Although the title of this post sure looks like a set up for some boring educational acronym, it really describes making learning fun.  More significantly, it describes using fun to teach.  The purpose of the bureaucratic looking title is to please the administrative types that sometimes try to understand why it is often in the best interest of our students to use teaching methods that are actually fun.  I could have called it “Goal Directed Teaching,” or “Learning for a Reason,” or “Why’s Before Whats,” but these other possibilities simply don’t seem to fit as well. 

Achievement oriented instruction is when a teacher provides a goal that requires the student to use a targeted skill to accomplish something.  This is not quite functional teaching, and its almost the opposite of drill.  The goal itself provides the motivation, and for this reason the choice of the goal is critical.  It is perhaps as or more important than any teaching method that may be used.  And this is how achievement oriented instruction most differs from traditional teaching. 

Here are some examples that may best serve to illustrate my overall point:


Traditional Teaching

Achievement Based Teaching

simple addition

teacher instruction/ text book/ worksheets

using jelly beans, pennies, etc. and asking motivating questions, such as “Would you like two more, or six all together?”, etc.

labeling prepositions

discussing prepositions/ worksheets

asking preposition laden questions while playing hide and seek, hidden pictures, Simon Says, etc.

parts of speech

sentence diagrams/ teacher instruction/ worksheets

Mad Lib style activities, separate students into different parts of speech teams and score points when correctly identifying parts of speech, etc.



internet typing games, practice typing labels, letters, etc.

As you can see, the achievement based teaching column contains more possibilities, and an “etc.”  The only limit to one can go in the final column is the teacher’s imagination.  The more creative and varied the activities, the more salient is the learning.  This should not in any way disparage traditional teaching, however.  Another way to put it is that traditional teaching relies on expectations.  In achievement based teaching the learning is elicited.  The student constructs his own expectations, and uses specific targets to achieve these expectations.  Expectations and elicitations are both critical when teaching.

So when an administrator comes in and sees you playing a game with your kids, if you did this kind of teaching, you could say:  “You caught me on my ABT day.  Some days I do drill, some days I do direct instruction, some days worksheets, and about half of the days I do activities specifically designed to elicit my students’ target skills.  It just so happens that fun motivates.”