A worksheet, in its primary meaning, is simply a piece of paper used to work on. This may be to complete a task, to log or accompany work, and they are commonly used in school, finance, and tax.

While this is the most common meaning of the word ‘worksheet,’ the introduction of software is slowly taking over the meaning of the paper-based worksheet.

Using worksheets in school

In a classroom setting, a worksheet usually refers to a loose piece of paper that children use to answer questions or complete a task. A worksheet in this primary, the paper form, is always associated with a school setting. It is frequently used to assess students’ knowledge and is one of the most common materials teachers use in assignments and assessments.

Children become familiar with worksheets from as early as EYFS years and continue using them in their learning through the Key Stages and into University.

Often these worksheets will contain some form of exercise and instructions or a set of questions with areas for students to respond and answer by recording a written response. They usually only require a child to have a pen or pencil to complete, making them perfect for in-class activities, homework tasks, and assessments.

Why are worksheets helpful in school?

Studies have shown that worksheets aren’t only useful for students and their parents too!

In contrast to whole-class activities and tests, the child can usually complete worksheets at their own pace. This makes them great for students who struggle with time restrictions and working under pressure. Even if they are conducted in the lesson, working through a worksheet instead of group-based tasks allows individuals to ask questions at their leisure and gives many of them the confidence to seek help in areas where they may be struggling.

Parents can very quickly and easily digest a worksheet at a glance in most cases, which can help a parent to understand the learning processes their child is going through, as well as give a parent more context towards helping their child’s education. They also usually only require children to have a writing instrument to complete, meaning they are quick, easy, and universal for obtaining progress reports and seeing how children’s knowledge has progressed.

As well as this, curriculums are becoming increasingly advanced over succeeding years, which means that parents may not be equipped with the best knowledge to guide their children through their homework or to support their child’s learning in other ways. Unfortunately, worksheets can take many of these issues and dilute them, as children can usually complete the worksheets independently, using the knowledge they should have already learned in their lessons.

The future is paperless

Traditionally, worksheets were hand-drawn and copied many times to be given to students. However, technology has made it easier to create your worksheets, with many teachers going completely paperless.

This could be as simple as sending the worksheet home digitally, requiring parents and students to print it off themselves at home, or it can even be as easy as completing the worksheet solely electronically. It is now not uncommon for homework tasks and assessments to be completed on a computer. Marks and results are also commonly given electronically, making the whole process completely paperless.

With many opting to go paperless in a bid to be more eco-friendly, the word ‘worksheet’ has changed its meaning many times over the years!

Other types of worksheets

As well as assessing children in school, worksheets of other kinds are also used in finance and tax.

In accounting, a worksheet refers to a sheet of green-tinted, ruled paper that the accountant could use to perform calculations and take note of information. This type of ‘worksheet’ is also sometimes called a columnar pad.

In tax, many numbers and formulas are often involved in calculating fundamental values. Rather than including these calculations in the main tax form, they are usually offloaded onto a separate sheet for working these values out, called a ‘worksheet.’

In software, spreadsheets have commonly taken the place of paper worksheets. For example, the Microsoft Excel program helps people create their spreadsheets and is used worldwide for many different reasons. For this reason, online spreadsheets are also commonly referred to as ‘worksheets’; a series is called a ‘workbook.’

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