Powerful Goal Setting in the Classroom with 5 Easy Steps

Student Goal Setting in the Classroom

Back to School is a popular time for setting goals and making resolutions. I always feel fresh and ready to take on the world at the start of the new school year!

Setting goals with elementary students can be particularly tricky though.  They need a lot of guidance, support and suggestions.  It is really important that teachers set students up for success by guiding students to set goals they can achieve but also helping students make a plan for what they will do to reach the goal.  

Setting a goal to work towards is one-way students can take ownership of their learning.

Here are 5 ways to help students set goals and work towards them.

#1- Keep goals simple, attainable and measurable.

When I set goals with my students, we start with everyone having the same type of goal. I usually start with reading level growth because it is huge in my state. (I want to be clear here! I felt very much like this was a necessary evil! I strongly disliked setting reading level goals!) I met with every child one on one and we talked about where they wanted to grow and how many levels they thought they could grow. Then we split it into blocks for the 9 year and set mini-goals for each nine weeks. For example, if a student thought they could grow 4 levels, we would set a goal for one level growth per 9 weeks.

#2- Create an action plan or specific steps students can take to work towards the goal.

After setting each student's goal, we worked together as a class to brainstorm a list of things students could do to help them meet their goal. In the above example, we would list the following steps- read for at least 30 minutes a day at home, complete my comprehension journal homework every week, pay attention and work hard in small groups, listen to my book buddy when they read to me, ask someone to read me a story, etc

#3- Look at, discuss or read the goal regularly- possibly daily.

Each students goal was written down in their data notebook. We looked at the anchor chart with the brainstormed list of steps students could take. Any time they were assessed (🙄) we would conference about where they were in terms of meeting their goal. Every week, I would ask students to pick ONE of the action steps to focus on. In the beginning, I did a lot of leading but after a few weeks, students were able to pick one step for themselves.

#4- Track progress towards the goal.

Students had a sheet in their data notebook where they tracked their progress. For reading levels, my students had a page that looked like a bookshelf. I wrote letters on each book to represent their reading levels. When students passed a level, they would color in the book on their shelf.

#5- Celebrate progress!

Since I really, strongly disliked that students even had to worry about reading levels, we celebrated ALL.THE.THINGS! My favorite ways to celebrate are with impromptu dance parties, reward tags given out during morning meeting and phone calls home to share the good news.

If you find that students are struggling with their confidence in meeting goals, try using positive affirmations to help.

Getting Started with Setting Goals

Are you looking for something to help you get started goal setting? Take a look at this Kindergarten Goal Setting resource in my store.

My favorite part of this resource is the reflection sheet. Since this sheet is designed to be done together, the teacher can write the goal and the student can draw a face to show how they feel about their progress.  Then the teacher and student can work together to set a new goal.  The new goal might be a continuation of the previous goal.  For example, if the goal was to learn 40/52 letters, the new goal could be to learn 45/52 letters.  The important thing is for the teacher to help set realistic goals.


The student goal setting page has several main goals listed, but includes a place to write your own goals. Included in the resource is a page of possible literacy goals and a page of possible math goals. These goals were taken from literacy and math standards.

There are two possible tracking sheets. One will allow the teacher to track a whole classes progress towards a certain goal. This can be helpful when tracking goals such as learning letters and sounds. Not everyone in the class will reach the goal at the same time, but everyone needs to reach it eventually!

The other tracking sheet can be used when conferencing with students. The teacher can record the goal, dates and any notes.

There are digital options available for the digitally-inclined! Student goal setting sheets are in Google Slides and a Google Form is available for the teacher to make a copy of and use to type all the data into. Editable PDFs are also available.

If this looks like something that could help you in your classroom, click here or on any of the pictures!

Since making a plan is a BIG part of goal setting, these resources might be useful for helping reach their goals.



You can also find other literacy and math activities in my TPT store!

Do you set goals with your students? I would love to hear how it goes for you! Drop me a note in the comments below and let me know!

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