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October 5, 2010 Helping Students Set Their Reading Goals By Danielle Mahoney
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    Knowing what they're really good at as readers and what they need to work on can spark students' thinking about setting important reading goals.

    Knowing what they're really good at as readers and what they need to work on can spark students' thinking about setting important reading goals. As we sit and talk to our students about what they want to improve on in their reading, we gain great insight into how much they know about themselves as readers. Working on reading goals at the beginning of the school year can set the tone for the kind of reading work you expect from your students . . . and what they expect from themselves. 



    Teachers Have Options

    There's been a lot of buzz about the "right" way to have kids plan for their reading goals throughout my school this week. Goal setting seems to be on all of our minds. Teachers are working hard across the grades to think of ways to help students create and internalize their reading goals. How do we get our kids to really understand what they need to work on in language that is appropriate for them?

    Use Picture Books to Help With Goals



    It's nice to begin the conversation about goal setting with a read-aloud. For kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade students, try using a picture book like Leo the Late Bloomer. Get conversations started as kids identify with Leo's struggle with learning to read, write, draw, and speak. 




    For upper grade students, I think that Patricia Polacco's book Thank You, Mr. Falker can be a great place to start talking about what readers struggle with. It can also remind your students that as teachers, we are partners in their learning. (Be warned, if you've never read it before, you may need to read it with a box of tissues close at hand!)



    Have Real Conversations About Reading Plans 

    During a common prep time, I got together with some super 2nd grade teachers to create a goal sheet that would help students record their current reading goals. We agreed that there should be a picture box on the sheet to provide a space for students to draw how they visualize themselves as good readers. We also included sections to record their goals and their plans to reach them.




    With a copy of Leo the Late Bloomer in hand, I made my way into a 2nd grade classroom. I can't tell you how much fun we had creating our reading goals. The classroom teacher and I collaborated to help kids really understand what they needed to work on as readers. In this photo you can see Abigail focused on writing out her goals, while Juan David (photo above) took a break to give me a smile.




    During our goal setting, I used the Flip video camera to record mini interviews with the students. Check out what Philip, Brandon, and Lena are working on to become better readers. It's incredible how well spoken they are about their goals!



    Take a look at some of the completed reading goal sheets: 





    Research! Use Your Running Record Results

    I created this research form to help me organize the notes I collect when analyzing a student's running record. When working with students on setting goals that are a bit more specific to the needs of the learner, this sheet comes in handy.


    As I developed a plan for setting reading goals with an incredible group of 4th graders, I found that the students had diverse needs and were working at many different levels. However, most of them had one thing in common — the desire to work on staying focused during independent reading. If you have students who have issues with tuning out distractions, you can start off your goal setting by thinking of specific reading behaviors that need to be worked on. Then follow up with the specific reading strategies they need to practice.

    Ms. Lee helps Israel get his goals down on paper.


    Donta completes his sheet by adding pictures.


    Here is a close up of some of the goals we created, using this goal setting format.









     I will go to a new place that is quiet.



    My reading work is good. I need a little bit of

    help starting reading and I want to learn how to 

    read sight words.








    I want to focus more 

    on my reading to get



    I will want to read tricky 




    Search Printables for Ideas

    I came across this "Teacher-Student Reading Conference Form" — a free printable from Scholastic that may help with reading conferences and goal setting. Do you have a subscription to Scholastic Printables? It's a worthwhile investment. I've never been a "worksheet" type of teacher, so the fact that you can view the documents in full screen for use with interactive whiteboards (and never actually print them out) compelled me to search the printables database for resources I can use during my mini-lessons. I love the recent addition of their online filing cabinet. It allows you to save and organize your favorite printables!

    I hope you can use and modify these goal sheets to meet the needs of your students. Having conversations about reading behaviors, specific strategies, and future plans can help students truly understand their goals. How do you tackle goal setting in your classroom? What resources do you find helpful? I look forward to hearing from you!



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Susan Cheyney