Infinite Worksheets: Make them once, use them over and over

A little while ago, I was reading this blog post by Hin-Tai Ting and stumbled upon this paragraph:

I’ve uploaded one example of such a booklet, used with a bottom set Y7 class, on TES here. Of course, it doesn’t have to be printed out as a booklet – projecting it also works. Either way, I’d recommend making them using random number generators in Excel, so you have an infinite variety of suitable questions, ready to project at a moment’s notice. And once you’ve gotten the hang of using Excel, and the pupils have gotten the hang of these questions, it’s really easy to increase or decrease the complexity of your question set. Other topics we’ve made booklets for include lots of practice with operations with negatives, decimal multiplication, and fraction operations. Or really, whenever you stumble upon a topic that your pupils keep on forgetting, just make a starter booklet! Give them 5 minutes of practice every lesson for a term, and complain no more.

I’ve been struggling for a while to come up with effective ways of self-quizzing myself on a range of knowledge. I have mostly been using sites like Quizlet and Memrise, but being constantly frustrated by their limits. This idea, though, seemed to me to open up a whole new world of possibilities, especially as my recent data analysis work for my dissertation has meant I’m more confident using spreadsheets now than I have been ever before in my life.

It took a little bit of trial and error, but eventually, I’d created half a dozen spreadsheets in different subjects that I can print out and fill in whenever I want. I think I know what I’ll be taking on my next long train journey!

I’m more than happy to share these spreadsheets (hosted on Google Sheets) with any teachers or learners who might find them useful, but I’m also going to lay out here what I’ve learned in this endeavour, so as to hopefully save some time for anyone who wants to make their own.

Identify the information

*This step is not necessary if you’re working only with numbers

These worksheets work really well in conjunction with knowledge organisers, for example, or any other resources that involve lists of questions/prompts and answers, or two parallel facts listed together. You need to set out all the information you want to quiz in a spreadsheet. Here is an example of my music theory information sheet (column titles optional):

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 14.22.19

As you can see, in Google Docs you can even insert images into cells using the =IMAGE(‘URL’) function. You could use this in other subjects by using pictures of famous people that need to be identified or diagrams that need to be labelled, for example.

Design Your Worksheet

In a new sheet (same file) design how you want your worksheet to look. Here are my music worksheets:

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 14.02.57

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 14.35.50

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 14.36.03

I’ve chosen to use boxes to mark where answers should be written, but you could use lines, blank spaces or any other marker of your choice. Obviously the last few questions currently require a separate sheet of manuscript paper and an existing piece of music to transpose.

Add Your Questions

Arguably, this is the tricky bit. Here is the formula you’ll need to put into the cells where you want the randomised data to appear:

=index(name of data sheet‘!A:A,randbetween(2,16))
*replace A:A with the column the data is in (e.g. if the data is in column C, replace with C:C)
**replace 2,16 with the first and last row numbers of the data (e.g. if your data is listed in cells C3 to C10, replace with 3,10)

If you only need randomised data, it’s a lot easier. Just use:

=randbetween(1,10)
*replace 1,10 with the lowest and highest number you wish to appear (e.g. if you want pupils to square the number up to 15, not including 1, replace with 2,15)

If you are doing sums, for example, you will need three columns: the first and last will be randomised number sets. If you’re adding numbers up to a hundred, these could both be between 1 and 100. If you’re doing the eight times table, one column will be between 1 and 8 and the other between 1 and 12. In the middle column, you will either need to insert the relevant sign into each cell or, if you want a mixture, make a list of signs on a separate sheet and use the top formula to generate them randomly.

Depending on the length of your data strings, you might need to do a bit of cell stretching/merging.

Ready to use!

Every time you open the file, it will generate a different selection of your data for you to print out. If you aren’t intending to print and want the sheets displayed on a screen, you need only refresh the page to see new selections.

Checking Answers

The great thing about these sheets is that they allow pretty easy self-checking. If you’re dealing with numbers, you just need a calculator. Otherwise, you can use your strings to check the answers, if you’ve laid them out clearly like in the image above (this is where the column titles come in handy).

Alternatively, as your inputted strings mean that there is a limited number of questions and answers that can be generated, you can put together your own answer sheets, as I did for the minor scales question, to avoid having to look up the scales every time I did the worksheet.

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 14.51.23

Issues

The main issues I still have with these sheets are:

  1. preventing the same piece of data showing up multiple times (as can be observed in several of the above images)
  2. printing effectively, as Google Sheets has no page break option

If anyone knows how to fix these, please let me know.

Additionally, this can be quite time-consuming, especially if you’re adding a new subject or type of question. That said, you only need to make them once, they allow for self-marking, and if you’re making them for a whole class rather than just for yourself, that time probably feels a lot more worthwhile!

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