get a little enrichment in your inbox

Learning Targets- The WHAT of Teaching


Learning Targets

It is important to explicitly tell the students WHAT they will be learning, HOW they will be successful in mastering that skill and WHY it is an important skill to learn. These three things combined not only help ensure success in each student’s learning, they help students to take ownership over their learning.

Below, I will share some tips on how to create and use learning targets in your classroom. I will also give some ideas on how to shift the locus of control from you to the students, and teach your students to take control of their learning.

The WHAT- Learning Targets

Learning targets tell your students exactly what skills and concepts they will be learning in each and every lesson. By providing your students with learning targets, you are giving them the first step in knowing their purpose for the many activities you will be completing during the lesson. It gives them a chance to process what they will be learning before the learning even begins. It also gives them a chance to make connections to prior learning, background knowledge and experiences. Learning target discussions allow for great conversations between teacher and students as well as student to student. Students can start to take ownership over their learning when they:

  • put the learning target in their own words
  • self-assess where they are in relation to meeting the target
  • come up with next steps that they could take to meet the target (if they are not already meeting it)

To create learnng targets:

  1. Look at the standards you are teaching
    • Common Core State Standards, state or district standards
  2. Rephrase each standard in kid friendly language starting with, “I can”
    • Keep the age range of your students in mind in order to rephrase it in a way that fits the language and cognitive development of the students in your class
    • Use words that don’t make it too hard or complex for younger students to understand, while also not making it too simple and easy for older students
    • Even when matching the wording to the age level of your students, try and keep key vocabulary and concepts in there so that the students continually hear and learn how to use them (ex: ‘contrast’, ‘attributes’, ‘text features’…)
  3. Type (or hand write) them to post in your classroom to refer to during your lesson

To use learning targets with your students:

  1. Have the learning target posted in the area that you teach that subject
    • Having your classroom sectioned off (having a reading focus wall in one area of the room, a math wall in one area of the room…etc.) helps students focus in on what they will be learning (they will be studying words in the reading area, numbers in the math area…etc.)
  2. Start the lesson by linking the standard they will be learning to some prior learning or experiences
    • If they have learned and practiced that standard before, it will be great tie in to step 3
  3. State the learning target to tell the students exactly what it is that they will be able to do by the end of the lesson
    • Continually refer back to the learning target throughout your lesson and into any small group or individual instruction
  4. Have the students do any or all of the below:
    • repeat the learning target to you
    • tell a partner what the learning target is
    • write the learning target in their notebook
    • tell you (or someone else) the learning target in their own words
    • tell you (or someone else) why the learning target is important
    • write in their notebook if they met the learning target and how they know

For ease and convenience:

  • Type up the learning targets beforehand so that you will not have to spend your valuable time thinking about how to word each learning target, for each subject, for each lesson, just right (I’m all about efficiency!)
  • Print them out and laminate for repeated use lesson after lesson, year after year
  • Print different subjects on different colors (ex: reading on yellow, math on blue…etc.)
  • Label them on the back with the specific lesson number from your curriculum (if you use one) that the learning target addresses (ex: “Unit 3, Week 2, Day 1”, “Topic 4-7”, “Module 4, Lesson 2”)
  • Keep them in the order that you teach them as the lessons progress, so that you can put the learning target you just used in the back and the learning target you will need next will be right in the front
  • Store them in a pocket chart or sheet protectors that are stapled to the wall for easy access and to keep them organized
  • Keep like subjects together

For pre-made Learning Targets for each grade that are based on the Common Core State Standards, check out these Learning Targets

What about the HOW?

Once students are given their purpose (the what), they are ready to learn about the how; the steps they need to take to reach that goal. This is where success criteria comes into play. Head over to this blog post Success Criteria- the How of Teaching to read all about success criteria.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may also enjoy...


let's connect

get a little enrichment in your inbox