The Power of Goal-Setting

Title Image: The Power of Goal Setting

I am all about goal-setting. Goals help me stay motivated! I set long-term personal and career goals. I set fitness goals. I even set goals for a productive weekend at home to make sure I get all of my chores done. Everytime I set a goal, I need a way to visually represent what I want (or else I’ll forget!). This may be as simple as a reminder on my phone or a post-it note on the bathroom mirror, but it keeps me going!

I want the students in my classroom to feel that same motivation and sense of achievement, which is why I help them set goals in almost every subject area. When it comes to writing workshop, I believe writers deserve the autonomy to pick their goals. Asking students to reflect on their skills and choose the direction they want to go helps them build a writer’s identity. It’s also more motivating to work towards something you’ve picked yourself. When I provide students with goal options, it might be two or three different skills that I’ve noticed the class as a whole needs to work on. Sometimes, I make a progression of goals that move from basic to more challenging. This makes it a bit easier for students to pick a new goal after they’ve mastered one, as they can just move to the next step in the progression. Here is a goal progression I created for my Kindergarten class:

3 Goals for writers: letter labels, write a word, and write a sentence.
A goal progression for Kindergarteners (click to enlarge).

To help kids (and myself) keep track of goals, I pass out color-coded post-its for each goal. For Kindergarteners, I write the goal on the post-it and students draw an example. Kids stick their post-its under a photo of themselves on our goal bulletin board so they can refer to it as needed. Having a central bulletin board is helpful for conferring! Any adult can walk in, take a look, and have something to discuss with writers. This bulletin board is also helpful for creating same-goal partnerships or small groups.

Goal post-its including written goal and student-drawn example.
A few of our goal post-its (click to enlarge).

Consider how these visual tools might support writers. Think out of the box about goals that might be helpful for your classroom:

  • Genre-specific goals 
  • Revision skills
  • Volume goal 
  • Conventions and mechanics
  • Writing behaviors like stamina, choosing a good writing spot, or talking with a partner

A progression with visual examples provides learners with a model. Our model was very helpful for one writer whose work is pictured below. Before choosing a goal, he had single letter labels on his picture. After our goal lesson, he independently opened this book (which he had previously said was finished!) and added one more letter to each label to make it a “word.”

Student drawing with labels. Each labels has two letters, a beginning and end sound.
Can you find where this writer labeled the “water,” “mud,” and “grass?” (Click to enlarge).

This next writer needed some conferring help to get started on her goal. Since her goal was letter labels, I asked her how many she thought she should put on a page. She boldly chose “ten!” She looked for every place on her picture to add letters (including labeling each color of the rainbow) and counted them as she went. We added the number 10 to her goal post-it to help her remember this challenge!

Student drawing labeled with letters.
This writer was so motivated to meet her lofty goal of ten letters on each page (Click to enlarge).

Finishing goals is a big celebration! When you see independent evidence of the goal throughout a student’s writing, it’s probably time for them to pick a new goal. You might decide this in a conferring session, or lead a minilesson sharing new options for kids who feel ready to move on. When kids meet a goal, I take their post-it off the bulletin board and save it in this special spot in their writing folder.

Students put completed goals in their writing folders to help them remember all they’ve achieved (Click to enlarge).

Saving completed goals helps students reflect on how much they’ve learned. Teachers can also reference this page while conferring to remind kids of skills that should be present in their writing. I can’t wait to see how full this page is by the end of the school year!

One thought on “The Power of Goal-Setting

  1. These are such great ideas, Leah! And I can see how goal setting could be very motivating for those students who are in that ‘zone of proximal development’—on the cusp of understanding or mastery. Can’t wait to use goals more in my classroom!

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