As the New Year approaches, my family begins to think about goals. Even though I’m a big believer in goals, I have never been great at setting them on January 1 and sticking with them. I do better with my goals when they relate to my current learning.
More and more, I see the benefit of goals in the classroom. I know that adults do better when their goals are self-selected, and I have watched students become much more invested in their own learning when they think about their own learning and set goals for themselves.
In writing, here are some of my favorite ways to incorporate student goal-setting into their instruction.
A group of second-grade teachers made key-ring goal cards. They used the checklists found in Writing Pathways by Lucy Calkins, but any checklist teachers use in their writing classroom could be laminated, cut up, and put on a key ring.
Create a chart that has pockets. A third-grade teacher developed this chart for her opinion unit, but it could be created in any classroom for various genres. Students use the wooden craft sticks in the top right pocket to indicate which aspect of opinion writing they are working on that day. I love that this is a routine of their workshop and that each day they have a reminder of the key components of this genre. The teacher also has a quick way to group students for targeted instruction.
This next chart was created in a fourth-grade classroom. We asked students to celebrate their learning on one sticky note and then say what they’d have as goals on another one. Students love to write on sticky notes, and they were really reflective and honest about the work they should aim for in their next writing piece.
Learning targets are powerful concepts for students, and we created these handouts for fourth-grade narrative writers. However, they could be modified to work across content areas and grade levels. I gave the students blank targets on one side, but on the opposite side, I filled out my own version to reinforce the concept of continuous learning regardless of age and skill levels. Because I was honest about my strengths and goals, the students were, too.
One of my favorite mid-unit celebrations I ever did in a classroom was in this fifth-grade classroom where students read each other’s work, and then wrote down what they noticed and where they saw it. Those noticings became goals for the students, and they found themselves with a classroom full of mentors and experts. As the unit progressed, students consulted with each other more and more, increasing the feeling of a community of writers and learners.
I love offering students opportunities to sign up for “seminars.” Somehow just the word sounds important and meaningful. I highly recommend this practice as a way to build goal-setting practices, engagement, and self-assessment. It’s also a wonderful way to determine small groups and streamline efficient instructional practices.
I know that I will continue to work with both teachers and students to increase students’ involvement with assessing their own work and setting their own goals. The more students have ownership and responsibility for their own learning, the better off they will be as they advance through our school systems and become independent, high-functioning citizens.