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Which type of worksheets is the best for your lessons?

Which type of worksheet is the best for your lessons?

4 min read
  • The science of learning

When students first start taking notes in class, they often struggle and end up either writing everything down or not include enough information. Another issue they may also encounter is that the type of notes students usually find easy to do are not always the most beneficial to their learning.

One way teachers can try and overcome this problem is by providing them with worksheets. But are these actually useful? And if so, which worksheets work best? Let’s take a look…

Benefits of having worksheets in the classroom

When students are not used to making notes in class, they usually need to try to multitask and shift their concentration between listening and writing.

As research suggests that attempting to multitask can cause a 40% decrease in productivity, it often leaves students having incomplete or inaccurate notes. This means that they are also less likely to actively participate in class, as their concentration goes into making their notes.

This could have a negative effect for their academic performance, as researchers found that those who participated less in class performed 25% worse on their exams than their peers who contributed more to the lesson. Previous research also suggests that having to make your own notes in the lesson can also be extremely time consuming and overwhelming for students with Special Educational Needs (SEN), especially if they are in a mainstream classroom. One reason for this is that students may not be able to simultaneously keep up with the pace of the lesson and take down notes.

So, what are the benefits of having a worksheet in comparison to making normal notes? In a review, researchers found that having worksheets meant that the students:

  • Were more accurate in note taking
  • Had improved test scores
  • Were more engaged in class and had more in-class discussions
  • Were more satisfied with the lesson

What type of worksheet should you use?

There are often two main types of worksheets teachers use to make pre-made notes:

  1. Outline notes – These allow students to fill out the main idea and subpoints. They are often presented in a bullet point format.
  2. Cloze notes – These include all the information with a few blank spaces for the students to fill out.

In one study, researchers compared the effectiveness of these two types of notes. They found that students who used outline notes had a better memory for the content and were able to make links between the topics.

Help your staff understand and apply the latest and most important Cognitive Science research.

3 classroom tips to use worksheets effectively

Here are some tips that can help you apply these findings in the classroom…

1. Use harder worksheets

When students were given harder worksheets that required them to generate more information, they had a better memory for the material presented. This is because it required them to be actively involved in understanding the content.

Although your students may not enjoy these types of worksheets, it will allow them to be more engaged and benefit more from the lesson.

2. Gradually encourage your students to become independent note takers

Note taking is an essential skill to learn but forcing your students to make notes without providing a good steppingstone can be unhelpful for them. One way to help them become independent note takers is by gradually making the worksheets have fewer pre-made notes, which will slowly allow them to learn how to make their own notes.

3. Encourage your students to use the Cornell Note Taking Method

Research shows that using the Cornell Note Taking Method helps students get higher grades.

This method requires students to divide their page into three areas:

  • A left-hand vertical column, taking up a third of the width of the sheet;
  • A right-hand, wider column;
  • A zone taking up the width of the page at the bottom of it.

The larger, right-hand column is where students take their notes during the lesson. The narrower, left-hand column is where they take note of key concepts or vocabulary and questions to use for their revision. The bottom area is for summarising what they learnt at the end of that lesson.

When slowly removing the worksheets you give in class, you can start to prompt your students to use this effective note taking method — read more about how to use the Cornell Note Taking Method on this blog.

Final thoughts

Students often struggle to take the right type of notes in the lesson. Sometimes, they might copy word-for-word what is said, which is very time consuming and doesn’t get them to engage with the content deeply. Other times, they might write too little and miss out on a lot of important information they will need later when studying.

One way to overcome this is by providing worksheets that have pre-made notes in class, particularly outline notes, which include the main and supporting ideas of the lesson and were highlighted by research as one of the most effective types of pre-made notes is outline notes.

By giving students worksheets, you can help them become more engaged with their learning. Slowly, you can then begin to help students become more independent by gradually reducing the amount of notes you give them.