When my district-mandated the daily implementation of learning targets into our teaching practice, it didn’t take long before I found those learning target diaries crumpled up in my trash can next to that old, mushy banana.
These “I CAN” statements would just take up room on my whiteboard, and no amount of pretty dry-erase markers was going to distract me from the fact that, while these had a lot of potential, I wasn’t using them in a very valuable way. Enter the Learning Target Wheel! Read my blog to see how I transformed my Learning Target practice into one that was interactive, engaging, and meaningful!
If you’re anything like me, hearing the words “learning target” doesn’t exactly give you the warm-and-fuzzies. So, let’s pretend we’re not really going to have a conversation about the implementation of learning targets into your daily pedagogical practice. Instead, let’s talk about, oh I don’t know … flossing.
And, oh, do I have a lot of thoughts about flossing. Here’s what I know:
- I know that it’s supposed to be done every single day to yield the best results, but the odds of me actually following through are little to none.
- I know that every time I pick the practice back up, I end up with a bloody mess.
- I know that my distaste towards the act sets a not-so-great example for my kids when I hypocritically berate them for “faking it.”
- I know it’s a valuable practice, but at the end of the day, it’s really just one of those routines I resume days before my next dentist appointment to avoid criticism and judgement.
I know me, so I know that I’m not going to floss unless a) the fear of not doing so becomes greater than my indifference towards the act itself, b) I’m bribed with an obnoxious amount of coffee or c) I find new and better ways to engage in the practice.
Do any of you relate? Does this somewhat reflect your own use of — gulp, learning targets — in your classroom?
A much-needed change
I knew that the way in which I was introducing learning targets to the students was not a meaningful one — I first suspected this when the students would roll their eyes or groan every time they took out their “Learning Target Diary” at the beginning of each class, but these suspicions were confirmed when I found a student’s crumpled up Learning Target Diary in the trash can next to an old, mushy banana.
Something needed to change, and I don’t just mean in relation to the students’ aversion towards healthy snacks. If learning targets were to be a staple in my classroom practice, they deserved to be done with some gusto. They deserved to be treated as more than just wallpaper.
Think about the WHY
To do this, I really had to think about the WHY behind this practice. (Shout out to Simon Sinek for that one!) Well, for one, as educators we definitely want our students to understand what we’re learning and why. That’s a given, but there’s more to it, right? We want the students to reflect on their journey towards mastery! And I don’t know about you, but the days where students take ownership of their progress towards a learning outcome make me feel like I can stop filling out that application to work as a full-time cashier at The Container Store.
The Interactive Learning Target Wheel
That’s when I realized that learning targets could be viewed as an interactive form of a KWL, and that’s when the wheel started turning. Literally.
I bought a prize wheel and labeled each slot with a different interactive KWL activity. On days where we introduced new targets or reviewed previous ones, a student would come to the front of the classroom, spin the wheel, and land on one of the interactive activities. Each activity, in its own way, would help the students reflect on their own knowledge, skills, or progress related to that target. Better yet? Each one lasts fewer than five minutes.
To better illustrate these ideas, take a look at the following interactive Learning Target activities, and click on the title for ways to accommodate/challenge!
Sample Learning Target: I can differentiate between the 4 types of conflict — Man vs. Self, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, and Man vs. Society.
Directions: With your playdoh, mold something that represents one or more of the above conflicts. Even if you do not know them, choose one and make your best guess!
Sample Learning Target: I can evaluate whether life was better or worse after the agricultural revolution.
On the RED light, write down anything that confuses you about life before/ after the agricultural revolution.
On the YELLOW light, make a text-to-self, text-to-text, or text-to-world connection in relation to life before or after the agricultural revolution.
On the GREEN light, write down any fact or knowledge about the agricultural revolution that you know to be true.
Sample Learning Target: I can explore the relationship between mass and volume.
Directions: For this brain spill, you’ll grab one paperclip for every piece of information you already know about mass, volume, and/or the relationship between the two. You’ll link the paper-clips together in order to see how many facts you know! When you’re done linking, share some of your paper-clip facts with a partner.
Sample Learning Target: I can analyze an argument from multiple perspectives.
Directions: Choose an emoji from your Emoji Bank that best describes your attitude toward this learning target. When you’ve chosen your emoji, you can pair up with a peer who shares your emoji and explain why. Then, pair up with a peer who has a different emoji and discuss your varying attitudes.
Sample Learning Target: I can define a primary consumer in a food chain.
Directions: On the floor are various colored circles. Cue the teacher to play a song! When the music stops playing, land on the nearest color circle and stand there. Each color represents a different task. See this color chart for your learning target task. Remember, you’re only safe if you’re on a colored circle, otherwise, you’ll fall into the lava!
Sample Learning Target: I can identify the roles of a hunter-gatherer.
Directions: Just like in “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” you will act as one of three lifelines: Three Wise Men, Phone-a-Friend, or Plus-One. By looking at this chart, decide which lifeline role best describes your comfort level with this target, make the hand-motion associated with that lifeline, and start lifelining!
Sample Learning Target: I can add and subtract integers.
Directions: Who doesn’t love fake money? For Final Jeopardy, you will each be given $300. After reading the learning target, take 30 seconds and determine how much money you are willing to BET for the Final Jeopardy question. After you make your bet, take a look at the Final Jeopardy question, answer it, and see how much you’ve won!
Sample Learning Target: I can engage in a Socratic Discussion with my peers.
Directions: On your concept map, put “Socratic Discussion” as your topic. Follow the prompts in each of the boxes and write what comes to mind!
A meaningful practice
With a never-ending list of new initiatives, goals, or pedagogical practices introduced by a district every single year, education may begin to feel a lot like flossing — a task you feel as if you have to complete because you’re told it’s good for you. And fine, fine, I’ll floss if I have to, but that’s not really good enough for me. I want to want to do it!
So if I am going to “floss,” if you will, I want to believe in it whole-heartedly. Same goes for my kiddos — if they are going to engage in this process, then they deserve to see the value in it as well! Maybe, just maybe, with these Interactive Learning Target tools, the act itself will become a lot less painful!
Language and Literature Middle School Teacher
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