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Teaching Objectives: Why It’s So Important to Know Your Objectives Before You Begin a Lesson

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Teaching objectives are the all-important first step in lesson planning. Learn how they impact your lessons and increase your effectiveness as a teacher.

Teaching Objectives Why It’s So Important to Know Your Objectives Before You Begin a Lesson

What Are Teaching Objectives?

Teaching objectives (also known as instructional objectives) are specific and measurable goals for your lessons.

They fall within three categories:

Cognitive Objectives

These learning objectives focus on skills and knowledge.

For example, “The students will be able to name the planets from Mercury to Neptune.”

Another cognitive objective may be, “Students will be able to write three supporting sentences for a given topic sentence.”

Affective Objectives

Sometimes your goal is not skills-based but focuses on feelings, values, and attitudes.

For example, if you teach a lesson on ecology, your teaching objective may be to “encourage and empower students to save power and water, recycle, and pick up litter.”

Psychomotor Objectives

Certain subjects may have psychomotor objectives, which involve gross and fine motor skills.

Preschool and early elementary teachers may have psychomotor objectives related to handwriting and other fine motor activities.

Music, art, physical education, and science teachers (who conduct labs) will have some psychomotor objectives.

For example, “Students will be able to correctly use a microscope and adjust the coarse and fine focus for the lens.”

Teaching Objectives Why It’s So Important to Know Your Objectives Before You Begin a Lesson

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Craft S.M.A.R.T. Teaching Objectives

Teaching objectives are, in essence, goals. The best goals for kids are always S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound).

You can read more about S.M.A.R.T. goals here.

Your school may provide you with teaching objectives for each week, but you are still responsible for dividing them among your lessons.

Or, your administration may give you general academic goals that you must break down further into S.M.A.R.T. teaching objectives for your lessons.

Write Your Teaching Objectives First

Write your teaching objective before you plan your instruction and activities.

This will give your lessons structure and focus.

Your teaching objective is your goal, and you should only include activities and instruction in pursuit of that goal.

If your teaching objective is that “Students will be able to define symmetry and complete a symmetrical figure,” every item in your lesson should support that topic.

Other activities or insights, while valuable, only distract you from achieving your objective.

In your symmetry lesson, do not start talking about the Fibonacci sequence.

Yes, symmetry and the Fibonacci sequence are both found in nature.

However, talking about the Fibonacci only pulls valuable time away from the knowledge and skills you are trying to teach.

Teaching Objectives Why It’s So Important to Know Your Objectives Before You Begin a Lesson

Teaching Objective Shorthand

Every lesson should have a teaching objective that you write down first.

Save yourself time and space by using this acronym: S.W.B.A.T.

SWBAT stands for “Students will be able to.”

You can quickly write a teaching objective by pairing SWBAT with a measurable verb from Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Bloom’s Taxonomy lists verbs that precisely describe what you want the student to do/learn.

Here are some examples:

  • recall
  • compare
  • analyze
  • illustrate
  • express
  • assemble

Then you add an object after the verb to complete the teaching objective.

For example, “SWBAT recall the stages of the water cycle” or “SWBAT analyze the rhyme scheme of a poem.”

Make Your Teaching Objectives Achievable

Remember, the best teaching objectives are S.M.A.R.T.

While all the aspects are important, consider especially the “A” of S.M.A.R.T: Achievable.

Keep in mind there are levels to learning.

These break down into these stages:

  1. Remembering
  2. Comprehending
  3. Applying
  4. Evaluating
  5. Creating

As you write out your teaching objectives for new concepts, don’t leap over stages.

Think back to the symmetry example. Your lesson objectives could be:

  • Students will be able to (SWBAT) define the term “symmetry.” (Remembering)
  • SWBAT recognize symmetry in drawings and photos. (Comprehending)
  • SWBAT complete a simple halved shape to make it symmetrical. (Applying)
  • SWBAT test various shapes by folding to see if they are symmetrical. (Evaluating)
  • SWBAT design their own symmetrical picture. (Creating)

You don’t have to cover every level of learning in your lesson objectives. (Younger students are often not ready developmentally for evaluating and creating.)

However, you should cover the levels of learning in order. Comprehending must come before creating!

Don’t expect students to draw symmetrical figures if they cannot recognize symmetry first.

Teaching Objectives Why It’s So Important to Know Your Objectives Before You Begin a Lesson

Match Your Assessment to Your Objectives

Teaching objectives should be measurable. This is the “M” of S.M.A.R.T.

This makes assessment easy to implement.

In the previous example on symmetry, you can use both traditional and authentic assessment to determine if your students have learned.

Here are some ideas:

  • Answer the question, “What is symmetry?” asked orally.
  • Write or select the correct definition on a quiz.
  • Give a presentation on a piece of art (or design your own) that employs symmetry.
  • Complete symmetry worksheets where students must complete the figure.
  • Design a symmetrical shape with dominoes.

Teaching Objectives Make Planning Differentiation Easier

Your students are all at different levels and learning styles.

Teaching objectives can help make planning differentiation easier.

By clearly stating your teaching objective at the start of your lesson plan, you begin by brainstorming how to achieve that objective with all your students.

Differentiation is not an afterthought or an add-on to your to-do list. It’s an incorporated step.

These differentiated instructional methods will likely be a help to all your students.

The Importance of Teaching Objectives

Clear teaching objectives help you focus lessons, facilitate learning, design effective assessments, and differentiate lessons.

Ultimately, making teaching objectives your starting point helps students learn and makes your job easier.

It’s as simple as that.

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