Keeping on Target
With the main focus of all teaching being on the progression of children’s learning, establishing targets for the children to work towards helps to provide and recognise this progression. But how can this be achieved within the classroom? Well this week’s waffle aims to help.
While working in schools I have had many different titles attached to my name to describe my role. One of the last ones I was lucky enough to have was ‘Leading Teacher for Intervention’. This allowed me to be involved with both ends of the ability spectrum within the classroom. The school already had a well established systems for Individual Education Plans (IEP) and we were moving towards including the gifted and talented children with similar Individual Challenge Plans (ICP). Both these systems used targets as a focus to recognise how well these worked for the children. With this in mind, I decided to work, along with another very capable teacher in the school, on providing targets for all the children in my class.
One thing which is difficult within a classroom is scaling up a system which deals mainly with individual children to a system which supports the whole class. With this in mind, the system created was based on groups of children initially and I suggest that this would be a sensible approach to start with.
- Making time – In order to implement a system for group targets you need provide dedicated time to the process. This includes not only planning the time at the start of the term but also planning for it to re-occur throughout the term and year. Remember as well as planning time to decide on the targets you also need to plan time for the children to reflect and discuss their targets. A session at the beginning of each topic is one way to achieve this – including planning time for the class teacher and/or adult support to work with the children with this task. In a similar way, at the end of a topic, a session needs to be included within the weekly plan to allow the children to reflect.
- Managing progression -Once these initial starting times have been organised it is important to consider how the children will interact with their targets throughout the term/unit. If this is not done at this stage, then the targets will be created but not engaged with throughout the topic. There needs to be a system that includes the teacher and pupil in recognising and assessing their progress towards the target. Within the class this involved the pupils and teacher marking any work that met the target with a ‘T’ in their books. Once three ‘T’s were recorded for the target throughout the topic then the target was considered to be achieved. The gap between these ‘T’s were important and the only one ‘T’ was allowed to be added each week.
- Creating opportunities – Once you have recorded the children’s targets on a ‘master’ sheet , you need to provide opportunities for them to meet these targets throughout the term/unit. When I first started this system, I forgot this basic point and often got to the end of the term with targets not met and children exclaiming – ‘you didn’t give me chance to do it!’. Opportunities can be included in mental and oral starters, group work or independent activities. Try to avoid including too many ‘test’ situations. You want the child to be engaged in the process whether than them seeing it as something you the teacher does and something that always involves a test. Using KWL sheets work in a similar way.
- Involve the children and parents -Following on from my last point, remember to try and include the children at every stage. Within mathematics I used to sit with each group and decide together on the target that the group wanted to work towards. This target was then recorded in their books on a piece of card that could be used as a bookmark in every page. This allowed the child to see their target whenever they were working. When ‘T’s were added a date was included (mainly for accountability purposes) and when the child completed the target then the child was allowed to choose a sticker from the infamous sticker box! The targets were also sent home with the child so that the parents could be involved in the whole process. These were discussed further in parent/teacher interviews which strengthened the working partnership between school and parents.
I’ve attempted to waffle about the basic starting points for my target system. Although this initially worked well, I moved to higher education before I could securely embed it in my own practice. If you have any other ideas, strategies or good practice then please let me know and I will add it to Wilson Waffle.
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Have fun and catch you later!