How to set clear expectations on IXL

Sheila Berger is an IXL Professional Learning Specialist with nearly a decade of experience as both a classroom teacher and instructional coach.

One of the great things about IXL is that there are many different ways to use it, both in the classroom and at home. However, students learn best when you’re clear about exactly what you expect them to do. 

This should go beyond “I expect you to do IXL,” and ideally answer a few key questions that learners are sure to have:

  • Where should I start?
  • What goal should I work toward?
  • What should I do when I get a question wrong?
  • What should I do if I need help? 

Here, we’ve outlined a few possible expectations that you can easily set for each of these questions. You can start with these, or develop your own! 

Either way, be sure to communicate your expectations early and often with your learners. Building them into small daily habits will ultimately empower their ownership and strengthen their learning. 

1. Where should I start?

There’s a lot to explore on IXL, which may be overwhelming to learners at first. It’s important to set a consistent workflow expectation so that students instinctively know, “this is what I do when I sign in to IXL.” 

For example, if you use IXL’s suggested skills feature, a great expectation might be “start at the star.” Repeating this reminds students of the expectation to work on the starred skills that you’ve suggested first, before moving on to anything else.


2. What goal should I work toward?

Setting SmartScore goals for your students is a great way to motivate them and encourage improvement. The IXL SmartScore measures each student’s current understanding of the skill. Along the way, it also adapts the level of difficulty, to meet each student where they are and help them grow.

As you set expectations, keep in mind that a SmartScore of 80 indicates proficiency in the topic, while 90 represents excellence. Either of these may be a perfect stopping point, especially when students are learning a new topic! 

Another way to communicate this goal is, “work until you see the blue ribbon.” This is especially helpful for younger children, as students will earn a blue ribbon once they reach a SmartScore of 80. 

Remember that a SmartScore of 100 represents complete mastery of the concept, which can be used as an extra credit opportunity, or a reason to celebrate! 

3. What should I do when I get a question wrong?

When a student answers a question incorrectly, IXL provides immediate feedback so that they can learn from their mistakes. It’s important to help learners build the habit of carefully reading each answer explanation and trying to understand their mistake before moving on to the next question. 

One way to help set this expectation is to model working through an IXL skill. When you answer a question correctly, you can create a fun way to celebrate, like a special cheer. When you answer a question incorrectly, show that this is actually an exciting opportunity to learn. Read the full answer explanation, and chat through where you went wrong. 

When students read IXL answer explanations, you can also encourage them to “search for the why and how.” This helps kids engage with IXL’s immediate feedback by having them identify why they made an error and how to correct it.

You may also want to have students take notes based on the answer explanations. Writing down where they went wrong, key ideas they’ve discovered, or new strategies they’ve learned is a powerful tool for growth. Plus, they can use these findings as they continue to make progress through the skill!

Finally, it’s important to note that IXL is a safe place to make mistakes. No matter how many questions a student answers incorrectly, it’s always possible to learn from their mistakes and improve their SmartScore!

4. What should I do if I need help?

There are many resources that students can use if they’re feeling stuck. For example, one simple expectation you can set is to have students use IXL’s in-skill recommendations. 

When they’re practicing a math or language arts skill, students will see a list of building block skills at the bottom of the page. If they’re having trouble, advise them to choose one of those foundational skills, which will help fill in gaps in understanding. They can click back as many levels as they need, and once they’re feeling more confident, they can head back to the original skill.


Make sure students know that if they’re ever feeling frustrated, they can always take a break. Their progress on IXL will always be saved, so they can pick up where they left off. 

One good measure you can communicate is the “80/20 rule.” If a student can’t independently get to a SmartScore of 80 within 20 minutes, it may be time to ask for help, take a break, or use IXL’s in-skill recommendations!

Communication is key

Whatever your learning expectations may be, it’s important to communicate them clearly with your learners. Often, it can be extremely helpful to show students exactly what it looks like to meet each expectation. When we take the time to model good habits, it sets students up for success when they practice independently!

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