If there is one thing teachers worry about, it’s focus.
Are administrators, districts and legislatures focused on the right priorities?
Are students focused on the task at hand, as opposed to being off-task?
Are we, as teachers, devoting the correct percentage of focus towards each standard?
Are parents focused on the education of their children as a priority?
The list goes on. However, clear expectations of learning can go a long way in increasing the focus on academic achievement.
When it comes to teaching, I find it imperative for students to understand what they will be learning. It is equally important for them to know what success of a given standard will look like. I believe students need to be active in their learning. What better way than to know what is expected of them.
My classroom is no different than many other classrooms I’ve been in. There has been a push to provide students with objectives in a visible way all over the country. For me, it is not simply enough to post the standard or learning target on the whiteboard. A comprehensive understanding of standards for students includes:
- The standard being expressed to students in kid-friendly language. There are several great resources that already have CCSS written in student “I can” statements. Check them out here and here.
- In the case of numerous skills or strategies within one standard, a learning target that addresses the specific skill needing to be mastered in a particular lesson or time frame. For example, CCSS says students need to use capitalization correctly in 2nd grade. One lesson will not teach the entire standard to mastery so students may simply be working on capitalizing the names of places in a specific lesson.
- An indication of how a student will know they have reached mastery of a skill or standard.
- Why mastery of a skill or standard is important.
This year, I am adding a column. My students are going to continue to understand the content objectives I have for them, which can have accommodations embedded, but are likely to be similar for the majority of the class. This looks something like, “I can compare and contrast frogs and toads.” However, they will also be instructed through language objectives. Teaching in a school with a high population of English Language Learners (ELLs), it is important to be deliberate in teaching and assessing language and content simultaneously yet as separate entities. Indicating how a student will know they mastered a skill or standard will be represented in a variety of ways, based on language level.
For a Level 2 ELL, indication of mastery might be stated as, “I will know I can compare and contrast frogs and toads when I can tell a partner two ways a frog and toad are the same and two ways a frog and toad are different from one another, using sentence frames.”
For a Level 3 ELL, indication of mastery might be stated as, “I will know I can compare and contrast frogs and toads when I can complete a Venn Diagram with 2 similarities and 2 differences between frogs and toads.”
For a Level 5 ELL, indication of mastery might be stated as, “I will know I can compare and contrast frogs and toads when I can write a paragraph with 3 similarities and 3 differences between frogs and toads and read it to the class.”
In all three of these cases, students are expected to compare and contrast the same two animals, but are working on different products. This will be beneficial to students because it will allow for differentiation of goals and instruction, along with greater success for students. A great resource for finding reasonable language expectations for ELLs is on OSPI’s English Language Proficiency Standards site.
I am excited to help students focus on their learning, in more ways than one. I want to keep my attention, as well as that of my students on achievement. However, I need to honor that each of them come to class in a different place. Sometimes teachers cross the line into being TOO focused. With completely good intentions, we over-focus on an end result. Creating content and language objectives allows me to see closer to a whole picture of a child.
This popular YouTube video demonstrates my point. While it was created to help drivers be more aware of bicyclists, the metaphor can extend to the classroom. Allowing ourselves to have no focus at all will result in little to no achievement. However, focusing so greatly on all students producing identical products in terms of CCSS, will have us missing all kinds of things. Enjoy this video and let us here at Corelaborate know what you’re doing to provide the perfect amount of focus for yourself and your students!
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.