Ideally, teaching students how to work towards a goal should happen in three phases:
I guide the planning phase by beginning with self-reflection. Students think through their grades, effort/work ethic, and behavior for the past grading period or semester.
Then, they compile a list of their strongest (proud of) areas and a list of areas they they identify as needing improvement.
They begin brainstorming topics for a goal and try to narrow it down.
I created a doodle-style sheet where students can jot their thoughts as they work through this process. Download the self-evaluation and goal-setting sheet here.
When they are ready to choose a goal to formally write up, it can be helpful to review the "SMART" goal criteria. Goals should be:
- Realistic / Relevant
For some great examples of focusing in on these, check out these two samples with more detail:
Printables for Additional Guidance & Student Planning in More Detail:
Examples of How to Take a Sample Goal and Make it "SMART"er:
For this process to really work, once students write and sign off on their final goal, you'll need to come back to it.
Set up a process that allows them to check in and reflect periodically on how well they are doing. Here are a few ideas:
- Assign accoutability partners. Have them set their own schedule for check-ins based on the timelines they each set for their own goals. They will create a structure and follow up with one another to see how it's going each day/week.
- Do classroom check-ins. Have students share in small groups of 5 students what their goals are and how they know their progress. Take five minutes at the end of each class period to meet up and groups and review each person's day of working towards their goal (1 minute per person per day).
- Set up a structure for students to reward themselves. They can set their own rewards, and they can even happen at home, but as each student meets a goal that they set, you can celebrate it in the classroom. This can be as simple as having an icon on a bulletin board for each student and having them take steps up a mountain or over to the other side of a divided board as they progress toward a goal. Make the accomplishments visible.
- If you have time, set up a quick 2-minute meeting with each student about two weeks after they set their goals. Review the original goal, discuss progress, and give some reminders about how they can continue to be successful or start over to turn things around. This can be as they hand in tests during a quiet testing day or during a homeroom period.
- For any students who acheive their goal early, help them set another. It may have been too easy. Either way, there is always room for more improvement. Suggest that they start another round of the goal-setting process, but also have them keep tabs on the old goal to be sure that they do not backtrack after making such quick progress.
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