Helping Students Meet Learning Targets
Learning targets say what students should learn from a lesson or set of lessons. They must state things clearly and briefly. The webinar had an example for students in the primary grades:
“I can list and describe the eight planets in our solar system.”
The learning target is a good start in helping students understand what is expected of them. But learning targets don’t do the teaching. And they don’t specify exactly what students will need to do. In this case, for instance, we can’t know (from the statement) what “list and describe” means exactly. It can vary from classroom to classroom and, indeed, from student to student. Remember about UDL? Students can demonstrate learning in multiple ways.
For example, educators can think about these things:
- Would students be expected to write the list or simply say it?
- If they are to write the list, do they need to spell the names of the planets correctly?
- Are they to list the planets in a particular order? (Some curriculum standards require students to learn the order of the planets according to distance from the sun.)
The students themselves might have even more questions about this learning target, for instance:
- How much detail is needed to describe the planets?
- Will we be expected to tell what color each planet is?
- Will we be asked to describe each planet’s size relative to other planets?
- Will we be expected to tell each planet’s relative distance from the sun?
For any learning target, you and your teacher might ask students to think of questions they have about what is to be learned or done. Provide time for questions and answers until you are sure students know what the learning target really means.
If the teacher thinks it would be helpful, you might work with the students to make a checklist to use as they work toward the target. For example, a checklist might look like this:
Checklist for Learning Target
Learning Target: “I can list and describe the eight planets in our solar system.”
______I can name all eight planets.
______I can name the eight planets in order, from closest to the sun to farthest from the sun.
______I can write the names of the eight planets in order, from closest to the sun to farthest from the sun.
______I can write the correct spelling of the names of the planets.
______I can write a paragraph telling each planet’s color, size compared to the other planets, relative distance from the sun, and number of moons.
This type of checklist can also be used as a starting point for creating a detailed assignment sheet. Some students find that having a detailed set of instructions like this helps them complete assignments and learn better. The assignment sheet might include a list of grading criteria (sometimes called a “grading rubric”), too.