Four Key Ideas for Goal Setting with Elementary Students
Goal setting with students is an important skill to develop. It gets students intrinsically involved in their learning and shows them exactly what they need to do to meet your expectations and win at school!
While goal setting can take many different forms and to varying degrees of depth, there are a few things that need to be in place to help students successfully set goals.
One, students need to know where they are at right now.
Most teachers collect a ton of data. Some of that data is school level assessment data. Other data is antidotal and observation based. Figure out what skills you want your students to develop, where they are at right now on that skill, and communicate that with students.
Create a Classroom Data Wall
One idea is to create a classroom data wall. You can do this anonymously, which I highly suggest. Here is a great post filled with ideas for data walls.
Use Student Data Portfolios to Keep Track of Individual Data
Students can keep track of individual goals and data in their own data portfolios. The data portfolios can take on many different formats. I suggest a place for active goals, past goals, and data.
Check out this post for some ideas on what is in our data portfolios.
Two, students need to know where they need to go.
When you drive to a destination, you generally know where you’re going, either because you’ve driven the route before or you’re following a map. You as the teacher communicate the route your students can take to meet your high expectations.
Communicate clear expectations.
When I taught kindergarten, I sat students on the carpet and talked about how we needed to learn all of our letters. We talked about how many students knew all of their letters and how many students were almost there and how many needed to work really hard. We talked about the letters that everyone knew and the letters that I was going to teach over the next few weeks during whole group instruction.
This is clearly communicating my expectation that our classroom goal was that students know all their letters.
I did the same thing in second grade when students were memorizing their math facts. My expectation was clear. Students knew where they were and they knew where they needed to go.
Examples like this occur at every grade level with all different kinds of content areas.
Clearly communicate your expectations with students. Whether it’s a whole class goal or an individual goal or a grade level expectation. Students need to have the end goal in mind.
Three, students need to know a variety of ways to get there.
Not all students will have the same pathway. That is actually very good for our students, but challenging for us teachers. We must help students determine the best pathway for them by giving them many options and seeing what resonates with them.
Here is a post where I explain how to set individual learning goals with a classroom of students.
Four, students need to win at goal setting.
Set students up for success and celebrate that success often. How?
Create short term goals that you know students will accomplish.
I had an email from a teaching asking about a goal that students had set. The goal was 0 late assignments in one month. The student wasn’t meeting the goal and the teacher asked how to encourage the student.
There are two SMART things about this goal that could possibly be revised. Is the goal realistic? Is the goal time-bound enough?
Is 0 late assignments too hard? Maybe give one or two late assignments.
Is a month too long? Try a week, then two weeks.
For the examples further above about letters and math facts, my expectation was that students knew all their letters and math facts, but that wasn’t their goal. Their goal was an individual bite-sized chunk of my whole expectation, a few letters or one set of math facts.
Students need to win at goal setting. Set goals that you know they can easily accomplish.
Remember the ZPD that you learned in your teacher ed programs? The same thing applies to goal setting. Find out where students are right now and move one step forward.
Create a system of celebrating achievements.
CELEBRATE the accomplishments. Set goals that you know your students will win at and then celebrate those wins! Develop a culture in your classroom where you praise students for the good work that they do.
There are many different systems you can put in place, like monthly parties, weekly prizes, notes home, and more. The idea is that are consistently celebrating with students. Students will want to great more goals and start the process all over again!
More Goal Setting Blog Posts
Whether you’re just starting out with goal setting or have been at it for awhile, these posts will help you add to your repertoire.