Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal.
My students were settled into their independent reading, I grabbed my conferring journal and clipboard and saw that Grace was first on my list for the day. I looked over and saw her wedged between two bookcases, reading quietly. I settled in next to her and was about to ask what she wanted to read to me when she softly asked, “How’s your stamina?”
Not sure I had heard her soft-spoken voice correctly, I asked, “What’s that, honey?”
“How’s your stamina?” she repeated just as softly as before.
Confused, I searched my brain, wondering why she was asking me this. In a split second I remembered my minilesson from the prior week about goal setting and spending time to really think and reflect on what we needed to work on in our reading. I had shared the story of reading Commonwealth by Ann Patchett during our last snow day and how I struggled with focus. I found that while I was lying on the couch reading, I got up multiple times to check my phone for incoming messages or my laptop for emails and news. I shared how I stood up to get a drink, go to the bathroom, and check on my kids.
I explained that I had a hard time getting “sucked into” my book and realized that my stamina, even as an adult reader, needed fixing up. I told the class that I was setting a goal for myself to improve my stamina, to set aside time to read uninterrupted and slowly extend the minutes that I spent reading. I gave students time to talk about areas they would like to improve and sent them off to read.
I was surprised that Grace asked about my stamina, and that she remembered and thought about my goal setting. Reading conferences were supposed to be me doing the coaching, not the other way around. But her question made me pause, reflect, and share honestly that my stamina wasn’t much better, that I really hadn’t put much time or effort toward it. I wasn’t embarrassed to share this, and I actually appreciated the time to reflect. I made a plan right there with her that I would continue to work toward this goal, especially on the weekend when I had more time to sit and read for long periods of time.
At our reading reflection circle that day I shared Grace’s question, as well as my appreciation that she remembered my goal and that I still needed to work on it. Having a buddy to check in with kept me focused on my goal. I asked the class how they were feeling about their own goals. Very few of them shared anything, and some looked at me a bit confused.
The next day I started our lesson with time to reflect on their goals: how it was going, how they felt about their goals, and their plan to move forward. I asked them to record their goals on a paper that I created and share them with their reading partner. We agreed to check in with ourselves, and our partners, with a written reflection each week.
I finished reading Commonwealth (and loved every page) the following week but know that I need to continue to rebuild my reading focus and limit distractions. My experience with Grace reminded me that having a buddy check-in helps keep me focused on my goal and gives me time to honestly reflect. I was also reminded that when I share my reading life with my students, they do listen and wait to find out how it turns out. And they are ready to coach me when I need it.
This week we look at goals and fresh starts in the new year. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
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Tara Barnett and Kate Mills detail their process of helping students set weekly goals and then reflect on their progress every Friday:
Matt Renwick shares the questions and strategies he uses for promoting reflection and goal setting with teachers:
Melanie Meehan presents some of her favorite strategies for goal setting:
Pernille Ripp reflects upon what makes goals authentic and meaningful for her seventh-grade students:
This whimsical poem on goals by David Budbill would be a great opener or closing for a PD session on goals:
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Gigi McAllister is disappointed by the shallow and unexpected responses by her fourth graders to literacy rubrics at the end of the year. The experience sends her on a quest to do a better job of helping her students learn to set goals and understand what measurable progress looks like over time:
Bitsy Parks finds goals aren’t enough for her first-grade students — real growth requires that the goals eventually become habits. She develops a process mid-year to help children refine their goals step-by-step:
Setting small-group goals can be tricky, and the complexity is compounded when you are working with English language learners. Kate Mills explains her goal-setting process with K-3 ELLs, and gives examples of how it works:
The dark days of winter may be the best time to plan for spring step-up events to introduce students to next year’s teachers. Christy Rush-Levine has a new goal of using the day to promote summer reading:
In an encore video, Danielle French helps first grader Dakota set goals while writing her nonfiction how-to essay:
That’s all for this week!