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Students Unpack a Learning Target

Fourth- and fifth-graders in Jason Shiroff's class at the Odyssey School in Denver, CO, actively engage in “unpacking” a learning target related to transitional words and phrases in their writing. Learning targets articulate a clear vision of the intended learning as a first step toward achieving success.

This video accompanies the book Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming Schools through Student-Engaged Assessment.


- So today we’re going to get a chance, I decided that we’re going to work with... You already did some of what our target is. And then I went to some other kids, I even... So you guys have been working on your portfolio paragraphs quite a bit and they’re looking really good. But what I’m noticing that we need to spend a little more time on are transition words and phrases. So our learning target today is, “I can use transition “words or phrases to connect my paragraphs.” Let me read it one more time really slowly. I want you to think about the words you know and hear and the words you’re confused about. “So I can use transition words and phrases “to connect my paragraphs.” And now I’d like you to pair up with somebody and talk about what you think the learning target means.

- Words like also, we had had to use transitions...

- It separates ideas.

- I would love to know what you know about this target and what you’re wondering about. Sarah you had your hand up before we even shared, can you tell me what you’re thinking?

- I knew what phrases were before but then I kinda forgot.

- [Teacher] Okay, so there’s a question about the word phrases when we think about our learning target. Arianna.

- I know a lot about transition words. Well if you have two different ideas it’s kinda hard to just jump to two of them without them being, like it just sounds weird. You have to make them combine together. So you can say like, “I’m also good at,” or something like that.

- Okay, other thoughts about that? Let’s hear from Tate.

- Well I know what transition words are because I use them a lot on Google docs. They’re like passing it on to another person, but with a paragraph.

- I’d love to hear from a couple other kids before we move on, Jack?

- I want to answer Serafina’s question, I know what a phrase is.

- [Teacher] Okay great.

- It’s like if you put a couple words together. It makes kinda like a short thing you can say.

- Okay, so it’s a couple of words together. And that’s really important because I know that with fifth graders and fourth graders you guys like to be pretty exact. And if I say, “Words,” and the transition is more than one word you’ll be like, “Uh uh.” So that’s why we say phrases also. Who has an example of a phrase that’s a transition? Anyone have that? Kellianna?

- Well when me and Francesca were talking we used an example on Keaton’s work up there, so at the end of the first paragraph I just read the last part, “but my group chose to do it a different way,” and it just kinda jumped to, “I have a positive “presupposition about the members of my crew.” But if you used a transition phrase then it could be like, “I also thought that I had a positive presupposition of my crew.”

- Okay, so you’re saying the word “also.” That’s good. And that’s an example of a word, and what I want to do is also figure out other phrases. So did it feel kind of sudden to go from this paragraph to that one?

- [Student] It was like a whole different paragraph.

- Was your mind ready to know there was going to be a change in anything?

- [Student] No.

- No, and so that’s what the transition is. It gets your mind, it gets the reader’s mind ready to know that we’re changing the subject a little bit. It’s still related because it’s still about exhibition night, but it’s a little bit different. And so that’s why we need to smooth it into a transition. So we’re going to do a quick check in to see how we’re doing in understanding transition words and phrases. So I want to do a fist to five. Five if you feel like you really understand what a transition word is and a phrase, four if you’re just kinda beginning, maybe a three if you could use a list to work with so you know what we’re talking about, and a fist for a one if you need to meet with me to talk more about it. So I’m seeing lots of fours and fives which is really good.

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