards for the course. We not only need the students to understand why we are asking them to do a particular task but we also need them to buy into the reason why. We also need to provide the students with choice. Work should never be given for the sake of giving it.
Today in Science, my students were working on their mind map regarding the characteristics of Brook Trout. When I introduced this Unit, I was very transparent with the students. We are learning about Brook Trout because we are fortunate enough to be participating in the Trout in the Classroom program this year. We will be raising and taking care of baby Brook Trout. In order to be responsible parents, I told them, and to understand their needs. This mind map activity has the students learning about the Brook Trout’s habitat, diet, reproductive cycle, and growth so that they can become responsible Brook Trout parents. They know why they need to learn this information and see the value in it as they are excited to be raising fish in the classroom. They are engaged with and find the relevance in what we are learning about in Science. All of my students are doing their work because they see the value in it. It is work to help them become more prepared global citizens.