When Common Core became the standards a few years ago I remember the introduction of I Can statements. I was taking some graduate classes at that time for instructional design and we were learning about lesson objectives. The common wisdom is that lesson objectives should have what students would be able to do at the end of the lesson and be measurable. Then, I heard about I Can statements and how they were written from the point of view of the student. This was very intriguing to me, but I didn’t know what to do with it.
What I Love About I Can Statements
There are so many parts of I Can statements that really get my student self-reflection side excited:
- From the point of view of the student.
- Kid friendly
- Progress from lesson to lesson
- Give a clear objective for the lesson
- Easy to write
My Problems with I Can Statements
I started using I Can statements on my board, but I had some problems with them:
- Forgetting to write a new one on the board when we changed focus.
- The students seemed bored and not connected when I referred to them.
- It wasn’t helping students to look at their progress overall.
- Writing objectives or I Can statements on the board just because it was something I was supposed to do for the administration.
- I didn’t always take the class time to discuss the objective because of time pressure.
Also, from talking with other teachers on my campus I heard similar concerns. It got me thinking about if there was a way to make the I Can statements more meaningful for the students and be naturally incorporated into the lesson.
I Can Statements as an Anticipatory Set or Closure
When I decided to revamp my anticipatory sets and closure I made some exit tickets and entrance tickets that have self-reflection on them. I even made one that had the students write down what they could do at the end of the lesson that they couldn’t do at the beginning of the lesson, an I Can statement. It was still such a struggle for me to really incorporate the objectives in a meaningful way. Then, one day it hit me. Maybe, I should have the students write the I Can statements in their interactive math notebooks. I had nothing to lose except for a few minutes in class.
My First Attempt at Writing I Can Statement in Interactive Notebooks
Our next topic in my 8th grade class was scatter plots. So, that’s where I started. I had students write “Scatter Plots Intro” at the top of their page. Then, I had them write “Objectives:” Next, I wrote the 4 student friendly I Can statements and they copied them into their notebooks. We went back through them and underlined the key action word for each statement. This part was easy and the kids were very attentive.
We came back to them at the end of each lesson and the students self-assessed about how they were understanding the concept. Each day I would explain to them which one of the statements we had worked with that day and they would put a check next to it if they felt like they got it.
Incorporating I Can Statements Into Our Daily Routine
I noticed that students seemed very engaged during this part of instruction. The I Can statements were really giving them a purpose for the lesson and they helped them see that they were learning. Many students don’t really understand how learning works and never think about their own progress. It has been very empowering for me as a teacher and for them as students. We now look at our I Can statements at the beginning and/or end of each day.
Making Me a Better Teacher
I’m always looking for ways to be a better teacher. As a teacher, this helped me to recognize that some students really have no idea what they are learning about. They show up to class and do stuff, but they don’t know what they are doing. They can’t even articulate what they are learning more than saying a topic like, “scatter plots”. It seems to me that it would be very difficult to truly learn something that you can’t explain your goals about. Now, I let them know what they are learning and they talk about what they learning on a daily basis through our I Can statements.
Making Them Better Students
The students that I work with all struggle with math and pretty much have only had negative experiences with math. Most of them are not great students and many of them are somewhat disenfranchised with school in general. As we’ve been incorporating this method of keeping them responsible for their own learning I’ve seen so many changes. They are less self-conscious about their learning, they are willing to share their struggles with the class, and they show more confidence that they could learn. There really have been no negatives from incorporating this into our routine.
After I had done this a couple of time with both my 7th and 8th graders I wanted to extend it a little more. I love having my students write in math class. I believe it is one of the best ways to actually see what is going on in their heads. So, I have them write a reflection at the end of the unit that goes at the bottom of the page where the I Can statements reside.
I give them some pointers on how to write it, but I don’t do too much for them. Really, the purpose is to see what they understand without being coached. This is a very rewarding experience because you get to see the growth from the beginning to the end of learning about something. I would encourage you to try this out in your class and see what changes it makes for you and your students.
Getting Started with I Can Statements in your Own Class
I’ve put together a collection of I Can statements for 20+ topics in both 7th and 8th grade. I’d love for you to check them out and try them with your own students. You can download them here for free, and then get some other great freebies and ideas that are sent out to teachers in the Math Idea Galaxy group.
Also, if you’re just getting started with interactive notebooks, or if you’re looking for ways to step up the interactive notebooks in your math classroom, check out this free mini-course jam packed with practical, classroom-tested tips and tricks.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope that adding this simple routine with I Can statements helps your students take more ownership of their learning. Can’t wait to hear about it. Until next time!
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