I'm Dr. Tonja Irvine and I am here to talk to you about planning Learning Targets that work for you in your classroom!
It is becoming increasingly common to see Learning Targets (also called Learning Objectives) to become posted in classrooms. Understanding the reasoning behind this is helpful in making Learning Targets work for you. There are several reasons why these targets are beneficial. The top reasons I find them beneficial are this:
- 1. Targets keep the teacher on track with the lesson.
- 2. Targets give the student a better understanding of what they will be learning.
- 3. Targets help the teacher align the lesson to district or state standards.
Staying on Track
I use the Learning Target that is posted to help focus myself during the lesson. It is easy to get caught up in the activities of a lesson and side track from reason you are doing a lesson in the first place. As a teacher, posted the Learning Target and referring to the target at the beginning, middle, and end of my lesson reminds me of why I am doing it and helps me to reiterate that focus.
I begin each lesson by telling my students “Today we will…” and reading our target for the lesson I am about to teach on. Going over this objective allows students to understand what they are doing. I remember when I first started teaching and how I would often say things like, “Now we are going to make ___________.” I often wonder, what did my students take away from that lesson? Was the take away a “I can now make __________.” Or was the takeaway, “I understand why ______________ happens when I do ________________.” The key to a good Learning Target is explaining to students what they are learning and why. It isn’t as much about the activity.
Aligning the Target
It is vital to align your targets to your objectives given to you by your state or Common Core. Some may ask why this is important, well aligning your targets helps you make sure what you are teaching is what needs to be taught. I have watched as states have implemented Common Core and I have watched my own state (Texas) as it has changed our standards (known as the TEKS) to make a document that provides a spiral curriculum that helps to insure all students are taught the content important to them.
Now, of course, many of us may not agree with what is taught and when in regards to what is developmentally appropriate, but it still remains that we are expected to teach certain materials at certain times. SO, setting that aside, using the objectives as a basis for your Learning Targets will help you to make sure you are teaching what needs to be taught.
Once you know the why, you have to figure out the HOW…
Okay, so this is where it gets fun and you get to play with your way of implementation of posting your Learning Targets. We all get that we need them and we know why, but you have to find the best way to post them for YOU and for YOUR STUDENTS. This looks different in every classroom. I have posted my Learning Targets several different ways over the past few years. Here are my TOP 2 favorite ways as well as the way I plan on implementing them this next year…
Posting State Objectives using TEKS cards…
When I first started posting Learning Targets I was in a district that required me to post the TEKS. The thought process behind this followed the teaching of Margaret Kilgo, a leading researcher on Standardized Testing. Ms. Kilgo found that the verbs used in the TEKS (in Texas) were also used in the test and they were not defined using Bloom’s definitions, but rather, they use the good old Webster’s Dictionary definitions. This was news to so many of us, but it made sense. She taught us methods on pulling apart the TEKS to better understand what they meant to help us to better teach the content. (I would recommend her training to anyone who can go…it was fantastic!)
Along with her methods came the posting of the TEKS in our classrooms. We were taught not to post a teacher made objective, but rather the actual standard. At first I thought this was crazy, I mean, I was teaching Kindergarten at the time and I really felt like there was no way they could understand what I was talking about. So, I got creative and I created TEKS cards. These cards gave my students a picture clue to anchor their thinking. I made them color coded by subject so that they would know what they were for (we had to post standards for each subject all day), and I creating an organization piece for each card for easy storage. Here is what the cards looked like…
I then laminated all of the cards and stored them in baggies on a shelf. I used small pocket charts that I had found at Dollar Tree and I had on pocket chart per subject up. They took up a minimal amount of space and worked perfectly in my room. Each morning I would change out the cards to the objectives needed. It was simple and easy to keep up with. The TEKS cards caught on and I created them for my friends in other grades as well. They are now one of my best sellers in my TpT store and can be purchased for grades K-2 with the addition of grade 3 and Pre-K coming later this summer.
You can find the cards I have here.
Posting Learning Standards Using a Bulletin Board
After I had gotten my process down of posting the TEKS down in my classroom I had to complicate my system by switching districts…I am sure no one can relate to that change or the many changes that come with it. J
Well, my new district doesn’t have us post TEKS, instead, we post Learning Targets. There are many different methods that go into creating a Learning Target and I am not going into that here, but I do want to talk about how to post them. Many teachers I knew took up board space to do this. They would write them on the corner of the white board. I tried this for a year, but I just didn’t like it. I felt like I ended up having erase it and rewrite it or it was too small for the students to see. So, this past year I decided to make a bulletin board for them and I changed my method.
I created my board to look like this…
For each subject (I team teach so I have 3) I created a space with push pins in the wall. I then printed my objectives and kept them on silver rings that hung from the push pins. This way I could flip between objectives if I repeated any…this was particularly good for me when it came to Social Studies since often I would repeat things. My sheets that I used simply looked like this and you can get a freebie here to print for yourself…
I printed mine in black and white for convenience. You could print yours in color if you prefer and it is available to you. You can get them for FREE here.
As the year wore on I did have difficulty keeping up with this, mainly because our printer is quite a ways away from the classroom so getting the objectives up on time didn’t always happen during testing season or at the end of the year when you are just so tired that is the last thing on your mind. To help with this I printed some blank Learning Target sheets that I kept in a file. This way I could pull it out and hand write it and hang it if necessary.
This next year I am tweaking my system a bit more. I have decided I would like the area of my information to be slightly bigger than 8 ½ x11 and that printing them was hard for me. So, I am going to use the same board (it is still up from this past year), but instead of posting the Learning Targets on paper that I print I am going to laminate poster board and staple it to the wall. This will allow me to write directly on the board with a dry erase marker and then wipe it off and change it as necessary, it will also save on paper, but it will allow me to keep that board space that I gained by moving my Learning Targets off of the white board.