How might one best state objectives when teaching an English language curriculum?
When teaching ELA (English/Language Arts), there are two types of objectives to state: content and language objectives. Each should be addressed separately because each serves a different purpose. Either way, they are both quite important.
Content objectives, as the word states, are based on content standards which vary from district to district. In this case, it is imperative to state the standard that will be covered as part of the objective. In the past, teachers would estimate the percentage of success (rate) that students would attain after the lesson, but that is no longer considered a common practice, ever since the advent of differentiated instruction as a best practice. Hence here are the traits of good content objectives:
- The teacher states the standard (s) to be covered.
- The teacher uses easy to understand vocabulary when stating the objectives so that the same goal is transferable to student language.
- Write down how you plan to measure such standard- classify/label/brainstorm/categorize?
- Assign time periods and show a variety of ways to measure the objective.
A language objective comes from the content objective but will be even more specific as to how students will use the language to be taught, whether it is through articulation, repetition, paraphrasing, summarizing, etc.
- Use target vocabulary that can be applied throughout other subject areas. Use high-leverage words such as: students will extrapolate/make inferences/define/juxtapose/paraphrase, etc.
- List the key words that students are going to learn and ensure that they are put to use in other subject areas.
- Include listening and speaking as part of your goals to achieve language gains; a quiet student does not mean a student that does not understand, but one who is absorbing the information.
- Create a "verb bank" showing action words that mean the same as thinking and analyzing, for example: articulate, compose, compare/contrast, counter argue, discuss, elaborate, express, extrapolate,predict, narrate, identify, recite, justify, write.
Although this looks like too much to add to a few objectives, it is actually quite easy. Content and language objectives go together and actually help the teacher focus on what really needs to be taught which is not only the main lesson, but the myriad of language mini-lessons that are imperative for proper language usage.
Here is a sample objective using all of the suggestions above:
- Students will identify through an oral presentation (measurement tool) the main traits of a historical non-fiction text (content standard objective) by extrapolating (language objective)the main components of the plot.
- Students will accurately apply at least 5 "new to them" vocabulary words from the verb bank to their discussion.
Within that simple objective you have: a) simple language, b) your standard, c) your goal, d) measurement tool, e) language component, f) expectation.
Generally speaking for English, or as they are sometimes called, "Communication Arts" courses, objectives should be written around what the student is expected to know, and be able to do, upon completing the course. English is a broad category, so of course, these objectives will vary depending on whether the focus is literature, writing, speaking, or usage and grammar.
A literature objective might be something along these lines:
The student will use specific examples and evidence from a literary work to describe how point-of-view impacts the story.
A writing objective might read something like this:
The student will construct a five paragraph persuasive essay offering at least three arguments for his position, with appropriate evidence given for each argument.
A speaking objective could possibly be:
The student will verbally express ideas on a given topic using evidence from the text to support his/her ideas.
A usage and/or grammar objective might read:
The student will demonstrate knowledge of the different sentence structures by writing a narrative essay correctly employing examples of each.