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September 16, 2021

Four Ways To Practice Goal Setting With Students

Welcome to The New Year!

A time to celebrate, reflect, and set goals. As teachers, we naturally set goals for ourselves in January. Even though it’s a midpoint in the school year, for some reason January feels like a fresh start. But what about our students? Do they use January as a time to reflect, reboot, and set goals for themselves? While hopefully reflection and goal setting are a natural part of your class culture (and if not, check out our Growth Mindset Deep Dive for ideas), January is a great time to ask students to reflect and set some larger learning goals to work toward over the rest of the school year. Here are four ways you can help:

Remind Students to Be Present

The excitement of the holidays and winter break may make it difficult for students to get back into the groove. Before you can even ask students to reflect on their learning and set goals, ask them to truly be at school, learning with you. In this video, Anne Mechler leads her students through a body scan to help calm them down for the day. She also discusses what it means to be present and asks students to set goals around doing just that. Try discussing the meaning of being present throughout the year to remind your students when things get chaotic!

Set Class Culture Goals Together

An easy way to begin goal setting is with classroom goals. Most likely at the start of the year, you discussed class culture with your students (be sure to check out our Class Culture Deep Dive if you haven’t already) and maybe even set goals around it. Now is a good time to take stock of the class culture together, reflect, and set goals to achieve. To see how this might work, check out Monique LaCour’s Number Talks video. At the end of the lesson, she asks students to think about how the talks are going so far, and sets goals for making them even stronger. Students write down ideas on sticky notes and share them out with the class. The poster stays up as a reminder of what they’re working on together.

Harness the Power of the Sticky Note

There are several videos on Teaching Channel where students write their goals on sticky notes. These notes are a great place to record goals — their small size doesn’t overwhelm students, they can be moved around to indicate progress or importance, and let’s face it, who doesn’t like a sticky note?

You can start setting goals with students as young as kindergarten. In Growing from Peer Feedback, watch how Tch Laureate Marion Ivey helps her students create goals by writing down the peer feedback they receive during Author’s Chair. Marion asks them to circle the one piece of feedback they wish to use as a goal for their writing.

In Praising the Process, first graders in Chana Stewart’s class write goals on sticky notes and place them on a bulletin board as a way to visually remind each other what they’re working on.

For high school students, you could adapt Sarah Brown Wessling’s end of lesson Stoplight Method for yearlong goals.

Use Video for Reflection

Many teachers have embraced the practice of filming themselves as part of their professional learning, but how about getting your students to reflect with video? In this video, high school teacher Johanna Paraiso explains how she’s been experimenting with filming her classrooms. Initially, she used video for just her own reflection, but eventually began showing her students the videos as learning tools. She finds video footage to be beneficial for her ELL students, especially when she creates a script from the footage for her students to read. Try filming your students’ conversations, presentations, or projects and have them watch, reflect, and set goals for themselves for the rest of the year. Or maybe there’s something you filmed in the fall that you can watch now and analyze?

How do you plan on building more reflection and goal-setting into your classroom in the new year? Give one of these ideas a try, and let us know how it goes.


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