Busy work?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by redskins0756, Nov 9, 2008.

  1. redskins0756

    redskins0756 Rookie

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    Nov 9, 2008

    Teachers

    I am currently a senior in high school and taking an oceanography class as one of my science credits. One of the things that bothers me about this course is that the teacher gives an incredible amount of "busy work" (worksheets, memorizing tedious amounts of information, ect.). I would imagine that with a class like oceanography that holds so much potential for hands on activities, this teacher would understand. Also just to note there is not standardized test required for this course, so the teacher has more leeway in terms of outlining what she wants to do for the course.

    The purpose however of this posting is to ask all of you what your thoughts on busy work are. I really get irritated when teachers just hand out worksheets, coloring maps, ect. for homework or class work when that time could be used for much more productive things. I certainly don't want to come across as some 18 year old brat who doesn't want to do their homework, but I just wanted to hear other teachers' thoughts on this subject.

    Thanks!
     
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  3. Soccer Dad

    Soccer Dad Cohort

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    Nov 9, 2008

    Well, to be 100% honest, I've seen many teachers assign busy work over the years, and your teacher may be one of them. However, I cannot for one second say if they are or not mostly because 1) I teach Social Studies, not Science, 2) I don't know what your state's standards are (whether you have a stand. test or not doesn't matter in some cases). Is the class just an elective ran by the school? In that case, the teacher has run of the course.

    The teacher may feel her worksheets are important for practice, whereas you may not need the practice and thus feel them to be unnecessary.

    Now back to point: my personal views on busy work is simply, I don't assign it. Actually, let me add the disclaimer that I do assign busy work in terms of punishment. At my school, detention is used copying over pages from the agenda for an hour and half; so to me giving my students a boring textbook assignment is better than having them practice writing the school dress code and bell schedule.
     
  4. redskins0756

    redskins0756 Rookie

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    My point about standardized testing is that since this course does not require it, the teacher has more freedom in running her lesson plan so she doesn't just have to adhere to a strict lesson plan for the test. It is an elective course in that students are free to choose what science they would like to do their senior year. There is an option between Geosystems, Oceanography, Anatomy, and then the A.P. equivalents of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.
     
  5. Soccer Dad

    Soccer Dad Cohort

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    Well I'd imagine that electives in your HS are similar to that in mine. Here, teachers make their own syllabus and it gets approved by the dept. head. That's about as much restriction as there is, so if you really feel like it's just busy work, ask your teacher why they are assigning what they are. But remember to ask in a polite manner that shows your genuinely curious.
     
  6. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Nov 10, 2008

    I agree with Soccer Dad. Some of what seems to be busy work to you may be to enable other kids to get a handle on the material.

    When I taught 7th grade math, my Do Now problem every day for 3 months was the times tables. Two years later, I teach some of those same kids. They can now factor because they have those tables memorized. Some of the other kids are at a huge disadvantage.

    Could it be that some of those assignments fall into the same category-- having you memorize or color a map so that you'll have the information you need at your fingertips for the next chapter?

    I agree with you though, that if there's too much of that stuff, there's a problem. Oceanography should be a vibrant, living science as far as I see. (I've never taken it though.)

    Is it possible that it's the teacher's first year, or first year with the course, and he or she is simply overwhelmed? That's no excuse, but it sometimes is the reality.

    I agree-- a polite conversation may be the way to go.
     
  7. Budaka

    Budaka Cohort

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    I think some students feel the same way about my Spanish class. It takes about thirty exposures to learn a new word. So I have to give the work to students again and again. I try to present in as many ways as possible. But for sometimes written practice (worksheets) is the way to go. Some students need more than 30 times and some studens pick it up in two or three times. I am sure that the second group think they do a lot of busy work. :)
     
  8. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Nov 10, 2008

    Sounds like a bad teacher to me. Worksheets aren't automatically evil but they come dang close...
     
  9. Soccer Dad

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    Well I think that worksheets being "dang close" to evil may be true for some areas of learning, but not all. JMO

    Which leads me to further say that maybe the teacher who assigns the worksheets honestly feels they are helpful for success, that doesn't make her a bad teacher. It makes her a dedicated teacher who may or may not be taking the best approach available.
     
  10. Doug_HSTeach_07

    Doug_HSTeach_07 Comrade

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    I don't think it's fair to call the OP's teacher a bad one. As Alice said, he could be very overwhelmed (not that's that a bad excuse) or is teaching Oceanography for the first time. Hopefully if he's using the worksheets just to survive the year he can brush up on his skills over the summer. I had to do that with one of my courses last year, and I don't consider myself a bad teacher- it was my first year, I was slammed, and I was just trying to get through it.
     
  11. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I see teachers giving needless paperwork so I tend to have to agree with this one. Yes, some paperwork is fine. Paperwork throughout every single class period especially for a class like this, is not necessary. There is a clear difference between practice and busy work.
     
  12. Budaka

    Budaka Cohort

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    I will point out that for my class I make up almost all my own worksheets, which is more work for me than less work! Some students are visual learners and need to see the words in front of them. Although, my students usually have five or six different activities (in 43 minutes!)so worksheets are just a part of what they do.
     
  13. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Nov 11, 2008

    Also, keep in mind that some districts have a "bell to bell" policy, which means your teacher is obligated to provide you with work that will fill the period. If your teacher is newish, it could be that he/she is still trying to get a grip on that policy. If the entire class is new, then your teacher could be trying to feel through the material. Or your teacher might be lazy. Or have been forced to teach a class they aren't interested in/don't know much about.

    Sometimes, students end up being guinea pigs. Have you talked to the teacher about your concerns?
     
  14. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Worksheets aren't bad in every sense. Worksheets are one of the only ways to asses reading comprehension. When I give a reading in class or at home my kids usually have a worksheet (that I MADE to complete). However, if they are doing this all the time, its a problem, there needs to be some creative projects in there.
     
  15. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    I had to do it my first year, and you know what? I was a bad teacher my first year. I did the same my second year only I used other teacher's worksheets thinking my problem was my own improper designs. Yep, I was a bad teacher then too. It doesn't mean I was a bad person.

    Teaching is never going to be respected fully as a profession until we are willing to be honest about the simple fact that some teachers are bad teachers and some good teachers do bad things. We aren't perfect, we need to improve.

    Having a reading comprehension worksheet a couple times a week isn't necessarily a bad thing but if that is all you rely on, I'm sorry, I don't want my kid in your class.
     
  16. Ms.H

    Ms.H Companion

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    Nov 12, 2008

    I often see work such as reading comprehension questions as a foundation on which more complex activities and ideas can be built. Before we can have a debate or a performance or a discussion, I want to know that students have read the material and at least know the basics of what is going on. Work that is properly termed "busy work" would be work that is simply assigned to keep one busy and has very little learning or thinking value. If students are reading a complicated story or a tough portion of a text, I think that reading questions are helpful in guiding them to the important points and details. I am all for a variety of activities and certainly don't rely on sheets like that. I don't, however, think that they necessarily qualify as "busy work" if they are somehow building a foundation of knowledge. I get frustrated when students refer to anything done on paper that is the least bit traditional or basic as "busy work" (not referring to the OP-- just my own experience); there are different levels of critical thinking, and not everything on the lower end is necessarily "busy work." It is important for teachers to make sure that they are engaging all levels of thinking and different styles of learning, to be sure.
     
  17. redskins0756

    redskins0756 Rookie

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    Just to clarify a few points before I respond to yours Mrs. H.

    The teacher has been with the school for a number of years now (4 to 5?), I am not exactly sure how long but it has to be at least that time as my sister had her that long ago and she was a fairly new teacher.

    To clarify on what I meant by "busy work" and Mrs. H this goes into your point. Her lesson plan consists of giving us a large stockpile of worksheets and notes regarding the topic at hand. I am fine with that sort of work and certainly for comprehension of the subject that is ok. But her worksheets that she assigns are more of the "search through the book and copy" kind. Which I feel does nothing to engage students in the topic. I have no problem with an occasional written assignment, but handing out an average of 3 worksheets per class and then watching a 45 minute video on the ocean this previous class (which was quite interesting), but assigning a 40 question worksheet along with it that made it seem like we were writing a transcript for entire video.

    The surprising thing to me, is that this teacher is fully qualified to teach this course. She has a very good understanding of oceanography, actually works at a museum in Washington D.C. helping with different programs, and has gone on different trips around the world doing research. With all of the interesting opportunities afforded to this type of class, I would think she would take advantage.

    I may inquire just about the worksheets and how they relate to the topic at hand. Possibly suggest that we maybe move into some more hands on activities. And to quote the other posters, in a respectful manner because I'm pretty certain that no teacher on this message board finds it amusing when a student approaches you in a rude way criticizing your class. Clearly they have never organized a lesson plan or graded papers before (I have relatives who are teachers so I am aware of the incredible amount of work that goes in) :)
     
  18. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    The questions for the video may be to ensure students are actually watching. In my district, we have to very clearly outline the purpose of the video (if we show one, which is rare), and there must be some type of written assignment to go with it.
     
  19. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    OK, after that explanation, I've got to agree-- that's NOT good teaching!!!

    Worksheets themselves are not inherently evil. Sometimes they can be a good way of reinforcing material.

    But that doesn't sound like what's being described. It sounds as though they're being substituted for teaching, not reinforcing it.
     
  20. Sheba

    Sheba Companion

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    If students are doing individual work on components of a worksheet for more than five minutes at a time it's pretty much a waste of time because that's something they could be doing at home. If it's something that involves pair or group work and / or the teacher is checking the worksheet with a class as they go along it can be quite a beneficial activity if done right. Some kids who are visual learners also find something much easier to follow if they have something to look at in front of them. Writing something in addition to hearing about it, seeing it, and talking about it also increases its mnemonic value.

    But yes, most teachers who hand out a bunch of worksheets and then sit back at their desk for 30+ minutes are probably not worth their salt.
     
  21. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Amen to that! So many teachers (not many on here, we'll maybe the one who came on here and said he needed help planning, but couldn't spend the time because he was a coach) think that respect comes with the profession it does not. If you are a good teacher you will be respected by your students, if you are a bad teacher you will not. Its that SIMPLE!
     
  22. Sheba

    Sheba Companion

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    Nov 13, 2008

    I think it varies a lot from student to student, and teenagers are a lot more whimsical than you might think. When I was a teenager I would have been the one belittling you for your writing and circling mistakes in your handouts (and no doubt pointing out 'asses' in 'Worksheets are one of the only ways to asses reading comprehension' to the entire class). Perhaps you would have had the respect of the jocks at my school but not the smart alecs like me.

    I tend to get a lot of feedback about my coworkers from my students and while a few teachers get consistently bad feedback no one's universally liked and respected - and I'm sure that includes me.
     
  23. Budaka

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    Maybe you could suggest to your teacher that you would like to do a project and you could come up with it together? I have a couple of students who are do a lot of individual work (one is a Spanish 4 student in a Spanish 3 class) and I try to tailor various projects form them. I love having my students do a culminating project at the end of a course that reflects the knowledge/thinking skills they have acquire. They have a wide list of options and noone has ever done a worksheet! They have created videos (soap operas, documentarys, travel shows, cooking shows), photo albums, children's books, medical brochures to use on a trip to Mexico, a curriculum to use to teach pre-k Spanish, board games (one by one of my students who is going to be an engineer came equiped with Don Quijote's windmills!), a CD of original songs in Spanish, the list just goes on and on. I bet your teacher would love to you have you do something of that nature.:)
     
  24. Doug_HSTeach_07

    Doug_HSTeach_07 Comrade

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    And I can't stand the ones that do. ANYONE can do that!! WHY WHY have a teacher's license if you're going to hand out worksheets all day!! Hello teachers: you say you want a bigger salary? then start acting like the professionals you are and start doing things that only teachers can do! That means: asking thought-provoking questions, motivating students, aligning lessons with state standards, reaching the IEP students, approaching students from different angles.

    We have a couple lazy, bad teachers at our school. The kids know they don't care. We have one teacher that gives the kids a worksheet, talks for five minutes, and goes to his desk to grade the kids' papers so he doesn't have to stay late after school. Then he takes off to teach a course at a local college right after the 2:55 bell. I would literally go crazy sitting at a desk with a room full of students that had finished the worksheet 25 minutes early as they chatted while I worked.

    It's so ridiculous; yesterday he was in the teacher's lounge bragging to a teacher that he's got the system figured out and that he's figured out how to make a "quick couple of bucks." All at the expense of the students- absolutely despicable and makes my blood boil.
     
  25. Sheba

    Sheba Companion

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    Nov 13, 2008

    That would drive me crazy, too. I knew a teacher who would give his middle school students word-searches and, get this, colouring sheets, while he sat behind his desk working on his on-line BS PhD which won't be worth the paper it's printed on in a western country but will probably get him a university gig in another part of the world. He'd write a few words up on the board and if another teacher walked by would suddenly pretend that he was teaching something, as if he was fooling anyone. When he had to submit some lesson plans to his director he just copied another teacher's handouts that he got from her desk. However, he didn't notice that she, being an Englishwoman, used British spellings and vocab; he's an American. Unfortunately his director was just as lazy, apathetic, and useless as him when it came to what actually went on in the classroom.
     

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