Why Goal Setting is Good for Your Students

Updated: Jan 2

You've heard the saying, “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” but did you know that phrase was actually coined by a French pilot and author named Antoine de Saint-Exupery? Goals are difficult to achieve without an actionable plan, and you can help your students by teaching them the best way to set goals in the new year.

I can’t count the number of times I made a new year’s resolution I didn’t keep. The reason I failed was lack of a solid plan. Sound familiar? When I started writing out the steps I would take to achieve my goals, I was able to accomplish so much more.

Teach SMART Goals

Goal setting is a beneficial, lifelong skill our students need to be taught. January is the perfect time to introduce them to the concept of SMART goals which includes writing actionable steps they can take to be successful in the classroom. We are asked to do so much more than teach our learning standards, but goal setting is one skill I know is worth the effort.

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound focused goals that will provide students with a direct path to achievement. The key is to attach clear deadlines with actionable steps, so they are more likely to follow through.

Make Goal Setting Part of Your Class

Let me share how I use goal setting in my classroom. To begin, I teach a quick lesson on SMART goals and have students practice writing some. Be sure they pay close attention to the action steps they write. This is the one area of goal setting that even we as adults tend to trip over. Students should learn to avoid writing broad general goals with few or ineffective action steps. I show examples of vague vs specific goals, and it really helps them understand the difference. You can preview the full resource I use with students here.

After the initial lesson, we make goal setting part of our Monday routine. It takes 5 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 every administrator will recognize.

New Year's Reflective Assignment

One way to get your students thinking is my New Year's Countdown assignment. It's a no-prep activity they can complete and use all year. I have them keep it in their writing journal because it makes a wonderful source of personal writing prompts and journal entry ideas, too. As part of the activity, your students will choose a focus word for the year. Selecting one simple word may seem like a small task, but it takes a lot of careful thought.

What are some goals you've set for yourself in the new year? Did you choose a focus word? My word for the year is SHINE! Share your ideas about goal setting with students and your own focus word in the comments. Wishing you a productive and exciting new year in 2021!


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