You know that moment when you’re sitting in grad class or in a workshop and you’re thinking “What in the world is the presenter wanting me to learn here?” Think of the feelings that brings up. Frustration? Annoyance? At that moment, do you have a mindset for learning?
Do you think that ever happens to the kids in our classrooms?
A fifth grade teacher and I recently took her kids through the process of unwrapping standards and developing learning targets. In the past, this is something that the teachers did to direct their teaching. However, this time, we had the kids unwrap the standard and they developed the learning targets. They developed the path for their learning. So, not only do we have a clear path for teaching, students also have a clear path for learning.
Here’s how the process went.
1. We posted the standard and simply allowed the students to tell us what they thought it meant. The standard was Common Core Standard RI 5.9: I can integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably. Discussions included the meaning of integrate and how one knows whether the writer or speaker really knows the subject knowledgeably.
2. The students had never broken down a standard before so we modeled how to do it with the first learning target. The students decided that even before they started integrating the text, they had to annotate the first text to understand it at a deeper level. Thus, our first learning target: I can take notes while reading to get a deeper understanding of the text.
3. Then, we put the students into groups and let them run with it. They decided what the next learning targets were. This was where the ownership in learning began. This is when the path of learning was revealed.
Some of the discussions the students initiated at this point were:
- How do I comprehend a text? Will I need to determine importance?
- What graphic organizer should I use? Is there more than one I could use?
- What about the text structure of the passage?
- How do I effectively take notes?
- How do I show that I really know something well?
- How exactly do you integrate two or more texts? Find a theme, a topic, etc?
4. The class came to a consensus on the targets. Here’s the final targets on our self-reflection and feedback document.
5. The next step was to analyze success criteria, which was also very powerful in laying out the direction of learning. I may expand on this process in a later post. Students were given three students samples of an end-of-the-unit writing applying RI 5.9. After analyzing them against the learning targets, they put them on a continuum rubric. Here’s a picture of that.
Highly effective teaching is tough. Deep learning is even tougher. What we have to do in education is work smarter, not harder so that our students can be self-directed learners. Having kids unwrap the standard and develop the learning targets opened the doors to learning. These students now know where they’re going and they are guiding themselves. They’re on the path to learning, not just sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher.
The most amazing parts of this process was the deep discussions students led and took part in and the fact that they can very specifically describe where their learning is about to go.
A question that has been posed by some teaches is a valid one: How do I make time for this when I have so much to teach? Our answer is “How can you not?” This process will make the teaching and learning more productive because the students developed the path for learning and they know what they’re working towards. As opposed to that frustrated and annoyance feeling we’ve all felt when we have no idea what we’re supposed to be learning. If you doubt this, refer to number 9 and 10 on this site of John Hattie’s work, which is a meta-analysis of over 50,000 studies. It works.
Take a listen from two kiddos in the class: