Jan 5, 2013

The Princess, Phonics, and Agility: Part 2

Sienna, my 4 year old daughter, and I are happy to share with you our next steps in learning Phonics within the Agile Based Learning Environment (ABLE). After developing our "Learned It" chart from the prior post, which we set clarity for our quality of learning,  we now need to identify our Learning Objectives, continuing without Princess theme!

Artifact #2: Design The Learning Objectives 

Learning Objectives should make it clear what a learners should "know or be able to do..that the could not do before" [1].
With our Agile Based Learning Environment elements in mind, we design our Learning Objectives to be:
  • highly visible, so we write them on cards or sticky notes and place them for all to see.  
  • understandable by the learner, so, we attempt to write them so the learner can understand. For Sienna’s age, we will need pictures as part of the Learning Objectives.
  • adaptable, so we make learning concepts independent from one another so that we can choose the right learning at the right time. 
  • Even with my 4 year old, connecting her learning to a relevant purpose, let's her know that the learning is for a reason. Not just because I tell her to. Meaning is a powerful intrinsic motivator.

The Learning Objective Card Format

The Learning Objective Card format looks like this below.
Learning Objective Card Format Example

The Learning Objective card follows the format below:

I want to ___________      ________________,       

        (Bloom’s Verb)          (Learning Concept)

So that I can ____________________________                     

         (Achieve Some Meaningful Purpose)

  • Blooms Verbs [2]  is a popular cognitive classification system, which allows us to to choose the right level of challenge for the perceived cognitive skill level of the learner. Bloom's  Matching the learning challenge to the right skill  will help the learner achieve a state of flow in their learning, one of the goals of ABLE  [3].
  • Learning Concept is the knowledge we want to be learned. We want this to be a small as a chunk as possible, but still significant.
  • Achieve Some Meaningful Purpose is to connect the learner to something personally important and relevant, preferably some intrinsic motivation.
  • Learned It Level  is a space we track the Learned It level goals and achievements discussed in Part 1 of this blog series.  For Sienna, I will place the sticker/badge for the Learned It level she achieves. We'll discover more on  this in later posts.

Step 1: Identify Learning Standard

I started out with a larger Learning Objective, at the Standard level, as identified in the Phonics book, beginning and ending consonants. I then discovered with Sienna why we want to learn the standard. In this case, being like her big cousin is important and motivating to her. 

Our discussion went something like this:
Me: “What can your big cousin do that you want to be able to do when she is at school?”
Sienna: “Well, when she reads, like a book, she does it by herself”. Me:“Do you want to read a book by yourself?”. Sienna: “Yeah”. 
Me: “Well, to read a book by yourself, you need to understand something called consonants. Would you like to learn how to read words that start and end with consonants?”
Sienna: “Yeah!”
I then wrote on our learning objective card:

I want to recognize beginning and ending consonants

so that I can read by myself like my cousin. 

I read it to her and asked if we can meet the challenge together and she agreed. See our card in the image below:

Step 2: Break down the Learning Standard into Learning Objectives

A Learning Objective, to be actionably learned by Sienna,  needs to be small enough to be learned in one, maybe 2, learning sessions.  The smaller and more focused the learning objectives are, the faster the feedback, the more adaptable we can be, which results in highly differentiated learning .  So we unpack the Standard to small but significant Learning Objectives. We make it highly visible and adaptable, by placing each objective onto it’s own card.

I want to recognize words beginning and ending with B

so that I can read by myself like my cousin. 

I felt this could be broken down to a 3 smaller, independent, yet still significant Learning Objectives:

I want to recognize words beginning with B,

 so that I can read by myself like my cousin.

I want to recognize words ending with b

so that I can read by myself like my cousin.

I want to distinguish between  words beginning and ending with B

so that I can read by myself like my cousin.

We repeated this for the remaining consonants. The Learning Objective cards take some of the best practices great teachers use today, supported by powerful learning and motivational theories, by making it highly visible, adaptable, meaningful to the learner. It sets the stage for the learner to enter deep engagement, the flow state, with their learning.


  • The purpose behind the ABLE practices is to be lightweight and simple.  All you need to write learning objectives in this way are index cards and a marker.
  • Want to try this in the classroom or with your teaching teams? Check out this powerful visual Learning Objective generation board. Better yet, get your students to help co-create the learning objectives!

Up Next

Sienna and I will share how we use the Learning Objective Cards to make a highly visual and adaptable learning roadmap, that we call the Learning Backlog, which offers many advantages over the traditional static curriculum planning and curriculum maps. Stay tuned, you'll enjoy how a simple visual tool empowers learners to be in control of their learning and allows the differentiated instruction.

Thank You,
Sienna and John