Creating and using target sheets

Target sheets are single-page documents containing all the learning objectives I want students to achieve by the end of the topic. These are further subdivided into lessons which may or may not last the one hour lesson. I make the lessons fit the content not the other way round. You can find the target sheet below for IGCSE Edexcel 7. Radioactivity and particles.

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I take the learning objectives from the specification and use the exact same language. I have no interest in using pupil speak, I am raising my students knowledge of words, concepts and ideas. Once I have put these into a spreadsheet, I can then move them around if I think the teaching order would make more sense if it were in a different order. In the case above I liked the order so left it intact. I then chunk the learning objectives into lessons. I use questions as titles (From Scientific American: The Science of Education. This is usually two objectives but it can vary slightly as can be seen above. These documents are then printed double sided with the Knowledge Organiser on the other side. I don’t use glue or scissors but treasury tags to hold additional sheets in books. Saves time, the environment and money!

At the start of the topic I ask students to read through each objective carefully and assign a traffic light colour to the before column. Red for never heard of it before, green for already know it and amber for somewhere in between. I have had to train students to be open and honest about their current position. Initially students will colour it in all red or green without really reading it. When done properly this gives both the student and the teacher an idea of where the student is. It is not perfect. It is not exact but it gives an indication. Students may in reality know a little more or a little less than they think. Some objectives, especially the ‘know’ ones mean they already know it (at least if they can remember it in a weeks time!). It is useful to take a look at these sheets before getting into the topic as it can raise issues with areas that students are lacking in background knowledge so you may need to slow down teaching in these areas and go back to basics but similarly you may be able to speed things up in other areas. This is very similar to what students do in primary school at the beginning of a topic: the knowledge harvest. Knowing where students are can only help your teaching. More importantly, it allows student to see where they are. As students move up through the school we need to allow them to become more independent. They need to take ownership of their learning and rely less on others. The target sheets can enable them to start looking ahead, via a textbook or recommended websites to start to turn those reds green.

As we move through the topic, students can update their target sheets with their (hopefully) new found confidence. They once again add their colours to the after column in the same manner as the before column. Students find it incredibly satisfying to see a visual representation of their progress as they move from novice to expert. It will also highlight where they may need additional guidance so as you move around the room in lessons you can offer advice, or perhaps even better, students can seek you out for clarification. It is always difficult but try to make time for reflection of their learning and give them a few minutes each week or so to update and review. I am always asking them to update their target sheets! They know what they are supposed to know which clearly helps. At the end of the topic, when the target sheet is completed there may be some columns that still aren’t green. These are the urgent areas for review and revision. The target sheet gives you the order to revise.

As the examination season begins I then print out a booklet with all the target sheets bundled together. This is the beginnings of their revision timetable. They fill in the before columns for all the sheets and they then have a list of urgent revision areas (which would of course be red). Students spend hours revising things that they can already do because it gives them a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. They avoid revising the things they can’t do as it gives them an impending feeling of dread! Revising things they can already do gives them no extra understanding and knowledge and therefore no extra marks. Revising things they cannot do makes significant improvements to their success.

These are of course not new, few things in education are. I have used target sheets for a number of years since I stole the idea from the old, old version of Exploring Science. However,  I always get overwhelmingly positive feedback and students always ask why other subjects don’t do them. For those students reading this, please update your target sheets!

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