5 Ways To Make Room for Ownership with “Learning Targets”

I want to see students journey. I want to see them wonder. I want to see them trusting in themselves as they make decisions about their learning — because I don’t hold all the answers for what works best for them.

But I also want to see them given the tools to navigate that journey. I want them to see them feeling confident about strengthening skills. I want them to see them trusting my feedback as their learning consultant — because I can offer them guidance on their journey!

So where does the compromise lie, especially when we’re talking about posting learning targets, success criteria, etc.? After asking this question and searching out my PLN’s strategies over the last several weeks, I have found a few ideas. I would love to hear more of yours!

#1: Don’t necessarily make the success criteria the content itself, but rather the skills and mindsets students might need to be successful.

For example, instead of:

“Identify the difference between weathering and erosion.”

You might write:

“Clearly communicate your science observations through speaking and writing.”

#2: Co-construct success criteria with students.

#3: Rephrase learning targets as questions.

#4: Use James Durran’s “Boxed” Success Criteria device (I really like the big wall version). Read full post here.

#5: Allow students to plan their own learning time based on learning goals they develop (from the curricula & from personal goals)


Ultimately, shifting our conversations from what we expect students to learn to what tools might help students learn can be powerful. Because in the end, their learning is up to them!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

My #OneWord2019: Power in Flexibility

Take a minute to watch this artful video by RC Cone called, “trees, they move.”

Equally thought-provoking was the description added:

“Riding my bike home on these dark, windy nights has helped me realize that trees move more than our opinions, beliefs, fashions, discriminations, and judgements but still stay firmly rooted. They’re REALLY flexible.”

~RC Cone

I learned so much from my 2018 one word goal of power. It was incredible to engage with my community and learn that we all have so much more influence than we realize, especially when we find others who share our passions (see my mid-year reflection here).

It feels like a very natural progression to take all that passion and funnel it into my 2019 one word goal: flexible. No matter how sure we feel about our positions and crusades, we are always stronger when we seek understanding and empathy, and that takes a lot of flexibility.

I also need this one word in a literal sense. I still remember a P.E. teacher telling me that I was the most inflexible kid she had ever seen, and for some reason, things haven’t spontaneously improved over the last 20 years. And my back is especially starting to pay the price. I hope that as I work physical stretching into my daily routine, I will have a natural reminder to find ways to be flexible in all circumstances.

Just as those powerful trees stay firmly rooted, so will I. But I look forward to finding out how flexible I can become!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

My #OneWord2018

I don’t remember where I came across this book trailer last year, but the opening line lingered with me long after watching:

“The word power itself is sort of this dirty word. We don’t like to talk about it, we don’t like to name it–it seems unseemly. And yet, if you don’t understand how power works–what it is, how it flows, who has access to it, who does not–you are essentially being acted upon.”

I love citizenship. Digital citizenship, physical citizenship, local citizenship, global citizenship. I like pondering our ever-shifting roles as individuals and as collective groups. And I enjoy considering how our rights and responsibilities can help us facilitate meaningful change.

Occasionally, however, I allow my focus to get side-tracked to the more pessimistic aspects of change: how long it takes, how many naysayers arise, how insignificant individual deeds seem. All of which invariably leads to feelings of frustration and even helplessness.

In those moments, it seems like all the rights and responsibilities in the world still fall flat for a rather acted-upon existence.

I’ve selected power for my one word goal for this year to face those helpless feelings head-on. To remember that all change starts with the individual. To really live the adage, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” To focus on the fact that we truly are more powerful than we think because there are always ways we can take action.

I want to find out more about my personal power. I want to get to the other side of fear and find out what choices are available to me to be the change. For me, this might look like…

…researching how I can better prepare to serve future local students when I return to teaching, many of whom are learning English as a second language (so excited about my book recommendation from Donalyn Miller that is currently en route)–to contribute to a strong literacy approach in our school district.

…volunteering with the local bicycle committee–to make my 7 year-olds’s bike trips to school safer and to work toward cleaner air.

…reaching beyond my comfort-zone to learn more about my neighbors and how we might connect–to build a stronger sense of community and safety, even in a part of town often written off as shady.

…working to better walk the talk of agency and empowerment with my own small children–to build my personal congruity and commitment to growing values as an educator and parent.

I look forward to a year of choosing power over fear. I believe that  as I explore and better understand my own power, I will be better equipped to teach and empower my future students. May this year be only the beginning of a lifetime of choosing to focus on what is most conducive to change and personal peace.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

My #OneWord2017: Synthesis

Have you ever looked up the definition of compartmentalization? One Wikipedia it reads:

“Compartmentalization is an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person’s having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves.”

My translation: compartmentalization is driven by fear. And I’m done.

I recently came across a quote (and for the life of me, I can’t remember where it came from or who said it, so if you know, please share) that went something like this: “I’ve spent much of my life trying to compartmentalize it. I’m ready to try to synthesize instead.”

With each day since then, this notion has grown and swelled within my mind and my heart. And it makes my 2017 one-word goal an easy choice: synthesize.

The longer I reflect and write, the more I recognize the inter-connected nature of this world. I think this is the reason my favorite blogging days are my provocation and #TeacherMom posts.

For the former, I gather scraps of inspiring resources scattered across the digital world, weaving them into broader concepts. For the latter, I gather scraps of inspiring moments scattered across my days as a mom, weaving them into broader teaching principles.

Opportunities for learning and growth are everywhere. As I work to step back and mindfully embrace the ebb and flow of life — the diaper changes, the lunch boxes, the library trips, even the tantrums — it all starts to join into a larger tapestry.

As I synthesize instead of compartmentalize, the most precious principles in my life become more pronounced and accessible: authenticity, resilience, courage, compassion, kindness. Everything begins to work toward a greater, self-perpetuating whole, rather than getting piecemealed into an eternal, competing to-do list.

My word is synthesis. What’s yours?