The Importance of Posting Daily Classroom Objectives

Classroom objectives
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When I was a classroom teacher, I spent many moments every morning writing classroom objectives on the board. Standards-based? Kid-friendly? I can? The style changed based on trends, leadership, or whatever book study upper admin was doing at the time. I wrote them in all ways—I’ve been in education long enough to have used colored chalk and walked students to the busses with my own pink handprints on my butt.


Here’s the thing: Students may not care about your state standards. They most likely can’t relate, and the language embedded in each one makes little sense to kids.

For instance, here’s a classroom standard for first grade reading.

1.7 The student will use semantic clues and syntax to expand vocabulary when reading.

Here’s another one for third grade:

3.2e: The student will use contextually appropriate language and specific vocabulary to communicate ideas.

Different Classroom Objective Formats

Not all standards are written in such complex jargon, and some could be pretty clear to older kids. The standards are written for us, though. They aren’t written to engage children, and they certainly don’t sell the content you’re teaching.

 Besides, writing state standards and creating all the laminated posters for each subject was such a cumbersome pain in my chalky behind. Confession time: If I knew no one was around to check up on me, I didn’t write classroom objectives at all. I just opened lessons with a stated goal and taught on.

That didn’t work either, though, because no one had any idea what we were learning that day when they walked in. At least a list of complex objectives provided some sort of written daily reference point for kids, even if they didn’t fully understand what was going on.

A Solution: The I Can-So That-I’ll Know I Have It When Classroom Objective Format

When I started writing objectives in an I Can-So That-I’ll know I have it when format, my classroom changed. Not only did kids know what was going on, the lessons had meaning. Goals were measurable, and we could determine together whether we had met the goal and what else we needed to do to get there.

A learning goal for Social Studies might have looked like

I can list the ideas for self-government and reasons for independence stated in the Declaration of Independence so that I’ll understand why the colonies went to war with Britain. I’ll know I have it when I can turn and talk to my partner and share why Patriots wanted to fight the British.

Here is another example that’s a touch simpler. This is a goal I may use as a reading interventionist with first graders.

I can decode words with short a so that I can read a story. I’ll know I have it when I read the Poem of the Day.

Naturally, the “Poem of the Day” is decodable for short a.

Here are four ways that writing objectives in this way helped my class.

Kids Know the Outcome Before They Start, and You Do Too!

Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe wrote about backwards lesson design in their book, Understanding By Design. You can purchase this book through my affiliate link here. You won’t pay more, but I may make a small commission.

In the ASCD white paper explaining their framework, it says, “Effective curriculum is planned backward from long-term, desired results through a three-stage design process (Desired Results, Evidence, and Learning Plan)” McTighe, J. and Wiggins, G. (2012).  Retrieved from here.

In other words, start where you want to end, then create the questions and activities to help you get there. When kids know what they will be able to do at the end of your lesson, they will know why they are sitting in your class that day. This gives a level of certainty, control and safety for your children, particularly those who need to know what’s coming in order to feel secure.

You Can Refer to Your Goal Throughout the Lesson

As you teach, refer to your goal periodically. This keeps you on track, and reminds your students of why they are doing what they are doing. Remind them of why you’re learning this specific concept or skill. What will it help them with?

Have Students Rate Their Own Learning

When you finish your lesson, ask kids to rate their learning on a scale of 1-3. If they’re a three, they can do each portion of the I’ll-Know-I’ll-Have-It-When portion of your objective. If they’re a two, they can do a part of the goal. If they’re at a one, they need to be retaught in a small group. This can be privately handed to you in an exit ticket.

Classroom Management

As kids work through some “You do” tasks, you may have one or two students misbehave. Remind them of the goal. Ask them to rate their learning. Do the behaviors they’re exhibiting help them reach the goal? This probably won’t fix the behaviors automatically, but you can use your goals to talk to kids about the adverse effect bad behavior has on learning.

Final Thoughts

Having clear objectives in kid-friendly terms will help your kids stay on track. When you help them understand what they will be able to do when the lesson is over, they can assess their own progress.. They can clearly see how their behavior and engagement affect their learning which gives them authentic motivation to behave. Rather than following rules to avoid consequences, they see that responsible behaviors actually help with learning.

Before You Go…

Are you ready to take these strategies to the next level and explore some mindfulness with your students?

You may be interested in my Mindful Moment Writing Prompts.

Using these strategies may keep your classroom from resembling at category 5 hurricane, but late summer and early fall are prime times for a hurricane to head up the coast. Need to teach a weather unit? Need to prepare your students for some crazy weather? Here are a few products centering around my favorite twin characters, Tasha and Tio, that might help!

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