Setting Goals With Students

As a writer, I am always thinking about ways I can strengthen my work. In classrooms, I try to shift the ownership of learning toward the students, and one of the ways I do this is by talking to students about what they are working on as writers–what their goals are. It’s an important shift as it heightens my focus to teach students to become writers as opposed to showing them how to better a specific piece.

Recently, I got to work with kindergarten to fifth-grade teachers, and we talked about the importance of goal-setting. Searching for a short video or two, I came across one of a puppy learning to climb a wall! These two puppies showed so many characteristics of the learning process. If you do take the time to watch it, think about the encouragement, the nudge, the refusal to accept help, the adjustment of the task, and even the fact that sometimes we have to reevaluate what we think we’ve already mastered.

I have had a chance to use this video with fourth-grade students, and I have asked them to think about what helps when we are trying to accomplish a goal and what gets in the way. This video inspires some great insights, especially when viewed a few times. (Because it’s less than 40 seconds long, multiple viewings are easy.) The students not only love it, but they also recognize some important concepts!

I have created charts about goals that look like this, although please feel free to tweak them. The one with just the bullseye is one I’d use for younger students, while the one on the left is one I’ve used with older students. When I used the video, I left the T-chart empty, and we filled it in together as part of the lesson. I also left the bottom blank, and I had students talk in partnerships about the steps involved in setting goals. The level of conversations and debate was impressive.

Teaching these concepts as an inquiry took longer than the traditional ten minutes of a minilesson, and it could be shortened by just presenting the information to students. That being said, I definitely felt like it was time well spent. Once we teach students about goals and the importance of them in our lives, we can use the accompanying language in not only their writing lives but also in all aspects of their, and our own, learning.