A teacher’s take on the jargon of explicit teaching…

I know that parents have to decode a lot of jargon whilst their kids are at school. I’m often asked about some of the acronyms commonly seen and heard in my classroom. Perhaps they sound more like a quartet of elderly folks in a retirement home, however WALT, WILF, WALA and TIB are some the latest educational buzz words.

Explicit teaching focusses students toward the learning/understanding/skill, rather than the doing/task/activity. Below are some useful acronyms that are becoming more and more common in schools, for making learning explicit for children.

WALT = We Are Learning To…
Sometimes called a Learning Intention, a WALT  makes the learning, concept, understanding or skill clear to students. For example, “We are learning to use talking marks in our writing”. I find WALTs extremely useful in differentiating between the task or activity and the actual learning. Without some element of explicit teaching, students prove very competent in articulating what they are ‘doing’ rather than what they are ‘learning’ by doing it. I learned this in my very first week of teaching when I was attempting to teach children the ‘count on’ strategy for totalling two numbers by getting them to play a simple die-rolling game called Cover Up. When I asked them to explain their learning, most answered with some form of “I learned to play Cover Up” rather than what I’d hoped for – “I learned to add the numbers by counting on from the bigger number”.

WILF = What I’m Looking For…
Sometimes called Success Criteria, a WILF makes clear to students, what they are expected to demonstrate or produce. For example, the teacher might make explicit that he’s looking for the correct use of punctuation, such as talking marks to indicate characters speaking.

WALA = We Are Learning About…
A WALA statement is often useful for covering a broader topic or concept, without getting in to the nitty gritty of specific skills. For example, a WALA might be “We are learning about writing fiction stories” whereas a WALT would be more specific such as “We are learning to write a fiction story with an orientation that describes the main character and setting”.

TIB = This Is Because…
TIB explicitly describes the purpose of the learning and might clearly make connections to other skills or understandings or articulate the application of the concept. Basically, why are we learning this?

Education is one particular profession where new initiatives, approaches, buzz words, etc, come and go, and sometimes even pop up again years down the track. Kath Murdoch’s post “The question of learning intentions” ( makes some interesting points regarding explicit teaching, which I am inclined to agree with! I especially like her examples for re-framing WALTs as questions. “For example, I might once have said to students that, as self managers, they would be “learning to devise an effective action plan to meet a goal”.  Now, I pose a question: “How can we devise effective action plans to help us meet our goals?””  (Murdoch, August 4, 2013) 

Any teachers out there, what do you think? Any parents out there, what do you think? Should we be telling kids exactly what we expect them to be learning at a given time, or could we be, as Kath says in her post, “reigning in the potential for discovery”?



23 thoughts on “Meet WALT, WILF, WALA & TIB

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  6. Reblogged this on Contemporary Education and commented:
    What a fantastic post! Came across this in a PLT. I use WALT (we are learning to/ we are learning that), WILF (what I’m looking for) and TIB (this is because) in all learning areas. Success criteria and explicit teaching is so simple and logical… yet so powerful. This explains it beautifully!

  7. What a fantastic article! I love the WALA abbreviation. That’s one I’ve never used in my classrooom, but certainly think I will now. In response to your closing question… I’d have to say that sometimes as teachers, we tend to ‘spoon feed’ a little too much! However, there is certainly a time and place for it. Using WALT, WILF and TIB in my learning space has certainly had a positive impact on my students. I definitely think that, “reigning in the potential for discovery,” is also extremely important, especially when learning through Inquiry. As teachers we just have to know when to use what! I guess this is the same. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Great to hear from you, and thanks for your positive feedback! I was chatting with another teacher today on the question of ‘how many’ – as in, should we put up just that lesson’s learning intentions, put up a day’s worth in the morning, display the whole week’s… What do you do in your classroom?

      • I only put one up per lesson. So 1 for Reading, 1 for Writing and 1 one for Numeracy. I also tend to use them in Inquiry as well… If there’s a skill the kids are learning. They also work well when explicitly teaching speaking and listening skills. I generally don’t use more than one WALT per lesson. I also accompany every WALT with a WILF and TIB!

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  10. I really like idea of Walt we should do explicit teaching rather then giving students instructions for other activities which confuses them

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  15. Sometimes urban acronyms have more than one meaning. They can also evolve into something else lol. Did you think that WILF might appear like a MILF to the slightly dyslexic. That could be embarrassing. Also, are you going to educate the parents on your new made up language. I’m sure they wouldn’t have a clue what you are talking about. Just write the sentence ffs

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  18. Must get awfully tedious starting every lesson the same? I think it was once expected that was done, in some initiative or other, but I believe OFSTED came up with a statement sayin “not every lesson should be the same”, referring to the format.

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