For those of you who are unfamiliar with I Can statements, they are simply a way of decoding and implementing the common core standards or the required curriculum. I Can statements take the complicated wording of the core and turn it into abilities that the students should possess. For example, the Utah common core third grade reading: literacy standard 1 reads, “Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.” A corresponding I Can statement might read, “ Using the text for support, I can ask and answer questions to show my understanding.” But, is this an effective use of a teacher’s time and resources? Although this sounds like a fairly uncomplicated system for understanding the common core, there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the creation and use of I Can statements. Many teachers see I Can statements as simply a passing fad, while other teachers believe them to be the one and only way to decode the standards and use them properly.
But the real question is what is right for the students? In the words of my sweet and wise brother, “keep your eye on the prize,” or the student. Are I Can statements truly useful in the classroom? Well, that is up to the students to demonstrate, because they will. My husband and I serve at church by teaching a class of rambunctious four-year-olds. Each week we are bombarded with questions, noise, frustration, and, hopefully, understanding. But despite all the distractions each week, we leave church with smiles from ear to ear commenting on Max’s funny comments, Hazel’s sweet and oddly mature nature, or Evelyn’s frequent and forceful nose bleeds. Even though our class can be out of control and wild, we love those we teach. But the more experience I have teaching, the more I understand that what works in planning the lesson may not necessarily help the students understand the concepts. Last week, our lesson was on teaching the students to say, “Thank you.” I planned four different activities where the students would have to use the phrase, “Thank you.” Upon finishing the lesson, I asked the students, “What did you learn about today?” Only one of the students made the connection between the application of the activities and the purpose of the day’s lesson. This made my lesson fairly unsuccessful. So, although these activities worked in planning the lesson and made it easy for me to see the lesson purpose, it fell flat with the students.
As I discussed earlier, using I Can statements can make lesson planning much easier. It allows the instructor to look at what the students need to be accomplishing and therefore teach toward that goal. It is only through improper understanding and implementation as I mentioned earlier that the standards are confused.
Are I Can statements really helping the students learn or just helping the teachers plan? What do you think?