I Can Statements – Can You?


I Can This and I Can That . . .

What does this all mean?  Students saying that they can do things instead of teachers telling them what they need to know using the time-tested ABCD (Audience, Behavior, Condition, Degree) performance objectives that we have been using for year?

What is this all about?

For a long time we have been running a school system where it is all about the Teacher.

The Teacher Teaches and the Students Learn.

If the Teacher Taught and the Students DIDN’T Learn, it was the Students’ fault because they weren’t trying hard enough.

Observant educators realized that maybe the reason students didn’t learn was because they didn’t know what they needed to learn.  That meant that the teachers had to share the Learning Objectives that they had hidden in their Lesson Plan books so that the students would know what needed to be learned.

So Teachers were told to write their objectives on the board at the beginning of each day so that the students would know what to learn.

On a written exam, the 4th grade students will be able to multiply two 3-digit numbers together with 80% accuracy.

Unfortunately, the students (and parents) didn’t always understand the objectives.  This was a precise definition of the expected outcomes of the lesson, but it didn’t necessarily mean anything to the 4th grade students.

Soooooooooo, the key to getting students involved is to make the objectives understandable for the students . . .

Instead of the teacher writing on the board “The students will . . . “
                 the students can assume a personal note with “I can . . . “

The I CAN statement provides a personal proclamation of intent. It is written in Kid-Talk.  I have also read about writing I CAN statements that are written in Parent-Talk, but I haven’t found any examples.  Isn’t Kid-Talk good enough for both students and parents?

Here is a wonderful video which features Ellie Brunner, 5th Grade Teacher at Kennedy Elementary School in Willmar, MInnesota, discusses how to use I CAN statements with students in the classroom as objectives for state standards.   This video is quite useful because she discusses how she creates the I CAN statements and then demonstrates how she uses them in class.

The only question that I have is the level of Measurability (I can make-up words like that because I am a professor =-)    Ellie talks about how important it is for I CAN statements to be Measurable but doesn’t define the level of success that is acceptable.  Do her students need to achieve 100% success?  How about 90%?  Is 60% ok?

I spoke with Pam Zeigler, the Director of Elementary Education at the Cedar Falls Community Schools here in Iowa. She said that her teachers use 80% as the level of proficiency.  Since it is assumed that this is the acceptable level throughout the schools, this doesn’t need to be included in the I CAN statement because it is assumed.

How do you use I CAN statements?

Additional Resources:

What’s YOUR opinion?
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