May 17, 2014

Learning Goals in Workstations

Guest post by Brenda Frady

“Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Yep. Those goals and expectations are pretty important! As Yogi Berra said, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”

Learning goals, I Can Statements, Learning Outcomes, Objective Statements, Learning Expectations…..they’re known by many titles, but they all mean the same thing: brief statements that tell what students are expected to learn.

I know that many, many teachers post Learning Goals in the classroom for the week’s or the unit’s skills. And it’s important that students know what it is they’re supposed to be learning. But the REAL power in those learning goals comes when students are able to articulate their goals!

Being able to articulate goals increases student engagement, shows them the value in the activity, and moves students toward metacognition.

Of course, in whole group settings, we can talk about those learning goals together. But what happens when kiddos are in workstations or in centers? Using learning goals in workstations is very powerful.

When you think about it, the work that kiddos do in workstations or centers is really kind of intimate; it’s close, personal work. How perfect to tie articulating learning goals in that setting!

For them to be meaningful, the learning goals need to be written in kid-friendly language. Use concrete, student-centered language. They’ve got to be able to understand what the goal means, after all. The objective can be included as part of the supplies needed for that workstation. It can be as simple as a piece of paper on which the goal is written. I like to use frames for the learning goals; it makes them more durable, and puts them ‘on display’ for students. The goals might be posted long-term in a workstation area, or they might be part of the supplies for a particular center.

The power truly lies in students being able to articulate the goals, though. It’s not enough to see and read them… they need to say them aloud. When they get to a workstation, each child reads aloud the learning goal for that activity. In my room, we use lots of games to support our learning. I think it’s especially important for kiddos to be able to articulate learning goals when the activity is a game. It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the fun of the game and forget we’re even learning at all!

I hope you’ve been inspired add learning goals to your workstations/centers. I really see the power it’s had in my classroom. Thanks to Laura for the opportunity to share these ideas with you!

Brenda Frady has been teaching primary grades for 9 years, and currently teaches a 1st & 3rd grade multi-age classroom. She loves using teaching methods that focus on real-life applications, incorporating games, and project-based learning. She is a Teacher-Author who blogs at Primary Inspired.


  1. I use "I can" statements in my room and in my centers. I find them very effective. I hear students saying it to themselves after doing the task. Great idea.

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  3. I Love this idea! It's simple, explicit and effective. Can't wait to start using it!

  4. This sounds so simple and yet so effective, I can't believe I didn't think of it before! Now I'm googling picture frames... I'm so glad you shared this idea. Thank you!!!


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