Goal Setting With Students

goal setting with students

The entire dynamic of my elementary classroom changed when I began goal setting with students.  The students began taking ownership of their work. In fact, they even began looking to others for tips and tricks on how to succeed. They became more motivated and – dare I say – happier!

Setting Goals with Elementary Students
Setting Goals with Elementary Students Can be so much Fun!

Goal setting with elementary students can be intimidating.  Where do you start?  Can elementary students actually even set goals?  How often should we set goals? What do I do when a goal is met?  Read on to find the answer to these questions… and more!

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Why Set Goals with Elementary Students?

Students may have many goal setting misconceptions, but if you teach them, they absolutely can be successful. Furthermore, students do better when they set goals and feel in control of their learning. Robert Marzano’s (2009) review of research, for example, finds goal setting can produce student learning gains of between 18 and 41 percentile points. Wow! For the purposes of this blog post, all goal setting tips and tricks are geared toward students in grades three and above. 

Step 1 – Teach Students How to Set SMART Goals Using Simplified Tools

SMART Goal Setting with Students Posters
SMART Goal Setting Poster (In bright & muted colors)
  • First, teach students how to set goals by teaching them “SMART” goals.  I do this in my classroom by using a teaching poster (for reference,) and with a video.  Here is a great video to use for upper elementary students:
Goal Setting With Students Using SMART Goals
  • After we have discussed SMART goals, I let the students create a fun flipbook as a reference tool they can decorate & keep in an interactive notebook or tape to their desk. When goal-setting, students can easily refer back to the flipbook they created if they need help.
student smart goals example
Students Create SMART Goal Setting Flipbooks
  • Next, you will use some sort of organizer to help the students organize their thoughts and set goals that are actually “SMART.” We use the student friendly goal sheet pictured below. I love it because it walks the students through the entire process in an easy to understand way. It also has a reflection piece at the bottom that give them a space to reflect on their goals and even gets parents involved! Finally, there is a reflection journal on the back, so they can keep track of their progress, challenges, things they learn from others, etc… (I send these home weekly to get signed, and then I take them up on Monday to keep for documentation.)
Goal Setting Graphic Organizer
Goal Setting Graphic Organizer & Reflection Journal for Students

Step 2: Determine Time & Format

Goal setting can look many different ways.  Not all goals are created equal, so not all goals need the same timeline.   I do, however, suggest starting with the same timeline.  I like to set goals on Monday and try to complete them by Friday. We use this timeline for the first couple of months. 

I also begin setting goals with my kiddos using the same format.  For example, I will have each individual set a goal of “I can earn 15 dojo points by Friday.”  Now this example may not work in your room if you don’t use Class Dojo, obviously.  So think of something all students do and can be successful at.  I suggest starting there. You can also easily modify this for each student if you feel it is needed. 

3. Motivate & Celebrate!

Celebrate!! If you are teaching in person, you can have all the students give “10 finger WOO’s” to the student.  If you are virtual, you can post the student’s photo on your Google Classroom.  This part is up to you. The more excited you are about setting goals, the more excited they will be!  Once they meet a goal, give them another sheet and they get to set a new one! 

Goal setting with students
Motivate Students Using the Goal Getters Bulletin Display

This bulletin board is a great way to help celebrate “goal getters.”  Once the kiddo successfully completes a goal, they get to fill out the little form and hang it on our “goal getters” wall. 

Goal Setting in a Virtual Setting

Are you teaching virtually?  You can use these same tools during your virtual instruction!  I have included resources that can be implemented using Google Slides to help students fill out their complete their goals digitally!

goal setting with students

I hope these tips and tricks help motivate and inspire you to begin setting goals in your classroom.  The success I have seen in my classroom is so rewarding, and I believe you can have this too.   To download the contents I have referred to in this post, please click the photo below. 

goal setting with students

Free Goal Setting Sheets For Teachers

I have some free printables that will help you goal set too, teacher friend! To grab these free, simply sign up for the freebie vault & the password & login information will be emailed straight to your inbox!

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goal setting with students
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Stephanie Nash

I have been helping teachers organize, develop routines, and create inviting & beautiful classrooms since 2012!

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