As teachers, we all want our students to succeed in life, right? RIGHT! We want our students to be effective problem solvers. We want them to set goals and ACHIEVE them. Teaching children to reflect and set goals is an important lesson that needs to be taught starting at a young age.
Goal setting is a lesson that should be revisited and worked on throughout life. Adults continually reflect on life and past goals and use that information to set new goals. Aristotle said, “Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals.” Having something to focus on and work towards, helps us to be productive human beings. It is our responsibility to teach these skills to children.
It can be frustrating when a child doesn’t try hard enough when you see potential. We try to encourage them to try harder or care, with little result. Is there a solution? One thing you can do is teach them how to set goals and achieve them, one step at a time. Setting goals and working towards them teaches children perseverance. This is an important skill in life and one that they will need along the way.
A part of it is teaching children to reflect on things they do well and things they need to improve on. Another part of it is teaching children what a goal is, how to pick the right one, and making a plan to achieve the goal that they set. This needs to be taught at home and at school.
Children need direction and encouragement in this. Parents are useful is having daily conversations with their children and checking in to see how things are going. Parents may find special checklists or charts helpful in keeping their children on track, along with certain incentives to gain interest.
Teachers are useful in providing an approach to goal setting that is systematic (i.e., can be done during each term of the year) and age appropriate (i.e., develop lessons for their particular grade level). Teachers can set a few times in the year to reflect on, set, and plan for achieving goals.
Teaching Children to Reflect and Set Goals in the Classroom
Below are some strategies on teaching children to reflect and set goals. Try these strategies in your classroom. Hopefully your students will learn the skills to tackle their own challenges in the future.
Reflect on Things They Do Well
Start by having a discussion about the things that children feel they do well. Brainstorm these ideas on a chart or whiteboard. This is a positive way to start the goal setting process because they are thinking of things they have achieved and learned already. Discuss how these things make them feel. Encourage them to recall how they went about learning those things. What steps did they take? Did they set a goal and work towards it?
Reflect on Things They Need to Improve
It is also important to reflect on the things they need to work on, improve, or learn. Before a child can decide which goal to set, they have to think of something that is worth working towards. Children should choose something that interests them or a skill that they need for life. Steve Garvey said, “You have to set goals that are almost out of reach. If you set a goal that is attainable without much work or thought, you are stuck with something below your true talent and potential.” Some examples of goals for children are learning to swim underwater, tying their shoelaces, or riding a bicycle. Some examples for school could be counting to 100, learning to read a particular book, or climbing the rope in gym class.
3 Stars and a Wish
Before making a plan with the teacher, I suggest that students record their ideas in the form of stars and wishes. You have probably heard of “3 Stars and a Wish” before and it’s a great idea! I use this approach for many things during the school year. We think of STARS, the things we do well, and WISHES, the things to work on. Students use the ideas they come up with during our reflection as a class and record their ideas. The idea they choose for their wish becomes their new goal for school.
This form provides a valuable assessment tool. I use the 3 Stars and a Wish reflection sheets during meetings and conferences with parents. Parents want to see how their children are doing and appreciate that they get to hear how their child sees themselves. They appreciate this information because then they can discuss it at home. I keep a copy of the reflection sheets in the student portfolios with a collection of work completed that year. This helps provide a timeline of the progress made. To read about how I create student portfolios and use them during student-led conferences, head HERE.
The 3 Stars and a Wish printable is available for FREE by clicking the image below. You will receive 2 variations and each has either 2 or 3 stars to suit your needs.
Making a Plan
Whatever the goal may be, children need to make a plan! Antoine de Saint Exupery said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
I meet with each student individually and we discuss their new goal. We make a plan together and discuss the plan of action. We come up with small, workable steps together. They will most likely need a teacher’s help along the way. Check-in periodically with your students to see how they are doing and feeling about their progress. Having a chart visually available to a child is extremely helpful. This way they can see what they’ve done and what they still need to do. Kid Pointz has a free printable chart that you can download HERE.
Setting a Timeline
It is also important to have a timeline when teaching children to set and achieve goals. Different goals take different amounts of time and effort. Teachers can help guide students to choose goals that are smaller and can be completed within a reasonable time. I suggest teaching children to reflect and set goals 3 times during the school year. With this approach, each goal should take about 3 months or so to achieve. At the end of the term, a particular goal may continue to be a student’s focus for the following term.
Rewards and Incentives
A big motivator for children is the reward they receive when they accomplish their goal. To some, achieving a goal is the intrinsic reward. However, that might not be enough of a motivator for some children. Teachers may want to offer another incentive. Stickers are a fun and simple reward that can be used on charts like these. I like to use classroom coupons as rewards. They can be given each time a student completes a step towards their goal. A classroom party might be a fun way to reward the entire class at the end of the term.
Looking for another fun way for your students to set goals for the new year? Create a fireworks display of goals in your classroom!
I suggest printing them on coloured cardstock to create a colourful display! You could also make a mobile of fireworks hanging from a string.
Grab this FREE Fireworks Goals for the New Year printable by clicking the image below. It includes 2 types of firework goals for you to choose from.
Do you teach your students to set goals and work towards them? I’d love to hear from you!
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