Setting Goals, Hopes, and Dreams: Connecting Students to the Community

Watching a student show up to school each day excited to learn is one of the great joys of teaching. We give our students that spark when we help them figure out what they want to achieve during the school year, then show them the ways they can achieve those goals. In elementary school, we call this practice hopes and dreams. In middle school, it is referred to as setting SMART goals.

Along with doing the important work of getting students excited and motivated to learn, helping students set hopes, dreams, and goals:

  • holds students accountable for their behaviors
  • encourages students to take ownership of the steps they need to achieve their goals
  • supports students as they see the progress of their efforts
  • motivates students to keep going in moments where they hit a roadblock or a challenge
  • teaches students how to build off their weaknesses in order to become successful
  • reminds students of how their goals are connected to both the classroom and school rules

Here are some tips for elementary school teachers to get started on hopes and dreams and for middle school teachers to help students set SMART goals. Jump to the section that’s relevant to you.

Tips for Hopes and Dreams

  • Preview the year in some way. Perhaps there are books, math samples, or science equipment students will be using that can help them envision what they want to achieve.
  • Brainstorm hopes and dreams with students. It can help students to brainstorm one day and then wait until the next day to select their hopes and dreams.
  • Allow time for students to share their hopes and dreams so that all students know and can generate class rules that allow all students to meet their hopes and dreams.
  • Make hopes and dreams visible by putting up a display in the classroom.
  • Make hopes and dreams come alive all year by building time for reflection. For example, “how has your learning this week helped you build upon your hopes and dreams?”

Tips for Setting SMART Goals

  • Review the class syllabus and schedule with students. Prompt them to look for a unit that they find interesting or a goal they have for the quarter or semester.
  • Help students brainstorm SMART goals. Encourage them to consider academic, social, and behavioral goals.
  • Connect their goals to the classroom rules to create a shared vision of expectations.
  • Connect the rules to concrete behaviors so students have an idea of how the rules will look, sound, and feel in action.
  • Make the rules come alive by using the rules regularly in class discussions and make students’ SMART goal planners available in a binder.
  • To make sure students are getting the most out of their SMART goals, have them regularly fill out a SMART goal self-assessment (available in our Investing Students in the Rules Planning Guide).
  • Make time throughout the year to check in individually with students.

Get Started!

Imagine a classroom in which students are curious and engaged. Their confidence continues to grow with each new success, and they understand that following the rules supports the learning community. By having students articulate their hopes, dreams, and goals, you can make this classroom a reality for them.

To find out more about hopes and dreams, check out The First Six Weeks of School. To find out more about setting SMART goals, check out Building an Academic Community.

Tags: Hopes and Dreams/Learning Goals

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3 Replies to “Setting Goals, Hopes, and Dreams: Connecting Students to the Community”

  • This is one of the most powerful tasks students and teachers engage in at the start of the year. It sets the stage for how the year is framed.

  • Is it possible to share contact information of the librarian who created the Hopes & Dreams board that is shown in the article? I am the music teacher at my K-6 elementary school and would love to hear from the librarian about how they had a meaningful discussion around hopes & dreams in the short time that they probably see students. Thank you!

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