Goal Setting: An Ongoing Method for Channeling New Energy

Every January 1st, we all receive a chance to start fresh. While many of us set a New Year’s resolution, often we only manage to stick with it for a week or two! What if there was an approach to starting fresh in the new year that actually produces results? SMART goals—goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound—are a way to bring a reflective, purposeful energy into your classroom and help your young adolescent students increase performance, sustain long-term investment, and foster success in the classroom.

Goal Setting: An Ongoing Method for Channeling New EnergySetting a SMART Goal

The first step is for students to articulate one or more SMART goals. These goals can be behavioral, academic, or social. This step can be challenging for young adolescents, who can be self-conscious and may defensively set superficial goals. Guiding questions can help students develop a clear picture of expectations and where to focus their time and attention. Here are some examples of reflection questions you can use to help students brainstorm:

  • Think about a success you had last year in school; what do you think helped lead to that success?
  • How do you think this class will stretch your thinking this year?
  • What is a skill or type of support that you might need in order to be successful in this class?
  • What do you think are some qualities of a healthy friendship?
  • How can you demonstrate learning in a particular unit?
  • What skills might help you stay focused and on task during class?
Using SMART Goals as a Teaching Tool

Once students have set SMART goals, use their new goals to help them feel invested in the classroom rules. When middle schoolers understand how the rules are designed to support them and their classmates in reaching their goals, they are more likely to be intrinsically motivated, confident, and perseverant as they take on new challenges.

This investment takes four steps. The first is for students to set a SMART goal. Then, guide them through the process of connecting their new goal to the rules in order to understand how the rules are designed to support them. Next, show students how rules connect to concrete behaviors. Finally, make the rules come alive by using the rules regularly in your language and making the rules visible as a display in the classroom. Use our Investing Students in the Rules Planner as a resource as you help students make this connection between their goals and the rules.

Goal Setting as an Act of Communicating Hope

Much like turning the calendar on a new year, setting a SMART goal can provide students with a feeling of hope and renewal. Progressing toward their goals can boost students’ self-esteem and persuade them to aim higher. SMART goals also get them actively involved, which increases the amount they learn and sharpens their decision-making skills. Finally, setting goals encourages students to picture their own future successes and name positive outcomes, which has a similarly positive effect as when you use envisioning language in the classroom.

Goal setting is an ongoing practice.  As students meet their goals, guide them in creating new goals. Let’s move from making New Year’s resolutions to helping students develop short- and long-term plans of action that build momentum and skills for life.

To learn more about helping students set goals in the new year, check out:

Building an Academic Community

 

 

Written by Michelle Benson, Responsive Classroom Consulting Teacher and Professional Development Designer
Tags: Classroom Rules, Encouragement, Hopes and Dreams/Learning Goals

2 Replies to “Goal Setting: An Ongoing Method for Channeling New Energy”

  • Hi Michelle,
    I really enjoyed your article, especially the guiding questions to help students set SMART goals. I want my students to reflect more on their learning, and I think having them set goals for themselves will be a great way to encourage this behavior.
    I always have rules in my classroom, but I rarely ever reference them after that first day. I think emphasizing how the rules are there to help students be successful will encourage students to follow the rules more.
    I can’t wait to use your guiding questions to help my students form their goals. I think this would be a great resource for my entire middle school team.
    Thank you!

  • Hi Michelle,
    Thank you for the reminder of how important it is to set goals with students. I struggle setting goals with younger students as they are often very broad. I thought your guiding questions were helpful and could be used with primary students to narrow down a goal. I also like the idea of checking in with students once they accomplish their goal and have them make a new one. I am going to use the SMART goal model in my classroom this school year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *