A guide for Effective Learning Targets

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Effective learning targets guide instruction and learning for a single classroom lesson (approximately one hour). When designed well, learning targets

The learning targets below have been annotated to demonstrate varying degrees of effectiveness and to provide additional guidance to elementary teachers as they develop and refine learning targets for their students.


The first two targets are too vast. Exploring volume has many components; the target needs to focus on one particular aspect of volume. Writing a newspaper article is something that will take more than a one-hour class period to do. Be careful when writing targets that say students can “talk about” or “discuss” something. How will you assess that for each child in the lesson? All targets must be connected to the standards. Activities and logistical work should not be written as targets. The last target is not clear and does not communicate what the student needs to be able to do with these concepts.
Somewhat Effective:

  • I can identify characters, setting, and plot.

  • I can explain how Earth’s materials are classified by properties and used.

  • I can listen and make judgments based on what is read.

  • I can find the value of money.

The first two targets need to be broken down to one component. Focus on character for today’s lesson, then move on to the other two concepts. The same applies to the science target – focus on classification one day and uses the next. The third target would be good if it didn’t include “listen” – how will you assess that? The last target needs to be more specific – What kind of money (coins, bills, both)? Will you find the value by counting manipulatives or by adding the number values?


  • I can find the perimeter of a polygon.

  • I can describe how early pioneers met the challenges of frontier life.

  • I can add details to a feature article.

  • I can classify rocks according to their properties.

  • I can identify the main idea of a passage.

  • I can identify and use prepositions.

  • I can compare 3D shapes by using properties.

  • I can draw or write about the life cycles of various animals.

  • I can describe the purpose of the U.S. Government.

These targets clearly focus on skills from appropriate standards. Each target also provides a measurable objective written in student friendly language that will drive instruction and assessment during the lesson.

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