Goal Setting with Students in the New Year

How many times have you made new year’s resolutions only to find that you didn’t keep them? The new year presents us an opportunity to reflect on our teaching and make adjustments and changes to not only our mindset but our practices. It’s simple to commit to general resolutions, but it takes a bit more thought and effort to write out specific, measurable goals.


Goal setting isn't just for adults. It's an important concept to teach students, too! As you are thinking about your own personal and professional new year's goals, it's the perfect time to introduce goal setting to your students.


What are SMART Goals?

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound focused goals that will provide you with a direct path to growth and success. The key is to attach clear deadlines with actionable steps, so you are more likely to follow through. SMART goals are targeted with specific deadlines, so you will be more likely to stick with them and achieve success.

Here are some questions that can help you evaluate and uncover areas of need in your teaching. It’s a great starting point for setting goals, being intentional in your practice, and working with purpose. You can use these at the semester break, at the end of the year, or any time you are feeling stuck.


  • Think about a typical day in your classroom. What parts of your day stand out in a positive light? What are the parts that bring joy, calm, and pride? What parts do you enjoy least and why?


  • Consider your physical classroom or work environment. What aspects of this space make you feel uneasy, anxious, or overwhelmed?


  • Look over your curriculum guide, units, lesson plans, and grade book. What about each of those do you feel most accomplished? What aspect of these items causes you to stress or feel anxious or overwhelmed?


  • Reflect on your relationships with colleagues. How do they affect and influence you and your attitude about teaching?


Make Goal Setting Part of Your Class

So how do I use goal setting with my students? Research shows that when students take ownership of their learning, increased growth and progress happens. You might be thinking that this is just one more thing on your plate to add in an already too short class period. Let me tell you the results are worth it. Here is how I incorporate goal setting.


On Monday of each week, often during morning meeting or homeroom time, I teach a quick lesson on SMART goals and have students practice writing achievable goals. Check out the sample of my goal setting resource from the freebie library here. Have students pay particular attention to the action steps they write. This is the one area of goal setting that even we as adults tend to trip over. We write broad general goals with few or ineffective action steps.


After the initial lesson, we make goal setting a part of our Monday routine. It takes 5-10 minutes and can set the tone for the rest of the week. If you need to justify using the time for goal setting, throw in complete sentences, action verbs, and cause and effect. Students write their goals in complete sentences with correct punctuation. Students use specific verbs to list actions needed to achieve goals. Students understand the relationship between the action and end result. Those are standards that every administrator will recognize.


One engaging activity that will get students thinking about goals is the New Year Countdown assignment. It's a no-prep handout your students can use all year and a great resource for writing prompts and journal entries, too.


What are some ways you hold students accountable for their learning? Drop your personal experiences in the comments. Wishing you a productive and exciting new year in 2020!


Happy teaching!

Melissa