Using Learning Targets for Effective PE and Student Success 

Educational trends emphasize the importance of conducting lessons with specific learning targets. Many school districts require that daily learning targets are posted. Additionally, there is a wide held expectation that any student can tell an observing administrator three things:

  1. The learning target.
  2. How the student will know when they achieve the target.
  3. Next steps to either achieve the learning target or extend beyond the learning target.

This expectation can seem in direct conflict with the expectation that students will spend at least 50% of each class period moderately to vigorously active. This conflict exemplifies a continual struggle that teachers face when planning lessons.

Quickly Communicating Learning Targets

Here are some ways I quickly communicate learning targets to my students, so I not only ensure they know where we are going and how to get there, but students are not spending their PE class inactive. These learning targets are written on the whiteboard for students.

  •  Write daily learning target as “I can” statements:
    • 2nd Grade: “I can skip while changing speeds and directions”
  • An outline of the solution: This answers the question, “What are we doing today?” and helps me stay focused on where I want to lead students.
    • Warmup: Artery Tag (an instant activity that often reviews a previous learning target)
    • Skill Practice: Various locomotor skills – Partner lead and follow
    • Application: Banana Peel – use direction and speed changes to avoid a tagger
  • Daily learning targets are repeated continuously in verbal instruction:
    • “As you follow your partner, we are working toward changing speeds and directions while we are skipping.”
    • “How can you change your direction to make your pathway unpredictable?”
  • Learning Targets are broken down into bite size chunks:
    • “When you change directions do you move in a sharp angle or a curve?”
    • “What happens when you are following someone and they make a sharp angle?”
  • Students may work with a partner giving feedback on each element of the learning target.
    • “Watch your partner skip and count the speed changes they make.”
    • “Follow your partner and see if he/she makes direction changes that are hard to follow.”
  • Throughout activities, students who demonstrate the desired outcome are highlighted through positive feedback.
    • “Benny, nice direction change to the left!”
    • “Juan, you made a super speed change from fast to slow to fast again!”

Learning Targets Guide My Instruction

Knowing the “Why” of each lesson, the overarching goal of what I am hoping each student leaves mastering, helps me determine the activities throughout the lesson. The games, skill and skill practice are scaffolded to lead students toward mastering the learning target. When I switch grade levels six times a day, having the learning targets posted reminds me from class to class the sequential teaching steps and communication emphasis needed each lesson. Really examining my learning goals for each grade inspires me to resist the ease of teaching the same lesson to multiple grades. Because my classes come back to back I set the gym up similarly for Kindergarten through Second Grade and then again similarly for Third grade through Fifth grade but posted learning targets motivates me to vary the lesson to that grades specific learning targets, creating age appropriate learning.

Take the Learning Target Challenge

Finding the balance between communicating learning targets, teaching content, and keeping students physically active is a daily quest. I continue to be challenged by the idea that any student could advocate for physical education to an administrator or their family members by sharing what they are LEARNING not just the fun activity they are doing. Stay encouraged as you walk the tightrope of content delivery and physical activity time. The reward of a physically literate population is worth the struggle! Do you have a unique way of communicating learning targets to share with the learning community?

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