Setting Students Up for Success

Compiled by Kelly Harmon

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Learning Targets

Learning targets tell students what the learning intention is for the lesson. They include a verb + an action station.

They can include a stem like "I can...or We will..."


They should help students know the level of mental processing (retrieval, comprehension, analysis, or knowledge utilization).


They should never include a specific task or product.

Students Using Learning Targets and Success Criteria

Learning Targets on Parade

ASCD, October 2014

Kindergarten Classroom Video

Shifting the Ownership of the Learning

How Strong Are these Learning Targets?

Can we make the learning targets and success criteria better?

Is the language used in the success criteria true all the time?

Can you demonstrate the learning without any of the language used in the SC?

Thoughts on Success Criteria

Success criteria are the thought processes that need to be used to successfully demonstrate the learning target.


Sometimes it helps to think of these thought processes as questions one might ask themselves to ensure they are thinking successfully. This first grade teacher wrote these questions for students to use to guide their thinking.


Instead of being product specific like "What words can I use to express kindness?" I might write something that a writer would always want to think about like "What words can I use to express my message?" This way the question can be used as success criteria for any writing task.


Once I think about a question I would ask myself, I then turn it around into a statement for the success criteria.


  • Use specific words to express my message.
  • Include the 5 parts of a letter.
  • Use correct punctuation


The only way to know if I have the success criteria correct is if my students can use it to guide and evaluate their work. It should help them think about their thinking. Do it tell them how they will demonstrate the learning target without telling them a specific product to produce.


Remember there is a fine line between the success criteria and the task or question. The success criteria gives students the procedural knowledge (mental process) to use as they answer the question or complete the task.

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5 Year Old Gives Us the SC for Writing a Hip/Hop Song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKJjOId_1PA