Hopes Make Goals Come Alive in a Speech & Language Classroom

Setting and working toward goals with students is a key element of my work as a speech/language pathologist. Each student I work with has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which names goals for that child.

After reading Rules in School I realized that the “hopes and dreams” process described in the book as the first step in classroom rule making could also be a way to get my students more directly involved in setting goals for themselves.

Most of my students answered the more general hopes and dreams question “What do you hope to learn and do this year in school?” as part of the rule making process in their classrooms. So, in their smaller speech/language groups, they focused specifically on hopes and dreams for better communication skills.

First, we spent time discussing what “communication” is and brainstorming about what good communicators do. Then, we focused in on each student’s communication strengths and needs. The children thought about things they were good at and what challenged them. For example, Karen said, “I’m a good listener when you read, but it’s hard for me to answer questions about the story.”

The next step was to focus on an area in which they hoped to improve this year. Each child completed this sentence starter: “Good communication skills are important for my learning. This year, I hope to _______.”

Some children’s classroom hopes and dreams connected directly to a more specific speech/language hope and dream. For instance, Doug’s hope in class was to “read harder books.” Within his speech/language group, Doug acknowledged that although he truly wanted to read harder books, he often didn’t know the meanings of words he read. So Doug’s speech and language group goal became “This year, I hope to build my vocabulary.”

We posted all the responses on a bulletin board entitled “Our Hopes and Dreams for Better Communication Skills.” This display serves as a valuable reference for all of us throughout the year. Students also use it at the end of every session when they self-assess by asking “Did I work toward my goal today?” It helps me as well. Seeing the students’ hopes every day brings their paperwork to life and reminds me to keep their goals in mind.

Joan O’Brien works with students in grades K4 at Calvin Coolidge Elementary School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

Tags: Hopes and Dreams/Learning Goals, Special Areas, Special Needs