Mom and Daughter“What did you learn at school today?”

Sound familiar?

In some cases this may be true but it is usually because no-one had thought to let the children know what they were learning.

Children need to know what they are learning and this needs to be very specific.

‘Learning to write a story’ is much too broad for a child to understand.  Just think of all the components needed to write a story

    • Plot
    • Characters
    • Events
    • Setting
    • Punctuation
    • Spelling
    • Vocabulary
    • Compound sentences

…and the list goes on.

Each of these parts need its own learning intention.  For example:

To use a variety of sentence openers.

This gives the children a focus and makes the learning process clear cut.

Once the individual concepts have been learnt then it is time to combine them in a story.

This narrowing down of learning concepts is not only effective for children’s learning but also for teacher feedback (marking)

Marking a piece of work taking into account all aspects of the process is difficult, time consuming and leads to demoralised children who were unaware of how to be successful.

So many mistakes













The Learning Intention

This is what you want the child to learn.

Examples of good learning intentions would be:

  • To use full stops and capital letters correctly
  • To add two 2 digit numbers successfully
  • To find objects that measure more than 5 cms
  • To write labels

Examples of learning intentions that would make it extremely hard to be successful would be:

  • To measure
  • To write a story
  • To understand the story

The narrower the intention the easier it is to learn and incorporate into the bigger picture.

The Whys

Let children know why they are learning a specific concept.

If learning about using a variety of openers in their writing, let them see or hear the difference it makes.Why

I went to the park.
I saw my friends.
I played on the swings.
I played on the slide.
I was tired.
I went home.

Yesterday I went to the park.
My friends were already there.
Swinging on the blue swing was fun.
The slide was slippery.
It was very tiring playing in the park.
I went home to bed.

Telling the children the ‘whys’ puts the learning intention into context and makes it real.  It makes sense.

As adults we can become belligerent if we have to learn or understand something that appears to be pointless. Children feel the same.

While I’m on this topic, there are learning intentions that are easy to see their use and others that have very little use.

For example, the learning intention:Henry VIII

‘To learn the six wives of Henry VIII’

can only be really useful on a quiz night!

On the other hand

‘To find out/research (the wives of Henry VIII)’

is learning that can help across a whole plethora of topics.


It is crucial that children learn how to learn,

This is how the become independent and competent learners.