How I CAN Statements Can Work For You

Many teachers, schools and districts are buzzing about I CAN statements.  What is all the hype and are they really worth integrating into your classroom?  The decision is ultimately yours, but here is a little look into my experience with I CAN statements and how I used them to enhance my curriculum and my teaching.

I can Statements

What is an I CAN Statement?

In a nutshell, I CAN statements are simple sentences designed by the

teacher or the department.  (Secondary folks often choose something a little diffferent, such as “As an artist, I will…)  Either way, these statements are based off the power standards or learning objectives from the curriculum, but they are written in student-friendly language.   I CAN statements break down lofty objectives into learning targets students can read and understand.  They cover specific learning for each lesson, and there can be more than one I CAN statement for each Power Standard.

For example:

The neat thing about I CAN statements is that if they are used consistently and accurately, they can help students become more responsible for their learning and more reflective of their own work.  I CAN statements also easily transition into assessments and allow for students and teachers to have a better discussion of their work.

How did I set this up?

I began with a list of I CAN statements designed to match my curriculum for each grade level.  (Feel free to download a sample of my list below)

I can statementsI printed out a copy to keep handy while I was lesson planning.  I also had all my I CAN statements printed and laminated in large, color coded strips.  It is a lot of printing indeed, but laminating makes sure I will have them to use for years to come.

I CAN strip

Some teachers prefer to write I CAN statements on the board, possibly under a catchy sign like this one.

I can Statements

My whiteboard space was a hot commodity, so I came up with an ulterior method.  I had two large, metal doors in my classroom, so I made a space for each grade level and posted new I CAN statements each week using magnets.  I kept the grade level space constant throughout the year and referred to them often throughout each lesson.

As I designed my digital lesson plans, I included I CAN Statements at the bottom and ticked them off my printed list.  This way I knew what statements to pull for the following week and I was able to keep a running record of the I CAN statements that I had used, as well as those I still needed to use.

For all grades K-5, I referred to the I CAN statements as I walked around the room during work time.  Including these statements in discussions of their work helped students focus on the goal and the “why” behind each lesson.  The I CAN learning targets were also included in a short printed summary that students in k-2 glued to the back of each work.  This is similar to Jessica’s Itty Bitty Message.

Students in grades 3-5 completed a self-reflection at the end of each lesson that included the I CAN statements.  Feel free to download a sample self-reflection form like the one below.  Students simply glued this reflection to the back of their project before turning it in.


Self Reflection


In my experience, I CAN statements were a nice fit.  They are clear simple statements that bridge the gap between curriculum planning and the daily art room experience.  As a bonus, they can also be used to enhance communication with students and parents.  The learning is right there, broken down and easy to follow and understand.

How do you use I CAN statements? 

What are some ways you are making the learning targets clear to your students? 

Heather Crockett

Heather is AOE’s Project Manager and an expert in differentiation, curriculum development, and assessment. She is a veteran teacher in the art room and at the graduate level.


  • Art on my hands

    A new twist on the SWBAT. (Students will be able to…). I like the idea often I Can

  • I love I can statements! I am in the process of writing them for my middle school curriculum. Great article! Did you or your district create your I can statements?

    • When we wrote our Power Standards, we just turned those into the I CAN statements. They were our learning outcomes and we wrote them as a team for each grade level.

      • That’s how our elementary I can statements are written as well Jessica. It seems like Heather’s power standards and I can statements are different. The power standard are broad and the I can statement is more specific.

        • D.Fatima Zein

          D.Fatima Zein
          I can stastements can be easily used and adapted to suit learning objectives

    • My district did not have power standards, per se, more like a general scope and sequence for different media at each grade level. My department came up with rough draft of I CAN statements that were more specific, but we were encouraged to add our own as needed.

    • Jackie

      I’d love to see what you came up with for your “I Can” statements in middle level.

      • Jackie, look for an article about I can statements in the middle level in the coming months! We just finalized them.

        • Jeanna

          Were your I Can statements for middle school approved?

        • Anna R

          I would love to see your I Can statements for middle school!


    I just laminated K-5 I can. . . and each day I fill in the statements. I think it is more of a help to me and administrators though. It is simple enough for kids to read and understand, but they just want to know “what are we going to make today?” they could care less about what they will learn to do. BUT it does help ME a lot to keep to the point and keep stressing the objectives.

  • Inlingua

    I liked this statement “I CAN” nothing is impossible…

    Language course in bangalore

  • Every teacher in my school reads the daily target (I will learn…) at the beginning of every lesson. We then choose 3 non-volunteers to restate the target. We have been doing this for years so the kids know they are responsible for. I found that it is very easy to freeze the target at the top of my document camera so that the kids can see it and I can refer back to it throughout the lesson. The students can also look back when they are filling out their exit cards at the end of the lesson.

    • That sounds like an effective system, strengthened by the fact that your entire school is on board.
      Heather Crockett

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  • I just changed my painting assessment to all “I can” statements – perfect timing!

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  • jennbodden

    I am going to use “I can” rather than SWBAT…I think this really personalizes the learning goals!