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Students Grow through Personal Goals

By Nicole Hoey & Missy Picciano

The job of a classroom teacher allows us to reflect at multiple times throughout the day. We are constantly thinking on the fly, making gametime decisions, and adjusting lessons, plans, assignments, etc. based on our own observations and student performance. As teachers, we set out to accomplish goals by the end of each school year, month, week, and even class period. Our goals so heavily rely, however, on student performance. So how can we help our students help us? Just as we want to achieve our own goals (“I want to rock this lesson and have all my students understand telling time to the nearest 5 minutes,”) how can we encourage our students to set and achieve goals, too?

Encouraging students to create goals can seem overwhelming to us and to them. There are a lot of aspects of this process that students may not understand or that may not be important to them. By familiarizing students with key components of data, they are able to understand the importance of their own learning process. Allowing students to reflect on their learning and set personal goals provides them the opportunity to challenge themselves and gives them motivation to grow and improve. Here are some tips on how to implement student goal-setting in your classroom.

1. Decide what is relevant and meaningful to each student

Guide each student in brainstorming what is important to them personally. Ask questions like “What do you want to get better at?” or “What is something that you want to accomplish?” Brainstorming as a class can help provide a list of possible ideas.

2. Develop a plan of action

Once students have decided on an area of improvement, you can guide the process and help each student create meaningful, attainable goals and a means of reaching those goals. Brainstorming a short term and long term goal is helpful so students can see the end in mind, but also see their progress along the way. Think “I want to _________ by ________, so I will ________ to meet my goal.” An example might be “I want to read an Elephant and Piggy book by May 15th, so I will work on decoding strategies to meet my goal.”

3. Track progress

Writing down and posting student goals is a great way to make them meaningful and real and to hold students accountable. Seeing their goals posted on their desk or in an area of the classroom reminds them every time they look to strive to achieve that goal. Tracking student progress with graphs (that students complete), logs, or charts helps students see how they grow and motivates them to reach goals. When asked about student goal-setting, a student in Mrs. Hoey’s room responded, “I like progress monitoring because I get to challenge myself to see how many words I can get in one minute.”

4. Celebrate

Of course, achieving goals is certainly something to be celebrated! Short-term goals and steps in the right direction should be acknowledged, too! Buy-in is huge, and the more buy-in students have, the more likely they are to go the extra mile. You can even involve parents by sending home a letter and including student goals, and referring back to goals frequently will remind students to stay focused.

Here are some goals set by Mrs. Hoey’s 3rd grade students:

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