Happy New Year! Time to make those New Year Resolutions, but hold on...do you realize that 80% of New Year's Resolutions FAIL by February 1st?! Time for a change, a growth mindset change! As you start this New Year with students, it's time to switch from failing resolutions to productive SMART goals! There is no better time to teach kids how to develop a proactive mindset using goal setting and achieve the goals they set.
Goal setting for elementary students (and older kids) is the perfect way to instill a growth mindset from an early age and create this lifelong habit. By teaching how to set realistic and achievable goals, you will provide students with a way to shift from a fixed, passive attitude to one that is active and engaged! And who doesn't want active and engaged students in their class? Keep reading to learn how to easily implement the SMART Goal Setting strategies, look at a SMART goal student example for three different focus areas, and offer easy ways to implement SMART goals for students within your classroom.
Why Setting Goals For Students Are Important
Many children view learning skills as a passive activity that just happens with no effort or plan. This is called a fixed mindset. Reflection and SMART goal setting are two essential skills that promote and develop a growth mindset as your children mature.
The importance of goal setting for elementary students has been documented often. Here are a few of the more significant benefits that the use of goals for students provides:
Promoting brain development by recalling situations, emotions, and facts
Developing analyzation skills
Fostering a growth mindset
Encouraging active participation in academic, social, and emotional growth
Promoting effort, practice, hard work, persistence, and self-confidence
What Are SMART Goals?
"SMART" is an acronym that leads your students through a step-by-step process of creating achievable goals. Your students will become discouraged if a goal is too involved or unrealistic. SMART goals break down the goal-setting process into easy, manageable pieces that provide a scaffold to success! This poster is part of a free SMART Goal Setting Kit and is a perfect resource to start creating SMART goals for students.
S - Specific
What do you want to accomplish?
M - Measurable
How will you know when you have reached your goal?
A - Action Plan
What steps will you need to reach your goal?
R - Realistic
Is your goal realistic? Too easy? Too hard?
T - Time Frame
Is this a short-term or long-term goal?
Before You Begin Goal Setting For Elementary Students
Remember when Mater states, “Ain't no need to watch where I'm going. Just need to know where I've been.” While the point of goal setting is to create a path forward, Mater's advice about needing to know where you've been is perfect advice for kids. It is often difficult for kids just to jump in and start setting goals without taking time to reflect on the past. A great first step is to reflect on the previous season, semester, or year. Have them think about what went well and what could be improved.
Once your students have had time to reflect on a time period, you can move them into the brainstorming stage. This is where they consider what they want to improve. It helps to discuss the different types of areas they can develop a growth mindset. The most common categories are:
During this stage of goal setting for elementary students, have kids focus on a few areas. It would be overwhelming for them to try and tackle all five, so depending on their age, maybe suggest trying 2 or 3 areas to begin with. Remember, this is just to brainstorm ideas for growth. In the next step, they can narrow down their ideas to a specific one to work on.
How To Teach SMART Goals
After you have had your students do some reflection and brainstorming, it is time to focus in on one goal to set using the SMART goal method. In the beginning, you will assist your students through the process by helping them answer the SMART goal questions. It will take time (and patience) to figure out what "little" steps will assist them in reaching their "big" goal. As your students become more familiar with the process, they will become more confident and successful in developing, measuring, and achieving their own individualized SMART goals. Repeatedly working through this process will instill a growth mindset that will encourage students to engage in a variety of learning experiences not only in your classroom but throughout their entire life!
Examples of Student SMART Goals
SMART Goal Student Example 1 - Academic
In the following SMART goal student example, you can get an idea of how you would use this step-by-step process to create an academic goal to learn their x7’s multiplication facts.
First, your student "Ben" would create a specific and measurable goal. You work with him to develop a goal of achieving 90% correct on a one-minute x7 timed test of 25 problems in 3 weeks.
Next, you would guide Ben in developing an action plan that breaks that goal into smaller steps:
1. Ben will plan to practice his x7's flashcards for 5 minutes every day.
2. He will play an online multiplication game 3 times every week, focusing on x7 facts.
3. Bill would take a x7 timed test twice a week.
Initially, you will help Ben determine if his goal is realistic. If the goal is too easy or too difficult, assist your student in adjusting it.
Finally, Ben would set a time frame to work towards Each week, he would record and monitor his progress. This would be a short-term goal, so at the end of the 3 weeks, he will either accomplish his goal or revisit and adjust his action plan to continue working towards meeting his goal!
SMART Goal Student Example 2 - -Social
Specific - Jenny will be more confident speaking in front of others by the end of the semester.
Measurable - She will monitor her progress with a weekly checklist of the steps in her action plan.
Action Plan -
Jenny will raise her hand to speak in class 5 times each week.
She will talk with someone she doesn't know once a week.
She will try two new group activities (sports, library classes, fine arts, etc.) during the semester.
Realistic - Yes, the goal is realistic for Jenny to accomplish.
Time Frame - This will be a long-term goal that will last an entire semester. Jenny will either accomplish her goal or revisit and adjust her action plan and continue working towards meeting her goal!
SMART Goal Student Example 3 - Physical
Specific - Asa will run a mile in under 9 minutes after training for 6 weeks.
Measurable - He currently runs a mile at 10:15, and he will monitor his progress with a weekly checklist of the steps in his action plan.
Asa will run a mile four days each week and record his times in a log.
He will do core and strength exercises 3 days each week.
He will add a quarter mile each week to his running routes to build endurance.
Realistic - Yes, the action steps and time frame is reasonable for Asa.
Time Frame - This is a long-term goal that will last for 6 weeks. Asa will either accomplish his goal or revisit and adjust his action plan and continue working towards meeting his goal!
Teacher support is instrumental when teaching the SMART goal setting process to your elementary students. You will need to check in with your students and monitor their progress frequently. Offering your support and encouragement will be a significant factor in keeping them motivated to accomplish their goal! You are integral in teaching your students how to create and develop a growth mindset that will ultimately provide them with this precious life skill.
Are you ready to have your students actively engage in working towards their goals? Here are resources that will make it easy!
Beginning The New Year with 3rd-9th grade students?
Encourage student goal setting and promote a growth mindset by guiding your students through this Reflection & SMART Goal Setting Mini-Unit.
This resource will:
Teach them how to reflect on the previous year
Explain what SMART goals include
Guide them through goal-setting activities that will allow them to develop, measure, and ACHIEVE their own individualized SMART goals!
Working with Pre-K-3rd graders?
Looking for a FUN & EASY print-and-go New Year's project? "My New Year" PreK-3rd Grade Tab Book is the perfect activity to introduce goal setting for younger elementary students! Guide them through reflecting on the past year and setting goals for the upcoming New Year!
This printable project:
Contains a simple 6-page seasonal tab book for younger elementary students to complete.
Have students reflect on 3 of their favorite things from the previous year (people, places, and memories).
Have students create 3 goals (for school, home, and personal) for the upcoming year.
Customizable--choose from 4 printable page options. Easily accommodate your students' writing abilities (coloring, drawing, tracing, or writing pages included).
You've Got This!