Posting Daily Objectives


I’ve been in schools that have highly encouraged teachers to post daily objectives. The topic of posting visible daily objectives has been controversial over the years. I’ve been in many teacher lounges and staff meetings where this topic has been at the forefront.  Social media has also taken aim at the issue.

Lately, the idea of students understanding the daily objective has been highly emphasized in my district.  It seems to also play a role in what administrators are looking for when they drop into the classrooms. This year administrators and teachers are walking through classrooms with a checklist to collect data. One of the items on the list relates to whether the classroom objectives are posted. If so, do students understand the objective and how it applies to their learning?  These are heavy, but quality questions for elementary students to answer.  The data collected will eventually be shared with administration and teachers in order to improve practices.

I believe that students need to have an understanding of the goal for the class. Having an understanding of the expectation is important and can give students a potential goal to keep in mind throughout the class. Also, students should have an idea of what’s expected (criteria for success) to show that they’ve personally met the objective. What I’m finding though, is that how the objective and criteria for success is communicated matters.  Moreover, how students internalize the objective can play an important role in how students perceive the instruction and make connections.

So how are teachers communicating the objectives to students? I’ve observed some classes where the objective is neatly written on the board next to the daily schedule. Students can recite it after quickly swiveling their head towards the board. But does that truly mean that they understand the objective? I would say not in all cases. Teachers are also using “I can” statements to communicate goals.

I can statementsPhoto Oct 08, 11 58 31 AM

Some schools require or highly recommend that teachers use the “students will be able to …” (SWBAT) method. After writing SWBAT on the board the teacher places the objective in the correct place. This standardized approach might be an easy way to ensure that the objectives are posted, but again, I go back to wondering if this impacts learning and is internalized by students. Other teachers are transforming their objectives into kid-friendly language. They’re using verbs that might invoke more student curiosity or interest. Students will “investigate” “wonder” “explore” _____ skill. In addition, teachers are giving students a picture of how the goal will be achieved. In other words, teachers are showing one way in which students will show how they’ll achieve the objective.


It’s clear that communicating the objective is important. How that’s communicated matters, but it may look different depending the teacher, school, or students.  What are your thoughts?

Links to consider:

ASCD – Know where your students are going

Grant Wiggins and his take on posting objectives

Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

2 thoughts on “Posting Daily Objectives”

  1. Posting the daily objective is the most superficial way to measure if the students know the purpose of today’s lesson. It’s visible; it can be a checked off item on a list; it’s easy to tabulate.What matters is do the students know what they are learning, why they are learning it, and the direction the learning is taking. That takes a conversation and, even then, students may not yet have the vocabulary to articulate it.
    We had this discussion in our math department meeting and we’ve come to the conclusion that some lessons are very explicit, where the objective could be clearly identified at the outset of the lesson with a SWBAT statement. Others lesson objectives however can and should be revealed through a stroke of insight, a revelation, or an epiphany. At the end, students reflect on what they just learned and summarize the learning objective. Those lessons have lasting value.Take the Remainders Game I wrote about. If I reveal at the start of class students will be able to factor numbers, I’ve taken away the opportunity for students to have an epiphany. I’ve eliminated the curiosity– and reduced the learning to a mere exercise in practicing factoring. A teacher must have a clear objective for the students but when the objective is revealed is based on the lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary, you have some great points to consider. I feel as though this type of discussion on the issue of positing objectives doesn’t happen enough at the elementary level. As you are aware, there’s not one right way to communicate the daily objective. The lesson lends itself to communicating it in different ways. I hope this is kept in mind when classroom walkthroughs occur. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.


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