Good objectives can give your class activities focus. Vague goals, on the other hand, will let down the teacher and the students. Rolin presents a mini-class on setting appropriate objectives, and offers examples of four objectives that can be improved.
It’s Monday morning. I teach mostly high school but over the last few years, I’ve had one grade-eight science class and that’s what this class is. It’s Monday morning and I’m opening the grade eight science class. It’s been a tough thing to do several times throughout the year but today I’ve managed to successfully get them all to be quiet, to be in their seats and for the most part, I have the students’ full attention.
It’s been a busy weekend and prior to school beginning today, I haven’t had a lot of time to think about school and what I’m going to be teaching. But I spent some time planning it, planning my first few days at the end of last week, and so I’m trusting that my lesson plan will give me enough to get through this class period.
I finally, as I have the students full attention, I glance down at my lesson plan and see what I’m prepared to teach. Staring back at me from my lesson plan, I see these three things. I see that I’m supposed to teach that weather is cool. I see the word clouds and I see the words Exercise A and B, page 123.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that weather is cool. But I’m also quite aware that my exuberance for weather does not always get carried out to a grade eight class. Other than that, all my lesson plan is telling me is that I have some vague goal of them at the end of the class liking weather. I have some vague goal of them knowing something about clouds and then maybe do Exercise A and B on page 123, to hopefully fill the rest of the time period. In other words, it’s probably going to be a rough class.
A goal without a plan is only a dream. That’s what I was facing at the beginning of this science class. I had some vague dream, some kind of vague goal, but I had no plan to get to this point. So it was only a dream that students would have achieved what the vague goal that I had for them by the end of the class.
Maybe my first issue was that I didn’t even have a well-established goal. Weather is cool. They’re going to like weather by the end of the class? That was wonderful. I actually remember that because I had some goal that they were going to enjoy weather, that they were going to enjoy predicting the weather and those kinds of things by time the class was done. It didn’t go well.
Even if you call being inspired about the weather a good goal, and knowing something about clouds, as you can see here, I also had no idea at the end of the class if they would have reached that goal. I didn’t plan that I was going to know if they were going to achieve that goal. And I had no plan besides my memory, my textbook in front of me and my ability to fly by the seat of my pants to get us to that goal.
I’d like to define the word objective. A precise description of what the student will know by the end of the lesson unit or objectives.
I often ask this lesson when I begin my lesson planning. What will we do tomorrow? This question that I could get my lesson planning with is actually flawed in two different ways.
First way that it’s flawed is it asks the question that is answered with an activity. What will we do tomorrow? We’ll read about stars, or we’ll read To Kill A Mocking Bird. We’ll read a section in our reader. So it answers the question with an activity instead of a learning objective.
Second problem with the question of ‘What will we do tomorrow?” is it implies that each lesson is approached singly. I’ve done this, made this mistake way too much in the past, where I do my planning for the next day alone. And then after school that next day, I’ll do my planning for the next day.
I would encourage you, as much as possible, to think in longer sections of what you’re attempting to teach. So maybe approach it a week at a time, two weeks at a time, or a unit at a time—your teaching. That’s one thing that if possible—and one of the reasons that I’ve struggled with this is it’s tough to find the time to do this—to be able to plan in units or a longer sections rather than just a day at a time.
The reason that that’s a really helpful and a really good skill to be able to develop is it allows you to build each class or each objective on the one before to reach the final objective that you’re trying to get to.
And what it also allows you to do is that if a student— if you can tell that the students have not mastered an important concept that they’re going to need to get to the main objective, it allows you to just slow down or circle back and say, “You know what? We’re not going to be able to reach the main goal. We’re not going to be able to predict weather if we don’t have a good understanding of what the types of clouds are.” And it allows us to circle back and make sure that we have the important concepts before we can move on and keep developing towards the goal that we’re trying to reach.
So, those are two recommendations that at least think about: “Is it possible to do better with?” I know this is something that I have had to tell myself to be better with: not answer the question with an activity but answer with an objective which we’re going to talk about it in a little bit. And to try to plan in larger units of learning rather than just singly, single lessons at a time.
So let’s talk about objectives. Just to break it down, I’m using Doug Lemov’s work here. These are not my four M’s but it just gives us some terms to help us think about and evaluate if we’re coming up with good objectives.
So again, an objective is a precise description of what the student will know. It does not describe how you’re going to teach that lesson. It does not describe what activity you’re going to do to reinforce it. It just simply says that goal that by the end of the lesson or by the end of the unit your students will have achieved.
The first M is manageable. The objective should be written in a way that it can be achieved in one day’s lesson. Now, obviously, here I’m talking about a lesson plan. This is not a large unit objective I’m talking about. I’m talking about the plan.
Secondly, it should be measurable. Written in a way that your student’s success can be determined. At the end of the lesson, can you tell whether the objective has been met?
Third one is made first. I’ve mentioned this before. Your objective should be determined before you decide how you’re going to reach that objective. So, before you plan how you are going to teach, what activity you’re going to use, what assignment you’re going to use, the objective should be made and determined first.
Last one is, should be the most important thing. Doug Lemov, in his book, his main goal is to help students get to college. That’s how he’s teaching. It says “62 techniques that put students on the path to college.”
I have a little different goal than him. I want my students to be Christlike, and I hope to give them that example with my teaching, but he has lots of good things to say and I highly recommend the book.
However, he would say that every objective that you choose should be developed in a way that it helps the students on their path to college. I changed it a little bit. I said “identifies the most important skill or outcome in the lesson.”
I’ve come up and I created, on my own, four objectives. And there is a problem with each one of the objectives that I’ve come up with. My first objective here: “Student will appreciate the efforts of Sir Isaac Brock in the War of 1812.” Which of the four M’s do you think this one violates? Yes, just call it out.
Measurable. All right, why do you say that?
You can’t really tell if they appreciate something.
You don’t know if you appreciate something?
I know if I do. I don’t know about the student.
Excellent, yes. Appreciation is a really hard one to measure. The students, do they just love what they’re learning? That’s a tough one to tell. Excellent job.
So I changed this to, instead, ‘The student will give an example how Isaac Brock contributed to the War of 1812’. I don’t know if it’s a perfect objective, but it’s at least a lot more measurable. You can grade whether they come up with a correct contribution for Sir Isaac Brock. Excellent.
Let’s go on to the second one: “The student will keep the classroom clean and tidy throughout the day”.
Manageable? Tough to get them to keep it clean throughout the day? Good.
Most important? That’s actually the one that I was putting it with. That—it’s a great thing to do. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to have the classroom clean throughout the day. But I picked it—at least for me, it’s not the thing that I’m most concerned about them getting by the time that they leave my classroom, so I would put it more into the procedures section of my class rather than a lesson objective.
So, instead, I forget what I came up with. Oh, I just came up with a totally different one. “Students will demonstrate the ability to use i before e, the i before e rule in spelling. Excellent.
Let’s go on to the next one. “Student will explain the causes, conflicts, and conclusions of the Revolutionary War.”
You can teach that in one day? No, I don’t know if you teach that in a unit. That was very, very unmanageable. Instead, “The student will compose a letter exposing the problems of taxation without representation.” So, it’d be a lot more manageable to teach that in a class period. I don’t even know if it would be. Maybe it wouldn’t be, to get them to the point of composing a letter. Probably ha to do some groundwork for that. But a lot more manageable than the one I had before.
The fourth one, student will sing a song, about the types of verbs. So it identifies the activity first which means it violates…
Made first. Instead, it should be, “The student will distinguish between action and helping verbs through the learning of a song.”
So, the objective that you’re trying to get should be what is stated, not the activity that you’re going to do to get you there. So all I did in this case is I just switched it around [so] that I mentioned the objective first of all.
Lesson objectives must begin with the end in mind. Before you can plan an effective lesson, you need to think about where you’re planning to go. Where are you going to, what the goal is, where you’re trying to end up, before you can do a good job of making sure to get there.
When writing your objectives, your vocabulary matters. And the words that we use when writing our objectives will help us in reaching the goal and also determining whether we’ve gotten to that goal. It’s going to help us to determine the effectiveness of our goal.
I would like to direct your attention to Bloom’s Taxonomy. This is something that I’ve found very helpful in coming up with my objectives and especially the verb part of it, which is a very important part of the objective, saying what the student will do by the end of the lesson.
Both of the books that I was reading some in here suggest posting your objective somewhere where the students can see it.
The way I tried this last year for a little bit was before class, each day, I would write what the student was going to achieve up on the board. I don’t know why I stopped doing it. Probably just the effort of having to go to the front of the classroom and write it down. After doing the study again, I’m purposing in my heart to do it again this year. But I think it is really helpful to invite the students to know what they’re going to be learning and to have them—have it in front of them. To say, “Here’s the goal that what you are going to learn by the end of the class, and do everything you can to help me achieve that goal for you.”
I pulled a lot of my material from two books. The first one is Teach Like a Champion 2.0. It has some really good things about lesson planning, developing objectives in it, and I highly recommend those sections.
Second one: this one I was introduced to here at Faith Builders. It’s called The First Days of School. It talks a lot about lesson planning as well, and also talks a lot about making good procedures, coming up with assignments and testing, that kind of thing. It’s been very helpful for me.
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CONTRIBUTOR: Rolin Martin
SERIES: Teachers Week 2018All items in the series:
- How Do We Nurture Love for God and Others?
- The 4 M's of Effective Objectives: Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
- Dannie's Choice