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 art teacher or art department. They break down lofty objectives into learning targets that students can read and understand. So, while they are based on standards or learning objectives from the curriculum, they are written in student-friendly language. 

Let’s look at an example.

Below you’ll see a standard as well as three I CAN statements that go with it. It is ok to have more than one I CAN statement per standard.

Standard: The student will draw based on observation.

I CAN Statements: 

  • I CAN draw a contour line.
  • I CAN identify positive and negative space.
  • I CAN draw what I see.

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.

What I CAN Statements Look Like in My Classroom

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, 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 a different 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.

If you’d like to walk through creating your own I CAN statements, be sure to check out the AOE Course Designing Your Art Curriculum. You’ll be able to build your curriculum documents to reflect your philosophy of teaching as well as your district, state, and/or national standards.

In my case, 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 which statements I had used.

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 the short printed summaries that my younger students glued to the back of each work.

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 are a nice fit. They are 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 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!