Can-Do Statements vs. Objectives vs. Agendas

Here’s some clarification on related ideas that are often confused:

Can-Do Statements
“Can-Do Statements describe what learners can do consistently over time.” (p. 4)
Don’t use these as your daily objectives. Students can’t meet them after a class hour. If they can, you’ve written them wrong.

Objectives
“Students will be able to X.”
Don’t spend time on these. These are particular goals for the day, but are largely a fake school thing that have almost no effect on learning, and zero on acquisition (especially if the point is to create a more implicit environment free of metacognicide). Post them if you have to, but use a Google Doc or something (vs. spending any amount of time whatsoever writing on the board). Better yet, use one that could apply to any class (e.g. “Students will understand new words used to discuss [target culture idea].” If someone tries to give you the Wiggins & McTighe “understand is not a good/measurable objective,” just say something in the target language they don’t understand, and draw attention to that). The only people who care about objectives are teachers who buy into skill-building, or teachers who prefer to teach language itself as content matter, as well as administrators who have been told that their teachers need objectives, but not students (see below). If you’re in a real bind, use Terry Waltz’ random objective generator.

Agenda
“MovieTalk, Team Game, Survey, Quiz, etc.”
The day’s agenda is pretty much all that matters to students. It answers the question “what are we doing today?” and not “what skills will I develop as a result of your planning today’s lesson, o teacher mine?”

Teachers spend far too much time writing Can-Dos and Objectives when just a solid Agenda is needed. This allows maximum flexibility, and affords time to develop strategies to provide CI, as well as writing/adapting texts for the novice—the real high-leverage classroom practices. I’ve been implementing this in the daily & weekly schedule used in the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC).

 

post scriptum – Objective Traps
Cavē! The tendency to be satisfied—proud, even—with “students being able to X” on any given day has disastrous effects. If the skill or content is isolated, the day’s “mastery” means almost nothing in the long run. Take, for example, the K-12+ Spanish student in highly interactive, yet student-student focused classes (i.e. forced speech paired activities). Despite any success, or meeting of those daily objectives, she might later study abroad in Spain only to find out that she has limited communicative ability, and must undergo a silent period. How did all this—from an A+ student—go unaddressed? It’s simple; all those activities designed to meet objectives gave teachers the wrong impression from the wrong data! Furthermore, teachers tend to USE data like this as evidence when discussing best practices. Don’t fall into that trap!

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