5 Fun Ways to Start Setting Goals with your Students Today
Here we are, January of 2020. Something about that date just makes me feel like we’re in the future. Entering the year 2020 mostly feels so fresh and cool, but every time I enter a new year, I have that little voice inside my head that asks, “What have I accomplished in the past year? What could I be doing better?” Something about January kicks me into a goal-setting, growth mindset.
With all of the hype around New Year’s Resolutions, I know that I am not alone. Goal-setting is a healthy part of life. It helps us push ourselves to be better. And while goal setting is something many of us do, it can be a difficult skill to teach our students, no matter their age.
In this post, I am going to talk about 5 goal-setting tips that you can use in your classroom right away. We will be looking at everything from books, to Google Docs and Sites, to FlipGrid to help us make goal-setting meaningful and engaging to our students.
TIP 1: Build Interest and Knowledge around Goal-Setting
First things first, we have to help our students understand the meaning of goal-setting, and we need to spark their interest in its importance. One of my favorite ways to spark interest in the classroom is a good old fashioned story. I am a firm believer that read alouds are appropriate and engaging at any level. Even picture books can be used up through higher ed. Goal setting affects literally everyone, so no matter what level you teach, there’s sure to be a goal-setting book for your class. Here’s a list of 18 read alouds to get you started.
Your story doesn’t have to be limited to a book, either. You may have a short video clip that highlights a character setting and achieving a goal, or you may have a video clip that explicitly teaches about goal setting, like these Khan Academy or BrainPOP videos. The key is to find a storyline that your students can relate to. This will spark the interest and engagement.
Once your students have experienced the story, the net part of this tip would be to discuss:
- What is a goal?
- Why are goals important?
- What is an example of a realistic goal? What about an unrealistic one?
- It would also be helpful to guide students to identify goals as short and long term goals.
How you discuss these ideas is completely up to you. You can have a verbal discussion with your class – some of the most valuable moments in my classroom came when we were simply discussing a story we read together.
It can also be helpful to have your discussion written down so students can refer back to it as they work on their own goal setting. One tool I love for gathering student input is Padlet. It’s free and so simple to use, for teachers and students. But sometimes it’s nice to just keep work in the Google family, so I’ll use Google Drawings (similar to Padlet). Check out this example to see what I mean, and feel free to make a copy for yourself!
TIP 2: Create Vision Boards
Once students understand what a goal is and why goals are important, then they can start thinking about appropriate self-goals. There are a few different ways you can help your students brainstorm goals.
One way is through a simple activity:
- Ask your students to come up with three “stars,” or things that they do well. The sky’s the limit for this activity—the thing they’re good at can be anything from a subject in school to a quality that makes him or her a good friend.
- Now that they have their three stars, tell them to come up with a “wish” to complement their stars; the wish should be something that the children need to work on or would like to get better at. They can pick any goal, as long as it is meaningful and important to them.
I love this activity because it starts with something students feel they’re doing well. The confidence hooks them into the brainstorming and makes them more open to thinking of a way they can improve. You can have the students complete the activity individually, or you can use a Google Doc, Form, Sheet, Slideshow, etc. to make it collaborative. Whatever you think will work best for your students.
Another way you can help students brainstorm goals is through vision boards. Visualization is an extremely powerful tool, and people are catching on. Vision boards have become much more mainstream, and for good reason. Having a place to regularly see your goals can help you reach them. A lot of times, vision boards are actual boards where you post magazine and newspaper clippings, etc. that represent your goals. This can be difficult to create with a room full of students. So why not create the boards digitally? Google Slides and Drawings are fabulous online tools for creating vision boards! See this EdTechteam post for more information on the idea of creating digital vision boards. Your students are sure to be motivated by their goals!
TIP 3: Draft Goals
Once students have brainstormed, it’s important for them to choose one or two goals to focus on and SMART format to draft them. According to Positive Psychology, “Goal-setting as a psychological tool for increasing productivity involves five rules or criterion, known as the S-M-A-R-T rule. George T. Doran coined this rule in 1981 in a management research paper of the Washington Power Company and it is by far one of the most popular propositions of the psychology of goals.” In other words, this format increases success. It works. So what does SMART stand for?
- S (Specific) – The goal has a specific focus.
- M (Measurable) -The goal is measurable. This helps with tracking the results.
- A (Attainable/Achievable) – With hard work, is it possible to reach this goal?
- R (Realistic) – This is where the students think about attaining this goal in real life. They picture their lives the way they are, then with a plan to reach this goal in place.
- T (Time-bound) – A date to reach the goal by.
Again, this step can be an individual process for students, or you can make this collaborative by using a Doc, Slideshow, Site, etc. No matter the tool you use, I think it’d be very beneficial if you’ve set up a template for the students. Goal setting is hard work, and it would help them if you’ve already set up the format of a Doc (or another collaborative tool) with the SMART requirements already outlined for them.
Let’s say that you’re reading over the SMART goal requirements, and you’re thinking to yourself, “I just don’t have that kind of time right now.” Well, I have an answer for you. And it comes from Google itself. It’s called One Simple Thing. It’s a template that Google created for its employees, and it’s caught on like wildfire across other organizations. Even though this is not geared toward students, I am including it because I love the simplicity of this goal-setting process. It could easily be adapted to be used in the classroom, and it focuses on collaboration – sharing your goals is a definite theme in One Simple Thing. And that perfectly leads me to my next tip, Collaboration.
TIP 4: Encourage Student Collaboration
When we share goals with those we respect, we hold ourselves accountable. Students are motivated by their peers, and if their peers know what they’re working towards, and even better, become a cheering squad, then more goals will be met. Throughout all previous tips, there were times for possible collaboration. If you’ve chosen to have students work completely independently up until this point, then now is the time to incorporate some collaboration.
When I think about this tip, along with all previous tips, I picture my students posting their SMART Goal Docs on their Google Site ePortfolios, alongside an embedded Google Form where their peers can provide feedback. I can feel the accountability now, and envision the motivation that comes from it.
TIP 5: Track and Reflect on Goals
We’ve asked our students to choose goals that are trackable, so we have to be thoughtful and helpful for how they actually track their progress. This tip is completely individual to the goal, but here are a few mainstream ideas that come to mind:
- Is the data numerical? If so, it could be recorded over time in a Google Sheet. And then students could insert a chart to help them visualize the change over time.
- Could students create a Google Form to help them collect the data? Then the data could be pushed to a Google Sheet and charted.
- Do students need to record a video of their progress as they try to learn something? Check out this resource on how to use Screencast-o-matic’s webcam recording tool. Or could FlipGrid help students organize their recordings AND open the way for collaboration?
- Would a simple daily reflection journal work? This could be set up in Docs, Sheets, Slides, or Forms. Just think about how you’d organize each entry.
As the students track and reflect, be sure they refer to their vision boards for motivation and as a chance to help them refocus. And if possible, allow students the opportunity to discuss their progress with you or other peers in the classroom. It’s so important for them to feel supported along the way.
At the end of the day, in life, we all work to be better. Whether we call them resolutions or goals doesn’t matter. What matters is that we work to better ourselves over time, and we help each other get better too. That’s a team/classroom community I’d like to be a part of, and I bet your students would too.
What tip will you try in your classroom? What ideas do you have to add to the conversation? Please comment below! We’d love to hear your thoughts!
1 “Goal Setting for Students, Kids, & Teens – PositivePsychology ….” 20 Nov. 2019, https://positivepsychology.com/goal-setting-students-kids/. Accessed 11 Jan. 2020.
2“Goal Setting for Students, Kids, & Teens – PositivePsychology ….” 20 Nov. 2019, https://positivepsychology.com/goal-setting-students-kids/. Accessed 11 Jan. 2020.