2013 Age 11-18: Secondary (6-12 Grade US) Feedback from Day 2

Kettle Moraine School District, Wisconsin

Middle School

One teacher had used learning targets and exit slips to show how students had applied the targets.

Another teacher had students work on problems and then asked them to craft the objective retrospectively, which had a positive impact.

Learning targets were displayed in rooms and some teachers were using success criteria. One teacher said they were taken down after a while so that students were not limited by them.

One teacher felt that the Common Core language was not understandable for students. Teachers wondered how specific the targets need to be…

One teacher pre-tests with the learning targets then differentiates accordingly, creating some choice lessons.  Students can decide what they show for assessment.

One teacher played ‘My favourite ‘no’’: math problems were written on notecard, the teacher picked out her favourite wrong answer and the students then look at the answer under the visualiser to say what was correct and where they went wrong.  Students were very engaged and liked this.  The message was clear that it is OK to be wrong.

Another teacher had used old student work to use as exemplars, which students then tried to emulate.

Students were shown good and bad examples in social studies to activate their prior knowledge.  Students talked about the differences which led to fewer mistakes in their final project.

High School

In one school students pick their own target with rubrics for each.  The targets are either academic or application to the arts.  Students ‘are learning a lot of stuff’.

By starting units off with a learning journey and daily reminders about the learning targets, students know what they are learning and are able to focus.

In one class, students role-played examples of bad presentations, while others presented using the success criteria that were designated as ‘excellent’.  The teacher also showed samples of ‘bad’ and ‘good’ PowerPoint slides. About 90% of student presentations were successful as a result.

One teacher presented the idea of quality and had students generate the criteria for what would make the project successful.  The resulting quality of work was higher than in previous years.

Another teacher writes samples of writing that align with the District rubric.  The teacher reported that the students didn’t appear to be impacted.

Students were shown work and asked to give it a score.  The teacher felt that the students had a better understanding of how to be successful.

Kentucky (math focus team only)

Middle school

Teachers had introduced ‘We are learning to…’ which students appreciated.  They said ‘I can..’ made no sense because it was always something they couldn’t yet do. ‘I will be able to’  was also used.


I started using ‘We are learning to..’ by asking the students to write their own learning target in their math notebook at the end of a lesson.  A random student was chosen to display their target.  We then discussed changes that we could make to improve the learning target.  We posted the finished product on the board.

Impact: Student engagement improved because students were unsure whose notebook would be chosen.  The biggest impact was when my co-worker was eager to start using the same process due to student response to the learning targets.  They started discussing them in further depth and vocabulary drastically improved as they progressed.  We found that the students were often better at developing learning targets than we were….

Brittany Ledford, Walnut Hill Elementary School

Learning targets were being changed district wide to be more authentic, less wordy and more specific to help students focus.

Anecdote (8th grade)

When I changed my learning target to ‘We are learning to..’ my students were very receptive to the change.  Many students commented on the improvement making more sense.  Students write their target in their planner every day and after changing the wording students were no longer ‘forgetting’ to write in their planners.

One day during planner checks one student told me how much better she liked ‘We are learning to..’ She said she didn’t like writing ‘I can’ when she couldn’t. But she was learning to…and she liked writing that. Actually her planner said ‘I am learning to’ even though the board said ‘We are learning to..’.

Christi Burnett, East Carter Middle School

Three teachers had a discussion with students about congruent polygons, making a class list of where to start and what to look for.  This helped them be more successful with the content.

One teacher had put up a basic list of explaining criteria for ordering decimals which students worked to correct or add to, giving them better understanding of giving explanations.

Three teachers had asked students to work through problems at the board, finding errors and correcting them, which had led to a gain in content knowledge.

A ‘number systems’ poster was displayed by students explaining the steps in order and giving reasons for their place. Students understand the number system much better than in previous cohorts.

One teacher showed past student successful work and asked students to pick out the successful elements.  This helped create the success criteria for the target.  Getting the students to wrap their minds around the new way of thinking was a struggle.  It helped build the math from ground up.

Another teacher used student work to analyse what should be done to make it correct.

One teacher gave the students the target:

‘We are learning to be distinguished, efficient, effective and prefect in all ways in grouping linear and non-linear functions.’

After the lesson she discussed with the students whether the target had been achieved.  They said it was unrealistic for one day so the new target became:

‘We are learning to write a function rule from a given table and graph it.’

The next step is to create success criteria to achieve the target.

High School

Learning objectives were now being stated at the beginning, middle and end of lessons to reinforce student understanding of what is being learnt.

Each group in a class had been given a learning target for which the group had to write test questions.  This revealed to the teacher that they did not know the vocabulary well enough to write the question stems.

Learning targets were changed to ‘I am learning to..’ or ‘We are learning to….’ which emphasised the growth mindset.

Students had been asked to predict the next learning target after some lessons, which helped them see the pattern from one unit to the next.


I created target tables for the last two units.  The targets were written down the left side, not necessarily in the correct progression.  Students have columns to colour code with traffic lights at the beginning and ends of lessons against each target.  The document starts out as a blank sheet of paper but over time becomes a reviewed, reflective piece of their learning journey.

Students developed better organisation and focus and had a vision of where we were heading.  Many students took self-initiative, moving ahead on their own.

We would ‘drumroll’ when we progressed and completed targets and moved on to the next.  Two student comments:

‘I just love it when we take a target down.  It feels so good to know we have it.’

‘Thank you so much for just helping me understand what we are learning.  This really helps me focus.’

Jennifer McDaniel, Clay County High School

Anecdote (Algebra 2)

Learning targets were changed to ‘I am learning to…’ and written on the board.  The first lesson of each unit is more of a discussion about the vocabulary and to gain insight of any prior knowledge. I asked one class to make a prediction then about what they would be learning next.  Using guided notes, in which the objective was stated on each note, the verbs were left blank so that students could fill it in. They continually referred to this as each example was discussed.

Discussions focused around whether this was what they were really learning and resulted in great conversations in which some students expressed the fact that they were learning more than the target described (e.g. for graphing radical function – some students said they were also learning how to graph an ordered pair, which they hadn’t learnt earlier).

Holly Medley, Washington County High School

Example of a learning objective and success criteria:

I am learning to solve a quadratic equation with real roots using the quadratic formula

Remember to:

Success criteria had been created for lessons on sequences, completing the square, limits and systems of inequalities.  The criteria were labelled with a picture of a pencil for steps to write, a light bulb for thinking steps or a calculator for using the calculator.  This increased student motivation and interest and they gave more attention to detail.  There was peer sharing and students were referring back to their notes.  Students are more likely to check their work if they have criteria.  More questions were generated.

In a Special Ed collaboration class, the collaborator wrote criteria on the board as students generated the criteria.  The students had higher than average (75%) on the bench mark than others (67%).

Most teachers said they had difficulty backing off and letting the students generate the success criteria.

Five teachers said that students creating the criteria ‘didn’t feel natural’ and students didn’t see this as any different to writing steps.

Kentucky (all subjects)

Middle School

One teacher had presented students with an excellent extended response that was paired within two texts.  The students read the short pieces and then read and analysed a student response.  The students generated success criteria based on the well-written response.  This moved to a discussion about the skills students were using.

Students in one class were told there was a hidden letter with today’s bell ringer.  It was more of a ‘what went wrong’ activity.  Students loved it and it engaged reluctant learners, moving into success criteria.

One teacher had broken down the common core content into specific learning targets.  Students are more focused on what they are expected to learn.

Another teacher used exemplars of good work to model excellence but the students didn’t seem to care. Other teachers aid the developing learning culture seems to be slowly impacting students’ efforts.

One teacher has students grade each other against the rubrics or criteria.


I have 101 students in the team which I teach.  Of those, approximately 24 have special needs and have an IEP.  The use of talk partners, chosen randomly, has given many of those with IEPs more confidence.  Begin given the opportunity to be placed with anyone without giving thought to their disability along with the time they are given to discuss problems has resulted in formerly hesitant students being the first ones to want to answer.  After one particularly successful answer from a student he said aloud, ‘Hey! I’m not so stupid after all!’

Lisa Wireman, Johnson County Middle School, Paintsville, Kentucky


During student-led examples of solving two step equations, I randomly chose a reluctant child.  He immediately state ‘I can’t do the example because I can’t explain very well.’  His talk partner quickly interjected, ‘Yes you can! You’ve been explaining it to me all week!’  Realising the truth in his partner’s proclamation, the student explained with excellent clarity his process in correctly solving the given equation.  SUCCESS!

Lindsay Egnew, Southern Middle School, Pulaski County, Kentucky


I started the class by explaining that there was a hidden letter in the room.  Even some of my most reluctant learners grew a smile on their faces and began to eagerly look for the letter.  When the letter was found, a student removed the document, read the directions and placed it under the document camera.

The piece was an article with no text features, so we discussed what went wrong.  The same piece with all text features was then displayed.

A discussion followed on how the piece was more eye-catching, easier to comprehend and how text features helped the reader.  Upon this we generated success criteria on how to use the text features to better comprehend and utilise the information.  They did this with a talk partner and a representative shared the ideas as we generated class success criteria.

Daniel Hill, Northern Middle School, Pulaski County, Kentucky

High School

One teacher co-constructed a checklist of criteria before students wrote for knowing a good topic sentence. Student quotes:

‘This is the longest paragraph I have ever written.’

‘This is the most thinking I’ve ever done to write something.’

Another teacher had a constructed response completed by students under the document camera.  They discussed what was good and bad about the constructed responses.  They can now raise and correct their own.

One teacher of AP (high achievers) found that students grading against the checklist for writing were too caught up with the individual criteria rather than the overall writing.

By sharing the unit objective, one teacher was able to get students to generate questions that must be answered to get to the learning associated with the objective.  Specific learning targets were identified by this process.

The KWL chart was used to identify prior knowledge and connect to the new learning.

Deconstructing learning targets with the students focused on what they must be able to do and what they would need to know.  This was created at the beginning of the unit and revisited on a daily basis.  Students are constantly reflecting on their learning, identifying where they are and where they still need to go.

Also in this class, the teacher gave the students correct solutions to 2D motion problems in physics and asked them to analyse them to develop success criteria.  The students stopped trying to ‘force fit’ all solutions into class examples and focused on the nature of each individual problem.

She also used strong and weak models for writing conclusions to data collection experiences and developed success criteria from those comparisons.  The students as a result, have a clear understanding of how to write conclusions that are general to all data experiences, not topic specific.

For a research topic, one teacher discussed with the students what would make a successful project and used this to develop the criteria.  Students went into the project knowing the end expectations.

Kettle Moraine School District, Wisconsin, USA

Patricia Deklotz | deklotsp@kmsd.edu

Kentucky, USA

Kim Zeidler | kim.zeidler@uky.edu

Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK

Mel Shackleton | headteacher@st-james-infant.kent.sch.uk