6 Ways to Help Students Set Goals

As adults, we know the importance of setting goals, creating a plan of action to REACH those goals, and celebrating our successes.  However, many of our students struggle with intrinsic motivation and are not yet familiar with the concept of life planning.  I believe that with guidance, educators can help students change their mindset through goal setting.  Below, you will find six tips to prepare your students for a new year and start setting goals!

As the new year (2017) approaches, it's important that we as educators emphasize the idea of a "new start" and a "new you"!  Our students may have experienced an exorbitant amount of failure in 2016 and are feeling unfocused and let down.  We can change that, though!  Create an atmosphere that screams "new beginnings" in your classroom.  You can do this in a number of ways, but I would suggest creating a growth mindset bulletin board, posting motivational quotes around the classroom, and making your journal prompts or bell ringers related to goal setting for the month of January.   These small touches might make the difference in helping your students achieve their goals.

  I think most students understand the concept of planning a goal and working hard to achieve it, but failure?  Not so much.  It's disheartening and can seem like the end of the world for a teenager, which is why it's important to stress the significance of learning from failure. One way to do this is discussing the famous role models who have failed multiple times before getting where they are now.  My favorite "famous failures" are: Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and Walt Disney.  All of these people experienced failure before their success.  If our students see that, they will be able to relate! 

I've created this goal setting tic-tac-toe activity for you to use with your students.  The goal (see what I did there?) of this exercise is to get students thinking beyond a simple ambition and actually put it into action.  Students will write a SMART goal and rehearse, picture, predict, visualize, track, sketch, document, and plan their goal.  Simply click here or on the picture to download this game for free.

Your students have created a SMART goal and can visualize the end product, but do they have a plan?  The next step is creating a plan of action.  Follow these simple steps to create a solid plan.
1. Ask students to label a blank sheet of notebook paper 1-10. 
2. Prompt students to write the end result of their goal for number 10. 
3. Direct students to write their SMART goal for number 1. 
4. Guide students in writing ACTION steps for the numbers in between. 
 I emphasize the word "action" because they need to be things the students can track and document.  For example, if my goal was to earn a 92% or higher on my vocabulary test, an action step I would take is developing 2 flashcards per vocab word.  I can track and document that step.  Worried about your students losing this paper?  Have them decorate it with pictures of the steps and display them around the classroom.  This will also hold them accountable for their action steps. 

Growth mindset is such an important concept that is being taught in schools today.  First, let's define growth and fixed mindset.  People with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence, skill, or talent is something that you are born with– something that is fixed, and unable to be changed.  Fixed mindsets allow people to believe that a person is either good or bad at something, based on nature.  For example: Nicole is a natural born genius.  This statement suggests that Nicole was born smart and that effort did not lead to her intelligence level.  People with a growth mindset believe and understand that with effort and perseverance, they can succeed– even if failure comes first.  Growth mindsets allow people to think their  abilities are directly tied to their actions.  For example: Nicole’s ability to develop a detailed outline is admirable.  This statement suggests that Nicole worked hard at a challenging task, allowing her to succeed at writing a detailed outline.  If your students believe that they can actually achieve the goal they set, then you're on your way to having a group of students with growth mindsets. 

Still feeling a little apprehensive about goal setting?  That's okay, I was too-- which is why I created this growth journal designed to help students set ONE specific goal and achieve it in one month's time.  I didn't want to overwhelm students with setting multiple goals, which is why this growth journal is focused on only one. Students will track their weekly progress, map out their plan of action, reflect of daily gratitude, and design a weekly timeline to track progress.  You can find the growth journal here, the Growth Mindset Portfolio here, or click on the images below! 

Thank you so much for reading! I would love to know how YOU help your students set goals for the new year, too!  Please comment with any tips, tricks, or suggestions.  Best of luck as the new year approaches.  You're making a difference every single day. 

Looking for more ways to help students set goals? Check out these resources:
-Get to Know You and Goal Setting by Addie Williams
-Growth Mindset Resources for the Secondary Classroom by The Daring English Teacher
-3 Activities to Help You Get to Know Your Class by Stacey Lloyd
-FREE: Resolutions Bingo: New Years Goal Activity by Secondary Sara

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