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January 6, 2016

Setting (Almost) SMART Goals With My Students

By Genia Connell
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    I love the start of a new calendar year nearly as much as I love the start of the new school year each fall. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the past and make goals for the future, all with a clean slate. After returning from holiday break, I normally set aside some time for my students to write goals or new year resolutions for themselves. Based on years of doing this same sort of activity during the first week of the new year or the semester, my takeaway has been that setting specific and attainable goals with third graders is a daunting task. Even with explicit directions and extensive modeling, many of my students still wrote vague and generic goals like I want to get better at math, or I want to learn more about science. To help my students make their goals more meaningful, I decided to take a page out of our staff goal writing handbook and have my students write their very own SMART goals.

    SMART is an acronym that often stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. They're written by many organizations to set actionable goals commensurate with the group's vision and mission. While these types of goals have saturated staff meetings around the country enough to make the term a little cringe-worthy among adults, my third graders loved dissecting the acronym, and I found them more highly engaged in writing goal/resolutions than I can remember in recent years. This week, I'm happy to share with you how my students got started writing their new year's resolutions this week. 

    Getting Started

    My students were already aware of what a goal was in the most simplistic form, so to get started on setting SMART goals, we needed to discuss exactly what it was that made a goal SMART. I displayed the poster I made below on our interactive whiteboard and we talked about what each part of the acronym meant when it came to setting a goal. 

     

    Getting Specific

    Next we used the interactive whiteboard to sort goals that would be considered specific or not specific using the vortex-maker found on the SMART Exchange. This was a great game to play as many students were still having trouble distinguishing between specific and not specific. We determined that specific goals tell you the who, when, where, why, and/or how of the goal. 

    SMART Goals with Kids

    For our next step, we brainstormed a list of goals on chart paper that were specific. As we did so, we discussed if each goal met the other parameters of a SMART goal, such as being attainable or relevant to their needs. 

    As students came up with ideas, the list grew to include both academic and personal goals. I differentiated between these two types by using different colored markers. 

    A few students jokingly mentioned that we should make a "not specific" chart as well after several students volunteered goals that weren't very specific. Our Vague Chart was born as an example of a goal that didn't have enough meat to it. The kids had as much fun helping me list vague goals as they did specific ones! 

     

    Writing Our Goals

    Using the graphic organizer below made goal setting much easier for my students. Although we talked about how each student's goals were personal and private, my boys and girls readily discussed goals with their classmates while they worked and even helped each other fine-tune their action plans. 

    SMART Goal Planning Sheet

    Click on the image above to download and print.

     

    After students created a plan, they used it to make a more succinct goal sheet that we can display in the room as a reminder of what we are all working toward.

    SMART Goal form for kids

    Click on the image above to download and print.

    Students used the bottom of the sheet to write a second, personal goal.

     

    Why These Are Almost SMART Goals for My Students

    First of all, I need to say this round of goal setting was a huge success with my students. They seemed to enjoy doing their best to write specific goals and action plans to go along with them. Second of all, I also must admit that there were still a few third graders who, after much modeling and planning, still weren't quite developmentally ready to delve this deeply into a goal. Some students wrote MART or ART goals that weren't all that specific or measurable, while others wrote SMAT goals that really didn't have a viable or realistic action plan. Regardless, the students still all came away with two things they wanted to work on and we displayed all the goals with pride.

    Finally, I believe one of the best parts of being a teacher is when you are able to ignite a spark in a student or help them discover a new passion. I'm constantly telling my students to reach for the stars, do more than you think you can and the sky's the limit. That side of me disliked telling my students they should pick a goal that is realistic and within reach. While SMART goals are a wonderful platform to dive off of for something a student wants to accomplish in the short term, I always stress that these are only one type of goal. The biggest and most worthy goals in life may not always seem realistic or attainable. I'd like to believe the world's greatest inventors, scientists, and explorers were seldom hindered by staying within the realistic box. So while I enjoyed teaching my students how to write a viable, short-term goal, I always hope the goals they hold for their lives go beyond the stretches of their 8-year-old imaginations.  

    How do you help your students set goals in the classroom? I'd love to hear from you in the comment section below! 

     

     

    I love the start of a new calendar year nearly as much as I love the start of the new school year each fall. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the past and make goals for the future, all with a clean slate. After returning from holiday break, I normally set aside some time for my students to write goals or new year resolutions for themselves. Based on years of doing this same sort of activity during the first week of the new year or the semester, my takeaway has been that setting specific and attainable goals with third graders is a daunting task. Even with explicit directions and extensive modeling, many of my students still wrote vague and generic goals like I want to get better at math, or I want to learn more about science. To help my students make their goals more meaningful, I decided to take a page out of our staff goal writing handbook and have my students write their very own SMART goals.

    SMART is an acronym that often stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. They're written by many organizations to set actionable goals commensurate with the group's vision and mission. While these types of goals have saturated staff meetings around the country enough to make the term a little cringe-worthy among adults, my third graders loved dissecting the acronym, and I found them more highly engaged in writing goal/resolutions than I can remember in recent years. This week, I'm happy to share with you how my students got started writing their new year's resolutions this week. 

    Getting Started

    My students were already aware of what a goal was in the most simplistic form, so to get started on setting SMART goals, we needed to discuss exactly what it was that made a goal SMART. I displayed the poster I made below on our interactive whiteboard and we talked about what each part of the acronym meant when it came to setting a goal. 

     

    Getting Specific

    Next we used the interactive whiteboard to sort goals that would be considered specific or not specific using the vortex-maker found on the SMART Exchange. This was a great game to play as many students were still having trouble distinguishing between specific and not specific. We determined that specific goals tell you the who, when, where, why, and/or how of the goal. 

    SMART Goals with Kids

    For our next step, we brainstormed a list of goals on chart paper that were specific. As we did so, we discussed if each goal met the other parameters of a SMART goal, such as being attainable or relevant to their needs. 

    As students came up with ideas, the list grew to include both academic and personal goals. I differentiated between these two types by using different colored markers. 

    A few students jokingly mentioned that we should make a "not specific" chart as well after several students volunteered goals that weren't very specific. Our Vague Chart was born as an example of a goal that didn't have enough meat to it. The kids had as much fun helping me list vague goals as they did specific ones! 

     

    Writing Our Goals

    Using the graphic organizer below made goal setting much easier for my students. Although we talked about how each student's goals were personal and private, my boys and girls readily discussed goals with their classmates while they worked and even helped each other fine-tune their action plans. 

    SMART Goal Planning Sheet

    Click on the image above to download and print.

     

    After students created a plan, they used it to make a more succinct goal sheet that we can display in the room as a reminder of what we are all working toward.

    SMART Goal form for kids

    Click on the image above to download and print.

    Students used the bottom of the sheet to write a second, personal goal.

     

    Why These Are Almost SMART Goals for My Students

    First of all, I need to say this round of goal setting was a huge success with my students. They seemed to enjoy doing their best to write specific goals and action plans to go along with them. Second of all, I also must admit that there were still a few third graders who, after much modeling and planning, still weren't quite developmentally ready to delve this deeply into a goal. Some students wrote MART or ART goals that weren't all that specific or measurable, while others wrote SMAT goals that really didn't have a viable or realistic action plan. Regardless, the students still all came away with two things they wanted to work on and we displayed all the goals with pride.

    Finally, I believe one of the best parts of being a teacher is when you are able to ignite a spark in a student or help them discover a new passion. I'm constantly telling my students to reach for the stars, do more than you think you can and the sky's the limit. That side of me disliked telling my students they should pick a goal that is realistic and within reach. While SMART goals are a wonderful platform to dive off of for something a student wants to accomplish in the short term, I always stress that these are only one type of goal. The biggest and most worthy goals in life may not always seem realistic or attainable. I'd like to believe the world's greatest inventors, scientists, and explorers were seldom hindered by staying within the realistic box. So while I enjoyed teaching my students how to write a viable, short-term goal, I always hope the goals they hold for their lives go beyond the stretches of their 8-year-old imaginations.  

    How do you help your students set goals in the classroom? I'd love to hear from you in the comment section below! 

     

     

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