What does my district do about standards? How do they ensure students meet standards? How do I? And how do I ensure the students are involved in their standards? Something that has been genuinely effective in my classroom that has been adopted by our district is the idea of “targets”.
Have you ever had a student get through an entire unit and right before the larger assessment ask, “Well, what are we suppose to know?” We respond with frustration because we know we just spent the last two weeks teaching them all of the information. Sure we could blame ineffective teaching but perhaps the students do know the information, they just art connected with the structure of what they should know. This is where targets can be truly helpful. In reality, it also keeps you in check! If students know the targets, you know when a question or concept on the assessment doesn’t work with any of them and shouldn’t be included! Targets help create a positive environment in which students can thrive on their assessments.
Perhaps your district or you, yourself, call these targets “checkpoints”. Regardless, this isn’t about your professionalism in the classroom; targets have everything to do with our students and their journey through learning. Like a GPS, students hit the “checkpoints”/”targets” until they get to their final destination; understanding the unit and important information.
Targets are not necessarily standards or benchmarks, specifically. Standards and benchmarks are the “big picture” and are something our administrators and government enjoys the wording of. But in all honesty, standards and benchmarks are far from kid friendly language and can even be misinterpreted by many adult educators! Targets are the opposite in regards to language; they are simple and change daily or weekly to fit the needs of your students. (Remember, we’re here for them, not the paperwork!) They reflect the big picture and your standards but because they are more specific and tuned in, they allow students to build the big picture more clearly.
A general rule of thumb I have in my classroom is keeping only 2-3 smaller targets present per concept. Maybe 5-6 larger ones during an entire unit. The targets should be displayed for students when they are applicable, not just whenever. Because they are visible to students, students are reminded of what is expected, what to be thinking about, and what they should be familiar with day to day. Targets do not need to be complicated! For example, during a unit that addresses the Elements of Art specifically, your target for the first day could be “Recognize which and how many elements of art there are.” and “Find an example of each element within this room.” When the students hit the target for the day they will return the next day and see a new target, “Identify three types of line,” and know this is the direction we, as a class are headed.
An example of how I display targets in an easy way is picture. These dry erase boards keep it simple and allow for immediate changes if students change directions.
You’re not done when you display the targets though. There are three crucial moments in class when targets can be used most effectively; beginning, middle, end.
I begin class with a review. When students enter the classroom it can be hard to have a physical bell ringer so I begin a conversation off immediately regarding what we covered last time. This can go quickly for your day to day students but may take a minute or two with the students you see cycle to cycle. Either way, this refreshes the students and gets them back into the mindset of previous learning time.
Next I “prepare” the students. I verbally announce what targets the students will be working on this time. Remember, though, don’t overwhelm them! Use a few simple targets, keep it simple – what are you going to do? how are you going to do it? and how long will you have? In the middle of class, when you are working with students, reference the targets and remind students that if they simply hit the targets, they will succeed easily!
At the end of class, I recap and remind. I begin the recap with what they learned the previous learning period and move into what they accomplished during the current learning period. Don’t just tell, though…ask! Prompt them to remind YOU of the targets they are hitting and have hit. Students love to feel in charge and this is a great way to give students ownership in the classroom. Discuss the “missed” targets and discuss how they can be addressed next time. Finally, remind them that there will continue to be new targets that grow their skill.
In my experience with targets and my daily routine, students start to recall information more clearly and anticipate what is going to be covered next. Their assessment scores and
comprehension improve because they are completely confident about what they should be learning and knowing – – not to mention, it’s right in front of their face. I strongly encourage teachers to start addressing targets (many already do without knowing) and use student-friendly language to prepare students for assessments and comprehension.