Wheels of Fortune: How and Why Learning Target Focus Wheels Should Be Part of Your Instructional Design

By Theresa Staley

What learning target focus wheels are, how they improve classroom learning and climate, and how you can implement them in your instructional design.

Wouldn’t it be spectacular if one student-centered resource could provide all of the assessment information teachers need, and beyond that, build a climate of motivated learners?

What if we had a tool that would allow students to know what they are learning, why they are learning it, what relationship it has with the standards, and how they can articulate the skills they use?

Learning Target Focus Wheels can do this and more.

Learning Target Focus Wheels can be used to:

  1. Chunk the critical content
  2. Ensure alignment to the learning targets
  3. Function as artifacts of student evidence
  4. Scaffold cognitive complexity on the rigor scale

What they do:

  1. Act as an ongoing product to gauge learning during the lesson
  2. Allow for immediate intervention

Undoubtedly, the most significant responsibility to instill in our students is the advocacy and ability to read and write.

Given this challenge, one of the adversities teachers consistently address is the ongoing repetition of those base level reading skills students simply seem to get stuck on!  They cannot break free to use any additional strategies, and when their “go to” strategy doesn’t solve their queries, they are left without options, which hinders reading fluency and comprehension.

Sample Technique

Below is a technique to get students past the basic level strategies and scaffold our students to reach higher level thinking targets and read with automaticity!

  1. Take a large piece of poster paper and draw a large circle. In the center, draw a smaller circle.
  2. Draw lines to create pie slices around the smaller circle.
  3. Write Learning Focus Wheel in the center.
  4. Place a bin of markers (I use the smelly ones) near the focus wheel.
  5. Match students with independent books to read at each of their instructional levels.
  6. Review reading strategies, from basic to higher level. For example, tapping, checking the beginning and ending letter sounds of a word, cross-checking, chunking a word, skipping over a word, using picture clues.
  7. Students can bring a reference with them to refer to as they read or they can refer to a classroom display.
  8. Students read their texts. As they read and become stuck on a word, they try various strategies that are their learning targets to overcome their hurdle. Once they use a target skill, they write it on the Learning Focus Wheel, sign their name, and keep reading.
  9. Students continue this process until the wheel is full.
  10. The teacher monitors the students’ reading. If a student is stuck, she probes them to try their strategies until one of them works.
  11. At the end of the lesson, students share what happened when they were stuck, what strategy they used, and how it helped them as readers.

*Important notes: Some of our students are extremely low-level readers. Given that, tapping would be a leap from using sounds in isolation, while another student can reach for higher target skills.

Emergent writing is embedded in this technique. Therefore, it is encouraged to allow students to listen to their letter sounds and blend the words together to write their strategies on the wheels.  They also can find the words on their reference chart.

Chunking the Content into Digestible Parts for Focus:

Students set their learning targets for the next lesson:

  1. As a group, students draw and cut out a spinner for the center of their wheels.
  2. The students spin the spinner.
  3. Wherever the spinner lands is the focus target for reading during the small group lesson.

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Theresa Staley is a Staff Developer with Learning Sciences International. Her educational career began in 2001. She has held positions as a classroom teacher in elementary and middle school, as an intervention specialist, and worked at the district level. She is a relentless advocate for literacy and upholds an unyielding dedication to teachers and children.

Follow Theresa on Twitter: @EdgyEducation
Connect with her on LinkedIn: Theresa Staley