Re-Setting Student/Teacher Goals for the New Semester
As 2020 comes to a close, K-12 students and teachers begin to relish the last few days of their holiday vacations. If you are a teacher, you are also thinking about helping your students to set goals for the spring semester. From meeting standards, learning new skills, and improving old ones, there is always something to work towards. Tapping into the power of goal setting can help your students to reach new heights, academically and behaviorally.
Goal setting is a highly useful life skill that builds values such as motivation, persistence, determination, confidence, and it encourages a growth mindset. But setting goals—and sticking with them—isn’t an easy task, even for adults. So how can you help your students set and achieve goals?
Setting the Foundation for Goal Setting
The first step in the goal-setting process is to lay the foundation. Even if your students were taught the goal-setting process at the beginning of the year, many of them need a refresher. For PreK students, you need to help them learn the differences between a wish and a goal.
Instead of trying to overcomplicate things, read aloud a book like Froggy Rides a Bike by Jonathan London, which will help make them make the distinction between a wish and a goal. During this endearing tale, the title character, Froggy, wishes he owned a trick bicycle, but his goal is to learn to ride a bike. He ends up working towards his goal, and through persistence, he achieves it. You will find that sharing books on goal setting helps all students learn the goal-setting process.
For early elementary students, Peter’s effort in Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats is an excellent example of relentlessly working towards achieving a goal. Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller has examples of a variety of goals, from learning to read to becoming a good helper.
When it comes to upper elementary and middle school, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Meale, works quite well. It narrates a boy’s tireless work to provide water for his community during a drought. The book recounts the sub-goals he works towards during this process, such as researching sustainable solutions and teaching himself how to build a windmill.
A good option for high school students is Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo. The book is a biography of a diver who set and reached her goals, both physical and academic, and eventually became an Olympian.
Teach Students How to Make Their Goals SMARTER
Now that your students understand the foundations of and the importance of goal setting, you can teach them how to develop their own. These goals will determine what students learn and allow you to help them achieve better learning outcomes.
The most effective way to help students learn to set goals is through a strategy called SMARTER. This stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely, evaluated, and reviewed. SMARTER goals allow students and teachers to become focused and develop equitable assessments.
A SMARTER goal must be
- Specific (Know what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it, and how you will achieve it.)
- Measurable (How will you know when the goal has been accomplished?)
- Achievable (Make sure the goal is challenging, yet still realistic.)
- Results-Focused (The goal should focus on the desired outcome.)
- Time-Bound (Link the goal to a realistic timeframe to help motivate your student.)
- Evaluated (If you evaluate your goals every single day, you’ll be much more likely to achieve them)
- Reviewed (Did you achieve your goal? If not, how will you readjust your learning strategies and techniques?)
Strategies for helping student’s implement SMARTER goals
SMARTER goals are designed to be easily understandable for students of any grade, with a focus on learning activities. Here are some SMARTER goal strategies that you can use with your students.
- Give students a SMARTER goal planning sheet, which they can use to evaluate their progress each week.
- A graphic organizer can help students focus on their goals.
- One teacher keeps a huge blank laminated calendar on the wall where students place a sticky note with a weekly goal. At the end of the week, they evaluate where they succeeded and where they need improvement.
- The Frayer model can work well for setting specific goals.
- Try allowing students to use a goal-setting app. There are tons of them out there, so start researching now.
The Power of Breaking a Goal into Manageable Steps
Psychologist Amy Cuddy believes that many people fail to accomplish their goals because they’re too “big” and “distant.” She suggests separating goals into steps, and she gives the example of a lazy man who dreams of competing in marathons. When you first set this goal, 26.2 miles will seem like an impossible task, which will likely end in failure. Instead, it would be beneficial to set mini-goals to run two miles, then five miles, then eventually seven miles, and so on.
Goal setting allows students to use the same process. If, for example, a student’s goal is to make the Honor Roll, they should work toward obtaining an “A” in one class at a time. This gives them opportunities to celebrate success and build confidence along the way, which will increase their motivation and chances of success.
Plan for Obstacles (Using the WOOP Method)
Dr. Gabriele Oettingen and Dr. Peter Gollwitzer created a goal-setting strategy called WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan). The second half of this acronym requires your students to brainstorm obstacles that may prevent them from reaching their goals, such as getting distracted by their phones while studying.
Next, your student must come up with an action plan for overcoming this obstacle. For example, they may decide, “If/when my phone distracts me from studying, I’ll give it to mom until I’m done.” By using the WOOP method, your students will be prepared to deal with potential obstacles when they arise, which will make them more likely to stick with their goal despite these challenges.
Accomplishing your goals isn’t easy. However, you can help students by teaching them to lay the foundation for goal setting, develop SMARTER goals, break the goal into manageable steps, and plan for potential obstacles. If you use the ideas that were outlined in this article, your students will be masterful goal-setters in no time.