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Goal Setting 101:
Setting Individual Goals

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
~ Anonymous

You don't have to wait to achieve a class goal before teaching students to set personal goals for themselves. The steps of the process are the same, but because students will be setting individual goals, you'll need to approach the task a little differently. You'll want to focus on short term goals at first because they are more manageable and easier to monitor during the school year.

Start by asking students to brainstorm a list of goals they might want to accomplish during the next grading period. List each idea on chart paper or on the overhead projector, and help students word them in a clear and measurable way. For example, "Get better grades" might be reworded as "Earn the A/B Honor Roll for the 2nd grading period."

Next, distribute a copy of the My Goals blackline master and ask students to select five or six goals to list in the left column, one goal per box. You can allow them to add their own goals as well, rather than requiring them to just copy from the class list. With younger students you might want to start by having them set a single short term goal for themselves. In that case, you can use the I Can Do It! blackline master instead of the My Goals form.

A word of caution for goal-setting newbies: You might want to collect students goals and read through them before working on the action plans. Just a quick read-through at this point, followed by a few short conferences, can save students a lot of frustration later on.


Goal Setting 101

* Goal Setting 101: Understanding the Process
* Goal Setting 101: The Process in Action
* Goal Setting 101: Setting Individual Goals

When students are ready, introduce the action plan concept by sharing with them this anonymous quote: "A goal without a plan is just a wish." If anyone is serious about accomplishing goals, he or she needs an action plan to follow. Remind students of the action plan you created for your class goal, and point out how each step involved a specific action.

Next, take each short term goal on the class list and help students write appropriate action plans for them. Sample action plans might involve writing down homework in a planner, spending 30 minutes reading each evening, or creating flashcards to study for tests. Allow plenty of time for this step, especially if the process is new to students.

After the goals and action plans are complete, each student should post his or her goals in a place where they'll be seen each day, such as in the front of a notebook or daily planner. Have students take a minute each morning to read through their lists and visualize themselves achieving their goals. You even might have them choose one special goal and draw a picture of themselves as they will look when they accomplish it.

At the end of each week, ask students to reflect on their progress for that week and make any adjustments necessary to their action plans.

At the end of the grading period, take time to recognize students for the goals they've accomplished. Nothing elaborate is required, but it's important that you give students some time to reflect on their accomplishments. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Give students sheets of stickers and let them put a sticker on each goal they accomplished.
  • Ask students to take their My Goals sheets in hand and move around the room. Encourage them stop every few moments, and share their accomplishments with a partner. Invite students to describe the goal they're most proud of reaching.
  • During a class meeting, allow each student to share one goal he or she accomplished.
  • With students seated in teams of four or five, give each student one minute to tell about the goals he or she set and to explain how those goals were reached (or how his or her action plans need to be adjusted for the future.)

As is true when teaching any new strategy, once is not enough. Repeat the entire goal-setting process every nine weeks and your students will be pros by the end of the year. In the words of Walt Disney, "If you can dream it, you can do it." Let's teach our students to dream big and give them the tools they need to make those dreams reality.

For more information and resources for helping students set and achieve both group and individual goals, see Laura Candler's Classroom Goal Setting Power Pack, or Laura's Blog.

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