practice activities

Activities and learning goals 

by Joette Conger

Teachers know that students need practice in order to learn.  Students, however, don’t always connect practice activities to learning.  One of a teacher’s responsibilities is to plan learning activities.

When we align our specific learning goals with activities, students can more easily connect practice to learning.   For example, I wanted students to be able to explain how a claim (thesis statement) controls the structure of an essay, a complex goal.  I had students  work in small groups to evaluate a set of student-generated claims and choose the best one.  Then the same group of students developed topic sentences for the best claim.  Finally they reflected on how the ideas in the claim controlled the ideas in the topic sentences–they wrote about how the activity helped them achieve the learning goal.

In the model below, I’ve aligned activities with learning goals to show students what they are to learn from each activity.


  1. Study  model topic sentences
  2. Compare my topic sentences  to  the model topic sentences
  3. Writing groups meet, exchange paragraphs, use rubric to give  each other targeted advice about changes.
  4. Plan changes to my writing.

Learning goals

  1. I can describe the ingredients of topic sentences
  2. I can compare my writing to a rubric to decide what to revise.
  3. I can use the writing process to revise.

In an Educational Leadership article entitled “Learning Targets on Parade” Susan Brookhart discusses separating activities and learning goals.  She says when teachers  align goals and activities, they begin to “see activities they select as samples from among all the other possible things students could do to learn today’s lesson, rather than as the purpose for the lesson itself.”  Teachers who align activities with goals understand that activities are not an end, but a means to learning.  And sharing that alignment with students helps them understand what they are to learn from classroom activities.

In District 99 instructional coaches are available in each building to help teachers think through their learning goals or revise/develop assessments. Contact Joette Conger or Isabelle Menke at DGS and Mike Melie at DGN.