Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Target Learning: I don't know???

What did you learning today?

What do you mean… you learned nothing today?
I don’t remember.

What was your favorite part of the school day?
lunch and recess… oh, we watched a movie!

These are the answers we get from our children as we talk about their school day.  I remember having these same conversations with my grandfather as a school-age child.  He would always say: “Why do you go to school if you are learning nothing, maybe you should come to work with me!”  I would imagine that similar conversations about the school day are happening in many households.  My wife and I know that our children are learning at school.   We can tell that they are learning more than nothing and they do remember what they are learning.  They can easily recall their day and give specific learning that took place when we ask more detailed questions.  We can also tell by observing reading and writing skills and the progression of math activities that they are practicing through homework assignments.  It is exciting to watch them learn and grow!  

At our school, we make a concerted effort to post learning targets, making them the focal point of each lesson. The common language, “Target Learning” goals, within each grade level and for all subject areas is sustaining the development of skills. Setting instructional outcomes or target learning expectations is an extremely important step within the learning process. Student who understand the target learning, rather than merely meeting an assignment requirement, will more likely retain the information and have the ability to transfer that knowledge to future learning. Clearly stated learning targets that represents rigorous and important outcomes within each discipline is important to cementing skills.  Check out some examples:

Posting learning targets provides a clear and narrow focus to the learning expectations. Intentional activities and formative assessments during the learning process, while utilizing quality questions/prompts, discussion techniques, and engagement strategies that culminates back to the learning target, is key to solidifying student outcomes.

Many of our teacher are taking learning targets to the next level by involving parents.  Some teachers will pose questions for parents to ask their children within student planners or through weekly newsletters.  Ask your child what their target learning was today:

  • What tricky spelling pattern is found in our long “I” words?  (studying “ight”)
  • What is the “heart” of your story?  
  • How many different ways can you write the number 20.
  • Describe the main character from today’s story.  Where does the story take place?  What do you think is going to happen in the next chapter?  
  • What was your hypothesis today during your science experiment?
  • Can you teach me three different ways to multiply?  
  • How do you utilize dialogue in writing?

Asking targeted questions related to instructional outcomes will focus on learning more than the activity, which will support retention of material, increasing the likelihood that students will transfer that knowledge to future learning.  

Some teachers are communicating target learning to parents through twitter posts:  

Parents who follow classrooms on twitter can view learning takeaways to gain knowledge of the school day, which will support intentional conversations about learning with their children.  No more will parents ask: What did you learn today?  They will now ask:  Can you add larger numbers by regrouping?  How did you use google docs to collaborate on a literary essay? Target questions will get to the core of Target Learning for the day.

I love when parents and teachers work together to combat an old-age question:  What did you learn today?

Enjoy teaching and learning in 2015!  


  1. Keith, I must say, I always look forward to reading your posts, because I learn something new and always have something to share with my staff. Great blogging in 2014! Keep it up in're making a difference!

    Happy, Healthy New Year to you and your family!


    1. Thanks Dennis! I appreciate the feedback. I always look forward to reading your blog as well. It is amazing how much professional development is out there by sharing with each other. It has been a great year. Hope you and your family has a nice New Year!!!

  2. Great post Keith. I've had the same conversations with my daughters when they come home from school. Reframing our questions about learning is important. Love the idea of using twitter to share out learning targets! Would love to see my teachers doing that as well. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Sharing learning target with parents will support great "dinnertime" conversations about school. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

  3. Love all the pictures and examples of learning targets. We post "I Can" statements for our lessons and this has been helpful for students to see what they are learning in their "own language." In our grade we're also using these "I Can" statements in our students' assignment books. I think it has been a positive change that is also a better communication with parents compared to what they wrote previous years. Having students write "I can solve an equation using the order of operations" is much more descriptive than "math page 316 #1-10." I also like the idea of using Twitter or other SM for communicating these learning goals since I already have a class account in place.

    1. Thanks! Glad to hear how you are using "I Can" statements. We have been using "I Can" statements as well. Great way to empower student learning. Thanks for reading and enjoy the weekend!