Daily objectives (can-do statements) are one of the biggest game changers for me over the years! They force me to narrow in on a purpose for the lesson and help me stay on track as I plan. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve definitely missed the mark on many of the goals I’ve posted on my whiteboard over the years. I’m grateful for those who helped me evaluate these goals, and for those who brainstormed ways to improve them! Here are a few questions that I found helpful when evaluating my daily objective so that it supports proficiency and our World Language Standards (5Cs).

Is it COMMUNICATIVE?

If you understand proficiency, then you know the goal is communication. Making sure the daily objective matches our big goal of proficiency is really important. Just because you write “I can” in front of something, doesn’t mean it is a communicative task. I like to ask myself… “Would I every hear two people talking about this in a coffee shop or on the subway?” 

Is there a CULTURAL CONNECTION?

Culture isn’t meant to be taught on its own; it’s part of a balanced lesson. By including a cultural touch in the daily objective, you’re telling students that language skills AND cultural knowledge are both important. Plus, it gives you a purpose for leading the lesson with authentic resources and a context to compare cultures.     

Is it targeting the RIGHT PROFICIENCY RANGE?

Goals that are too advanced or too simple cause students to check out. Plus,in a class of 30+ students… there is no way they are all at the exact same proficiency (sub) level. However, if you choose your CAN DO words wisely, you can set a goal that ALL students can accomplish at their own proficiency level. 

Is it AGE APPROPRIATE?

This one seems easy, but sometimes we forget that novices in a high school are practically adults even though their second language skills are limited. They may not be engaged in or motivated by “kid friendly” materials. Other programs may reach intermediate in middle school (which is rare) but need to keep in mind what is appropriate and interesting to that age group. Do they care about food additives or steriod use among athletes? Probably better to discuss that when they are older! 

Is it MEASUREABLE by the END OF THE CLASS?

If our goals are too big, they may need to be “unpacked”.  If they are too small they may need to team up with another goal. Pretend you’re not a runner. Pretend you’re training to run a marathon this summer. Would either of these goals help you train tomorrow? 1.) Run 20 miles. 2.) Run 20 feet. Probably not! That trainer needs to find out what you can do, and help you improve little by little each day. In the same way, students need bite-sized goals that they can accomplish each day that help them reach a big goal over time. 

TIME TO EVALUATE!

Let’s look at the follow can-do statements together. You may want to do this with a colleague or WL department. I’ve found that eyeing other objectives helped me better see the shortcomings in my own so I can improve them! Take a look, think it through or talk it out, then click the questions below to see how we rated each example.

How does this objective measure up?
Is it communicative?
Not really. If you argue that communication is there, it’s novice low at best.  

When’s the last time your called a friend and said… “Bank, park, school, store….MALL!” It’s a goal that is purely vocab driven with no communication tied to it.

How could you improve it? Tweak the goal.

Example: I can give my opinion about places in the city.

I can recommend different places in my city to visitors.

Is there a cultural connection?
No.

How could you improve it?

Add a specific city from the target culture.

Example: I can give my opinion about the best places in Barcelona.

I can talk about the best places to visit in Shanghai.

Is it targeting the right proficiency ranges?
No. Everyone would produce the same thing. 7 words. Novice low.

Even if they are new to the language, you could add a phrase and push them to novice mid or novice high. Don’t bring students back to novice low if they are able to do more.

How could you improve it?

Tweak the wording of your goal.

Example: I can give my opinion about places in Barcelona.

I can recommend different places in my city to French tourists.

Is it age appropriate?
Elementary: Sure. Younger kids could talk about a city. Keep it relevant to what your students would care about though. Parks, museums, and zoos might be more age appropriate than banks, police station, and doctor’s office.

Middle: Yes.

High: Yes.

Is it measureable by the end of class?
Yes. You could see if students could list 7 words. Better yet, you could also ask students to give an opinion about places in Barcelona, Montreal, etc. and measure their response with a proficiency rubric. Words? Phrases, sentences, or paragraphs?
How does this objective measure up?
Is it communicative?

Yes. 

Then it can lead to giving opinions about the best, worst, and most unique uniforms… real people do that! (I always like talking about the skaters’ uniforms.) What colors are they wearing? Is it modern or traditional? There’s a lot to say. 

Is there a cultural connection?
Yes.

Since this is an international event, it would be fun to guess where the athlete is from based on their uniform color/style? What does our look say about our culture? Are certain cultures more/less modest?

Is it targeting the right proficiency ranges?
This goal could cover a range of proficiencies. I could see a simple novice mid response saying something like “Uniform from Colombia red and blue” while an intermediate could respond with a paragraph like “The best uniforms at the 2018 Winter Olympics are the ones from the Canadian speed skating team. I like them because they are modern and the color is really bright. I think they are better than the US team because they are more unique.”
Is it age appropriate?
Elementary: Yes. They could talk focus on colors and just one specific sport.

Middle: Yes, it works for them!

High School: Sure, it’s appropriate for them as well. Let each student choose the sport/uniforms they want to talk about.

Is it measureable by the end of class?
Yes.

In one class you could get input by reading an authentic article or social media posts about the uniforms from your target culture, look at current pictures or a video and discuss them as a class, and then have student describe one specific team’s uniform by the end of class. Measure their descriptions with a proficiency rubric (for feedback – not a grade).

How does this objective measure up?
Is it communicative?

No. 

I hope no one (not even language teachers) has sipped a coffee while telling their best friend…

“Fui, fuiste, fue…”

How can you improve this Can-do? 

Narrow it in.

Want them to talk in the past? I can retell…

Want them to talk in the future? I can predict… 

Is there a cultural connection?
No.

It is lacking a reason to communicate AND a communcative topic.

Is it targeting the right proficiency ranges?
Depends!

Novice Learners: No. They don’t need to be focused on tenses as a novice.

Intermediate: No, and here’s why. Intermediates can start to use different tenses, but not accurately and not all the time. Remember, proficiency is about communication – not perfection. This target also misses the mark because it’s really just focused on specific words (with accurate endings), and intermediates are communicating at paragraph level.

How can you improve this? 

Give them an objective that requires them to communicate at their level. If they are ready for tenses, target them with a communicative goal and cultural goal like “I can retell important events in the life of Celia Cruz.”

Is it age appropriate?
It’s not inappropriate but it’s not really exciting for any group either. It’s definitely not something they will go home to talk about with their friends or family (besides maybe that one student who LOVES grammar).
Is it measureable by the end of class?
Not really.

If the goal narrowed in on a specific verb then it would be. Can I really check whether or not a student can conjugate any verb, in any tense? Not enough hours in the day!

How does this objective measure up?
Is it communicative?
Yes.

I can see this as a debate on a park bench!  

Is there a cultural connection?
Yes.

Students need input about the target culture AND need to be able to talk about their own culture. Knowing only one side isn’t enough.

Is it targeting the right proficiency ranges?
Yes. This could be done at a range of proficiencies both at the novice and intermediate level.
Is it age appropriate?
Elementary: Yes. They could learn about a Japanese artist that writes kids manga books and compare the artwork in one book to one from their own culture.

Middle: Yes, same.

High: Definitely. Students could explore their favorite type of art (tattoos, graffiti, etc) for this comparison.

Is it measureable by the end of class?
Yes. Thank goodness for a good proficiency rubric. It makes life so much easier.
How does this objective measure up?
Is it communicative?
Not communicative. at. all. 

How you can improve it?

Give students a real life reason to use letters.

Example: I can tell my social media usernames.  

Is there a cultural connection?
Depends.

If you consider letters than don’t exist in the students’ native language or teach the alphabet with a cultural song, then it connects to culture. Asian languages with symbols can connect to the practice of writing letters and how native speakers learn the characters.

Is it targeting the right proficiency ranges?
No.

Saying the alphabet is less than novice low. It’s not even words. I once used this as a goal for a level one class and I remember seeing the native speakers’ faces as she came in the class. They were solid intermediates and being brought back to NL just like everyone else. There’s no way to say the alphabet as an intermediate.

Is it age appropriate?
Elementary: Yes. If they are learning the alphabet and working on spelling in their own language then it could make sense to do it in a second language.

Middle: No. Not without a purpose for spelling.

High: No. Not without a purpose for spelling.

Is it measureable by the end of class?
Technically you could measure this… but all production will be novice low and it probably would take more than a class for little ones to master anyone.
How does this objective measure up?
Is it communicative?
Yes.

I can see myself sitting down with someone talking about how to make a new dish.

Is there a cultural connection?
Yes.

It’s more than a Disney movie! Students need to know that. It won’t be on the menu at Applebee’s but it’s most likely on a traditional French menu. You could easily find authentic resources for students to learn from.

Is it targeting the right proficiency ranges?
Yes. I think this could be done simply as a intermediate low and with more details at even higher levels.
Is it age appropriate?
Elementary: Probably not. Most kids that age aren’t cooking for themselves. However, they could give their opinion after tasting it or talk about main ingredients.

Middle: Depends.

High: Yes, while most still can’t cook for themselves, it good for them to try and it’s something they can learn.

Is it measureable by the end of class?
Definitely. It’s not too big! Summarize how to make this dish to your Canadian friend who can’t find a recipe.
It’s easier to critique when it’s not your work, isn’t it? So that means if you need help evaluating your daily objective, invite a colleague or leader in your class and let them help! Your can-do statements may not perfectly align with the suggestions in this post, but they are worth considering as you cover the standards and shift toward proficiency. We all have an area we can improve on… For me, it was this and improving my can-dos had a big impact on my lessons and the results. I hope it does for you, too.

Keep learning. Keep improving. You CAN-DO it! 😉

5 Comments

  1. Catherine

    Great post! The message is simply and honestly explained. and clearly demonstrates the point. Thanks for showing how some statements can be improved to make a connection with the lives of students. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Kara Parker

    A good “can do” also helps me think of what that lesson should look like (what authentic resources for input, what tasks/activities to follow-up). You gave me a new idea! For the Olympic uniforms, there is usually an article that comes out talking about who/what company will be making the country’s uniforms and what they will look like, especially for the Opening Ceremony. Photos and videos from the Opening Ceremony would be useful to look at.

    Reply
  3. Dawn Carney

    The evaluation portion makes this an effective tool for those who are learning – thank you! These kinds of tools help those of us who work with teachers.

    Reply
  4. William Frank

    Thought provoking. However, I would like to see what you mean by a novice giving opinion/recommendations about places in a city.
    “Add a specific city from the target culture.
    Example: I can give my opinion about the best places in Barcelona.
    I can talk about the best places to visit in Shanghai.” In other words what does that look / sound like in a beginner classroom: Me gusta o me gusta mas…? A

    Reply
    • Megan Smith

      What I love about a good can-do is that all students can complete it at their own level. In any given class, you’ll have a range of proficiencies. In my level one classes, at this point in the year most of my students novice high or intermediate low, with a few still at novice mid.

      So after a lesson about “things to do in Barcelona” you might see responses like (with typical errors):

      Novice Mid: “Me gusta Las Rambas. Muy interesante. Mucho arte y compras. Muy diferente.

      Novice High: “Barcelona es una interesante ciudad. Mi parte favorita es Las Ramblas porque el arte es muy diferente. También, me gusta la sagrada familia. ¡Es súper grande! En mi opinión es Barcelona es muy caro.”

      Intermediate Low: Barcelona es una de las ciudades más interesantes de España. Las mejores lugares son Las Ramblas, La Sagrada Familia, y la playa. Las Ramblas es una calle con muchos artistas y mucha gente… (simple paragraph)

      Reply

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