**Learning Targets--Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson**

By Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart

I highly
recommend that you read this book. It will really help your understanding
of what

**Learning Targets**are and their importance.
*I
found used copies on Amazon.com-very inexpensive to purchase ISBN
978-1-4166-1441-8

I'm going
to highlight the important points that I've taken from each chapter throughout
the next few weeks so I hope you follow...

**Chapter 2: How to Design Learning Targets**

**Mining the Instructional Objective: What Is This Lesson’s Reason to Live?**

*Learning
Targets

**,**__use words__**,**__pictures__**, or some combination of the three to express to students, in terms the students understand, the content and performance they are aiming for.**__actions__
*Your
leaning target should spring from the instructional objectives that guide a set
of lessons in this particular unit of study—your learning instructional
objective for the lesson should be

__solid__,__teachable__,__assessable__, and__appropriately derived from curricular goals and state standards.__

*To plan
effective instruction, teachers need to know three things about today’s lesson:

1. What are the

**essential knowledge**(__facts__,__concepts__, and__generalizations or principles__) and**skills**(or__procedures__) for the lesson.
2. What is the

__essential reasoning content__for the lesson?
3. What is the

__potential learning trajectory (__path or course) in which the lesson is situated?
***If the
essential elements of the lesson are trivial, or if they do not advance
learning on a trajectory toward more learning, then it is questionable whether
this lesson should be taught at all. The whole concept of standards-based
instruction assumes that individual lessons, over time, will amount to
achievement of a larger standard.

***Where does the lesson reside in the potential learning trajectory?**

Ask yourself…

-Where are my students
headed?

-What specific content (concepts and skill) must be in place
to lay the foundation for the next lessons?

-What must my students learn during this lesson so they will
be prepared to tackle the content and the reasoning processes in the next
lesson?

-What did my students learn in previous lessons?

-What can I build on?

-What should I reteach?

-What concept can I enrich or expand?

-What should my students practice?

**The following sections discuss the**

__four steps__of designing a learning target.

**STEP 1: Define the Essential Content for the Lesson**

To define
the essential content for the lesson, you need to have a deep understanding of
the intended learning. If you find yourself able only to list the facts and
concepts that students should know, without placing them into any larger
learning picture, you should work on your own understanding before you try to
plan instruction.

-What does
your lesson-sized “chunk” of your instructional objectives look like?

-What
portion or aspect of the instructional objective are you going to work on
during today’s lesson? If you’re only working on part of the lesson today then
you should communicate longer-range goals to students but don’t lose sight of
the fact that students need a learning target for today’s lesson.

*

__Once YOU have a deep understanding of the instructional objective__and what aspect or aspects of it you will base your lesson on,__ask yourself these questions__:
-What
content knowledge does this lesson focus on? It should include more than facts;
is should also include concepts and generalizations or principles.

-How will
this particular lesson add to what students have learned in previous lessons?

-How will
this lesson increase students’ understanding of the content? Will students
develop a more sophisticated understanding of a concept, or will they tackle a
brand-new concept?

-What skills
does this lesson focus on?

-Will
students learn a new skill, practice one they have yet to master, or apply a
highly developed skill to a new context?

**STEP 2: Define the reasoning Processes Essential for the Lesson**

Ask yourself
these questions:

-What
thought-demanding processes will allow my students to build on what they
already know and can do?

-What kinds
of thinking will promote deep understanding and skill development so that
students can analyze, reshape, expand, extrapolate (infer) from, apply, and
build on what they already know?

**STEP 3: Design a Strong Performance of Understanding**

Ask yourself
this question:

What
performance of understanding will help my students develop their thinking
skills and apply their new knowledge?

-The performance of understanding is
not the instructional objective, but it embodies and exemplifies the instructional
objective, so it influences the language used in framing the learning target
for students.

*A common mistake teachers make in
lesson planning is to confuse learning targets with performances of
understanding…

Think of it this way…a performance
of understanding provides one of a number of possible ways in which students
can learn and produce evidence of what they are learning in today’s lesson.

The
performance of understanding is what keeps students’ heads in the game as they
work toward a learning target; from their point of view, what you

*ask them to do*becomes inextricably bound to*what they intend to learn*.**STEP 4: State the Learning Target**

During this
step, you describe the lesson-sized chunk of learning for your class as a
statement of what the students will learn and do during the lesson. Make sure
that this learning target expresses, from the students’ point of view, the
knowledge and skills they will be using in their performance of understanding.

**An effective learning target must**

__speak to students__,

__express the essentials of the lesson__, and

__provide students with a rationale__for why what you are asking them to do is in fact a performance of understanding.

**Stating a learning target well is a skill in itself**: you must state the target in a manner that

__students will understand__,

__using student-friendly language__and

__relevant illustrations__.

**Use Student-Friendly Language**

*Student-Friendly
Language

**=**language that students can understand
The language
of learning targets should enable students to see themselves as the agents of
learning. Using the first person works well: targets that start with “we” or “I”
communicate to students that they are the ones who will be doing the learning.

Suggestions:

“We are
learning to…” or “I can” statements. You
can also take cues from the language your students use in the classroom when
they describe their understanding.

-There is a
nice table on page 33 that gives examples of

**Writing Learning Targets in Student Language,**I’ll go ahead and include some examples below…**Guiding Questions:**

-What will I
be able to do when I’ve finished this lesson?
(I Can…)

-What idea,
topic, or subject is important for me to learn and understand so that I can hit
the target? (To be able to do this, I
must learn and understand that…)

-What will I
do to show that I understand the target, and how well will I have to do it? (I will show I can do this
by…)

**Use Relevant Illustrations**

A strong
performance of understanding functions as an illustration of the learning
target. From the student’s point of view, the performance of understanding
implies a learning target that says, “I can do that.”

*Illustrations
or demonstrations that show students as well as tell them about the learning
targets are powerful. A strong performance of understanding is the most
important but not the only way to illustrate a learning target. What makes a
particular illustration useful is that it helps focus students on what they are
supposed to be learning. Effective ways to illustrate learning targets include:

-Showing
examples of the kinds of problems that student will be learning during the lesson.

-Diagrams
& charts that demonstrate the kind of thinking that students will learn to
do during the lesson (Venn diagram or time line)

-Use a story
or scenario that students know about (news story)

-Use real
life experiences (shopping)

-Create an
experience for students (watch a video clip)

-For certain
learning targets, demonstrate the skill itself (tie your shoes)

**Showing Examples**

Sometimes
you can communicate a learning target to students simply by rephrasing your
instructional objective in words that they can understand and adding examples.
This method works well near the end of a group of lessons focused by
mastery-type objectives, where the goal is for students to learn a specific
skill and its underlying concepts.

Example:

3

^{rd}grade math class—your instructional objective might be “Students will be able to use place value to compare two whole numbers (as greater than, less than, or equal to each other). You know that your students are already familiar with the concepts greater than, less than and equal to, as well as the symbols for those concepts, and you know that you introduced place value at the beginning of the unit. So today,__you transform your instructional objective into a____learning target and criteria for success simply by telling and showing__:
Today our learning target is to put numbers in order using
the greater than, less than and equal to signs and to be able to tell how you
use place value to do that. Here are some of the kinds of problems you can
solve if you meet your target: 378__387; 154__593. Listen for two things as
your classmates work the problems on the board: did they talk about place value
as a way to solve the problem, and did they put the correct sign in the box?
Then ask yourselves the same questions as you work.

*Teachers
can write an abbreviated version of this target on the board, such as “Use
place value to put numbers in order” and the two example problems.

**Use Students’ Real-Life Experiences.**

Learning targets
come from the chunk of the instructional objective that the students will see
as the short-term focus.

Example:

The teacher
is going to work with Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” She might communicate
the learning target by starting with a question: “Think of some different kinds
of bells you have heard. Describe the sound of one of them. What does that
sound make you think of? How does it make you feel?” After a brief class
discussion of these questions, the teacher says.

Today, our learning target is to be able to describe how Poe
thought and felt about different kinds of bells, and to explain how we can
figure that out from his poem. We’ll know we are successful when we can explain
how imagery from the poem creates thoughts and feelings for readers in as much
detail as we just explained how real bells conjure up thoughts and feelings in
us.

This way of
illustrating the learning target doesn’t mean that students (or the teacher)
lose sight of essential questions and the big ideas, like “Poetry uses imagery
to express meaning, and certain literary techniques are common in poetry because
they work with both the sound and meaning of the words.”

**Using real-life experiences to communicate the learning target engages students’ attention and enables them to succeed in the immediate context of the lesson as well as building up, over time, their understanding of the big ideas.****Create an Experience**

This
strategy doesn’t work with every kind of learning target, but when it does
work, it’s powerful and fun.

**Another great table is on page 38—I’ll include this because it will show you in detail the 4-step process.**

*Defining
the specific learning targets for a lesson in four steps:

Instructional
Objectives for the Lesson:

Students will explain how the
element of chance leads to variability in a set of data.

Students will represent variability
using a graph.

**Steps:**

**Step 1.**Define the essential content (concepts and skills) for the lesson.

**Potential Learning Trajectory Considerations:**

*My students can create a simple bar
graph given a set of data.

*My students have a naïve idea about the concept of chance,
and this lesson will deepen that understanding.

*My students have a solid
understanding of how to look for and represent a pattern.

*My students already know that chance exists in games like
bingo, dice, cards, etc., but do not understand that chance exists naturally in
the everyday world.

**Elements for the Lesson:**

**Content**-

*My students must learn that chance occurs naturally during
everyday procedures—like when they make cookies.

*My students must learn that chance causes the values in a
data set to vary.

*My students must learn that variation in data creates a
pattern.

**Step 2**. Define the reasoning processes essential for the lesson.

**Potential Learning Trajectory Considerations**

*****My students have little practice with mathematical predictions.

*My students have experience with
analysis.

*My students can build on what they
know about cause and effect.

*My students know how to brainstorm.

**Elements for the Lesson**

**Reasoning Processes**-

*My students must learn to analyze an everyday procedure to
recognize the elements of chance embedded in that procedure that might cause a
data set to distribute itself randomly.

**Step 3**. Design a strong performance of understanding that will develop student thinking and understanding and provide compelling evidence of student learning.

**Potential Learning Trajectory Considerations**

***My students can observe and analyze a simple procedure.**

*My students need to demonstrate an
understanding of cause-and-effect reasoning.

*My students have practiced brainstorming
reasons for common occurrences.

**Elements for the Lesson**

**Performance of Understanding-**

*My students must engage in a performance of understanding that
simulates naturally occurring elements of chance in ways that require them to
observe, graph, analyze, and explain the effect that chance has on data
patterns. We will use data on a number of chips to chocolate chip cookies for
these purposes.

**Step 4**. State the learning target.

*We will be able to see a pattern in
graphs we make about the number of chips in our cookies, and we will be able to
explain what made that pattern.

I really
only meant to highlight the chapter, however there is so much good information
that I felt I should include. The book goes into more detail so I do recommend
it.

**Looking Forward:**

We have seen

__how learning targets work__and__how to state them__, but using learning targets effectively requires**two more elements**__: criteria for success__and a__plan for sharing__the targets and their success criteria with students. Chapter 3 will discuss these elements in depth.
Please add
your comments and/or experiences with Learning Targets and check the blog out
next weekend for chapter 3.

Vicky

For our preschool class, we created Skill Boxes. Each student has their very own box with their name on it. Each week, a learning target is given, for example: I can name my shapes. The students practice their shapes and then meet with a teacher to say their shapes. So far the students are loving the skill boxes. The learning target is easily understood. The students love having their own box with their own things inside. They are eager to say the shapes to the teachers and be able to move on to the next learning target. If students are having trouble, the teachers are able to incorporate more shape activities into the daily schedule. In addition, a parent connection sheet is sent home to parents so they know what the weekly learning target is and can help their child at home too.

ReplyDeleteTeachers have a comment sheet to record student progress. Also, a chart is hung in the room and when students master a skill, they are able to put a star on the chart.

This process does help the teacher, student, and parent focus on same learning target. Students are taking ownership in their own learning and having fun doing it!

I struggle somewhat with the "content" involved in planning lessons for preschoolers. When reading chapter two, it provides a lot of guidance in creating lessons that are appropriate, relevant, provide examples and include guiding questions. When you begin to add all these elements to a lesson it can become lengthy, and wordy and you run the risk of losing the attention of students. It is important for us working with young students to be able to include these important elements, but create a concise lesson with age appropriate language. I am still working at this :)

ReplyDeleteFor our preschool FAME group we have created skill boxes for our students. There are 4 classrooms using the skill boxes. Each student has their own individual skill box with a "I Can" Statement. For example, I can identify numbers 1-10. The students have a week (4 days) to master their individual skill and receive a sticker on the classroom skills chart. These skill boxes have learning targets that use words, pictures and actions in terms that the students understand and the content and performance they are aiming for.

ReplyDeleteThere is also a home connection that is sent home where parents know and understand the skill their child is working on that week and something they can work on at home.

We have had great responses for the students and parents. The skill boxes are working out really well in efforts of how to design a specific learning target for preschool children.

JC

we too are using skill boxes in our classroom this is going well, but could be tweaked just a bit. Also again the challenges with preschool and these concepts is somewhat overwhelming, everything in preschool is foundational. As a parent to older students I appreciate these concepts and believe when used could help them acheive even more.

ReplyDeleteLK