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What Are Content Objectives?

Identifying Content Objectives to Guide Instructional Lessons

Content objectives are the specific skills and content that students are expected to learn in a lesson. A content objective might consist of learning about the inner planets of the solar system in a science lesson, multiplying one-digit numbers in a math lesson, or learning about community workers in a social studies lesson. Content objectives stem from state and district grade-level standards in all content areas.

Many grade-level content standards are too broad to be taught to students in one lesson period. For example, the third grade California Science standard,"Students know plants and animals have structures that serve different functions in growth, survival and reproduction" can't be taught in just one lesson and will need to be "unpacked" into smaller content objectives. A more specific content objective that can be taught in one lesson might be: "Students will understand that harbor seals have behavioral and physical characterstics that help them survive". On another day, students might study a content objective about the life cycle of the harbor seal. 

It's important that teachers utilize the grade-level content standards provided by their state department of education, which can typically be found by searching online. Some teachers are inclined to rely exclusively on the objectives identified in their teacher's editions; however, publishers often write curriculums based on the standards from different states, so it is therefore important that teachers are highly aware of their own standards in the event that certain standards are not included in the curriculum, or whether some parts of the curriculum are not based on state standards. 

It's important that you know your grade-level standards like the back of your hand! After reading the state standards, "unpack" them and break them down into more manageable objectives that can be taught in each lesson. An excellent resource that will help teacher's identify and plan objectives is Wiggins and McTighes' instructional design of backwards planning, Understanding By Design




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