Your district may require that you post learning targets in your classroom for your lessons. But did you realize that learning targets are the number one tool teachers can use to make their lessons more effective?
What Are Learning Targets?
First, learning targets are a statement of what you intend your students to learn or accomplish during the lesson. They are written in student-friendly language. They can be words, pictures, or actions, or a combination of all three. This article focuses on written learning targets.
Second, learning targets are NOT the curriculum objectives written by your district or your state. Examples of what a learning target is not are the Common Core State Standards and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS. Those are written for teachers in language that teachers understand. They are hugely important, but they are not the day’s learning target.
A learning target is also not a list of activities for the day. That tells students what they will be doing, but not what they will be learning. Think about if you were on a tour bus. The list of activities might include a tour of a museum, a stop to view a local sculpture, and a luncheon. But that list does not tell you what you will learn at each activity.
Learning Targets Benefit Both Teachers and Students
Students need to know their clear goal, or their learning target, for the day. It engages them and empowers them to dig deeper. It helps them feel confident because they know they are on the right track.
Teachers also benefit from learning targets. You may know your state’s curriculum guide, such as the CCSS or the TEKS, well. You may have taught it for years or, if you’re new to teaching, you may have already studied its contents.
But, to plan, implement, monitor, and assess your students’ learning during a particular lesson, effective teachers focus on the lesson’s learning target.
Thus, it is logical that both teachers and students share the learning target.
Writing Learning Targets During the Lesson Planning Process
Effective teachers write the learning target as part of the lesson planning process. This is where the learning target starts its work! It will guide the content you choose for the lesson. It will guide the learning strategies. It will guide your questioning strategies. It will guide the assessment you design. All your planning is channeled with a laser-like focus on the specific learning target of the day.
How to Use Learning Targets During the Lesson
Prior to the lesson, post the learning target where every student in the room can see it. Having your learning target already written and in your lesson plan makes this process easy.
Learning targets are most effective when posted in the same place each day. That way, students always know where to look. It should be in a place where the teacher can easily refer to the target before, during, and at the end of the lesson.
As the lesson starts, explicitly tell your students what the learning target for the day is, as you point to the posted learning target. In a manner, this creates a space in the student’s brain where he will put the new knowledge. You will start to feel the immediate engagement among your students. You have just saved many minutes, and perhaps the whole lesson, for many of your students. They will not have to figure out where they are going or what they are expected to learn. You and your students are working as a team toward a common goal.
During the lesson, as key points are achieved, refer to the posted learning target. This keeps your students on track and focused on the goal of the lesson. It also helps keep you on track as you guide your students in their learning.
As you close the lesson, refer to the learning target again. This helps cement the new knowledge in your students’ long-term memory.
Decrease in Off-Task Behavior
An added benefit to using specific learning targets in this manner is fewer off-task behaviors. All students want to be successful. Engagement increases. Empowerment takes place. Confidence rises. Off-task behaviors decrease.
Organization of Learning Target Posters
Learning targets can simply be written on the board, or you can use pre-printed posters. An advantage to posters is that someone else has already written the student-friendly language. Printed posters should use simple, bold text and be legible from all parts of the room. Choose an editable format so you can tweak the language to suit your classroom or district needs.
Printed posters are easy to store in a file or a binder. They can be displayed as a flipchart or on a wall. Print your state standards and keep a copy in your binder, also. That way, you can quickly see where your lesson fits into the big picture.
Give learning targets a try in your classroom. Your students will be better prepared to learn, and you will be a truly effective teacher!