How to Unpack the Standards and Use Learning Targets in Your Classroom

Veteran teacher Heather explains the importance of unpacking the standards and using learning targets in order to determine if students are learning from our lessons. She provides several teaching strategies that you can try to make sure that you are gathering data and supporting students to see their levels of mastery.

Updated on: September 19, 2019

How to Unpack the Standards and Use Learning Targets in Your Classroom

One of the challenges we face in the classroom is trying to determine whether our students are really learning from the lessons we develop and deliver. How do we know if they are working towards mastery of a standard? In this blog post, we will examine how you can unpack the standards and use learning targets in your classroom.

What are learning targets?

As an educator, you are probably already using learning targets, but may not realize that is what they’re called.

Learning targets are statements of intended learning. You’re required to list objectives in your lesson plans, but you should be informing students of your teaching intentions prior to your lesson.

Learning targets are specifically for students. It tells them what you expect them to be able to do after you’re done teaching.

Did you know that you can really get students’ attention and focus when it comes to learning targets?

Once you do, anyone can walk into your classroom, ask any child what they are doing in class today, and the child will be able to clearly communicate the standards-based expectations.

If this sounds like something you want to happen in your classroom (who wouldn’t?), read on to learn how you can create a system for using learning targets in your room.

Morning Message

A morning message is a powerful thing. It is possibly the one moment in class you have everyone together, with undivided attention, alert, and ready to go. Because morning messages are conducted first thing in a lesson, you should definitely consider communicating or reviewing learning targets for the day, or unit.

You can do this verbally and incorporate a brief discussion (great for activating prior knowledge or doing informal assessments), or you can jot them down somewhere that’s easy for everyone to see.

Learning Target Monitoring Sheets

How cool would it be to list all your learning targets on a piece of paper that monitors if and when your students have been successful with your aspirations for them? You could keep these monitoring sheets in a folder by your lesson plans, you could keep them in their math portfolios (easy to pull out during a conference), or you could even staple them onto tests for parents to see which targets have been hit, and which ones have been missed so they understand they will be remediated (or better yet, how they can help them at home).

Bulletin Board

If you have a little extra space in your classroom, dedicate it to learning targets. The targets should be easy to read and written in student-friendly language. Keep it short, simple, and sweet. It should be visible in a place students can see each day so they understand the long term goal of a unit. This is also nice to have in your room when you get observed (especially informally) so your administrators see that you’re involving students in your long term plans and goals, and that it’s driving your instruction appropriately. Even parents will be able to quickly view what their child is doing if they pop in to help out or meet with you for a conference.

Encourage Using “I Can” Statements

How many times have you heard your students saying, “I can’t?” This can be incredibly frustrating to the both of you.

Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the positive. Encourage “I can” statements.

At the end of each week, as a closing activity, ask each child in your room to self-assess.

As educators, we spend so much time organizing our classrooms, decorating, finding games and engaging projects, and designing lessons that “click” with all kinds of learners, we often tend to skim over the little things that can be incredibly important.

When looking at your standards, it is imperative that your students understand why you’re teaching them the things that you are, and what you want them to know and do as a result of that.

Consider some of the simple suggestions above to start the year off right and to establish a clear and direct learning process.

Do you use Learning Targets in your classroom? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Heather Aulisio is a third grade teacher in Pennsylvania. She has been a teacher for nearly 15 years and holds multiple degrees and certifications. A freelancer for The Mailbox and other education-related clients and publications, she enjoys writing in order to help and entertain fellow teachers. She currently resides with her husband, Bryan; son, Matthew; and two pugs, Lily and Leo.