Use Envisioning Language and Goal Setting to Promote Student Reflection

Showing Students What Is Possible

The language we use with students every day influences how they see themselves. Our words can shape students’ views of themselves years after our direct influence. Envisioning language gives children a vision of what is possible. Many of us can remember someone from our past who created a vision of possibilities for us. By using envisioning statements and/or questions, they helped us create a mental image of ourselves beyond what we perceived to know or do. Envisioning language is at the heart of reflection. It helps students see themselves achieving positive outcomes.

Envisioning Reflecting LangaugeTips for using envisioning language
  • Believe in your words.
  • Use precise language that draws on words students use.
  • Connect the work of school to those things that students value and care about.
  • Use envisioning language before students work on their own, before transitions, during a challenging task, when teaching behavior and routines, and during whole group discussions and one-on-one conferences.
  • Avoid comparing positive identities to negative ones.
Revisiting Mid-Year Goals

Along with using envisioning language, having students consider the goals they’ve set for themselves can help them see both how far they’ve come and where they want to go. Revisiting the goals they created at the beginning of the year helps students think about what they’ve learned so far and what they will learn during the rest of the year. Taking time for a reflective discussion mid-year gives students an opportunity to refocus and practice. It also sets a tone that helps students feel invested in setting and working to achieve specific goals; it also prepares them for joyful learning in the second half of the year.

When we build self-assessment into our daily schoolwork, it helps students:

  • think critically about their work
  • measure their progress
  • take responsibility for their learning
  • develop effective learning strategies
  • become resilient learners


Regular use of self-assessment promotes a growth mindset, and a growth mindset promotes the productive use of self-assessment. Our envisioning language keeps the classroom tone tilted toward growth. When we use words that reinforce and inspire, we send a clear message that learning is a process and our classroom is a safe place to learn and grow.



Written by Ramona McCullough, Responsive Classroom Consulting Teacher, and Educational Consultant and Coach
Tags: Encouragement, Hopes and Dreams/Learning Goals, Reinforcing Language

6 Replies to “Use Envisioning Language and Goal Setting to Promote Student Reflection”

  • Ramona,

    Thank you for the insightful article. I was not familiar with the term “envisioning language,” so I learned a lot from your work. Students can absolutely tell when their teachers do not believe in them, so it is vital that we mean what we say. Goal setting is something I want to introduce next school year, so I will make sure to model envisioning language for my students in the hopes that some of my positivity is transferred. Some of my colleagues will be interested in this for their classrooms, too – thanks!

  • Great article, Ramona! I had never heard of envisioning language, but I really like the phrases and the positive atmosphere they seem to create.
    I want to work with my students more on setting goals and then reflecting on their goals throughout the school year. I think using envisioning language would help my students to set clearer goals and be better able to reflect on them during the year.
    I know some of my co-workers are interested in goal setting as well, I’ll have to share your ideas with them.
    Thank you!

  • Hi Ramona,
    I never had heard the term envisioning language before, so I was very interested in learning more about it. I really liked you examples of reflective language, much of which I am already using in my high school social studies classroom. I think another tip that I have found helpful is always assuming positive intentions from others, which I think lends itself well into putting envisioning language into practice. I am excited to share your examples and promotion of self-assessments with my colleagues!

  • Hi Ramona!
    I’ve never heard of envisioning language, but it’s something that I hope to start using in my daily routine. I love the idea of setting goals and then using daily self-assessments so students can reflect on their achievement of those goals. I’ve been wanting to find ways to incorporate goal setting into my classroom more, I will definitely be sharing this with my colleagues so that we can come up with a system that meets the needs of my students.

  • Very interesting article. Never heard or envisioning language. Learned a lot from it.

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