In December, I had the less-than-brilliant idea to start January off with a unit on goal-setting. I say “less-than-brilliant” because this is not my first time teaching a goal setting unit, or trying to teach third graders about how to write, plan for, and make meaningful changes. However, in the past, these units have failed… epically.
Each year that I teach there is always at least one unit that just does not work. The kids aren’t into it, or just don’t understand it, or the way I am teaching it does not compute with the way they learn. So far, goal setting has always fallen into that category..
Each year that I teach there is always at least one unit that just does not work. The kids aren’t into it, or just don’t understand it, or the way I am teaching it does not compute with the way they learn. So far, goal setting has always fallen into that category.
Until this year. Hallelujah!
I sat down in December and tried to map out how to teach goal setting in a more meaningful way. How could I encourage my third graders to reflect on last year, identify some areas to be improved upon, and make an actual plan to change it.
This is by no means revolutionary, and I know that others have, and will, do a better job of teaching this subject. That being said, I was SO proud of how my class did. They were incredibly introspective and most identified some true areas of improvement. I’m so looking forward to checking in with them in a month!
Plan Together - Planning our goals in advance was the stage that made all of the difference. I have found that, with third grade and younger especially, taking time to process new concepts out loud dramatically improves the quality of their work. Together, we brainstormed things that weren’t going so well for us last year. I included myself in this brainstorm because, whenever possible, I like to give real examples of how the lessons that we are learning are valuable for myself as well. My things that were difficult: keeping my desk top clean, and answering all of my e-mails! We filled the whiteboard, and then they did some on their own.
Use positive language: As we moved on to writing goals, we did it first as a whole group, and then as individuals. We used the language “I will”, to encourage each other that these are things that can be achieved if we work on them. I worked with each student to write goals that they wanted to meet. After all, if they don’t want to meet them, it’s highly unlikely that they will accomplish it.
Make a real plan to meet the goals Simply saying “I will be nicer” won’t cut it . What could you do or say to be nicer? Who will hold you accountable? What will you do if you are feeling like you are being mean one day? We got specific! When I read over each goal plan, I was blown away by the way each student came up with real ideas for how they could improve. Some students suggested they could keep a notebook with them to record writing ideas during the day so that way they wouldn’t be ‘stuck’ come writing time. Others have been checking each others’ desk to see if they are messy. I love watching them work together.
Edit, and Make a Flipbook! Then students got to move onto the flipbook. My kids love writing based activities that are not just pencil and paper, and this fits that category perfectly. We edited their planning paper in small conference groups, and they transferred it onto their “good copy books.”
This project has been eye-opening for me as a teacher. I think I shied away from investing too much time into goal-setting in the classroom because it hasn’t been very successful in the past. However, this year has really boosted my confidence. It was quite amazing to watch the way that this group of kids latched onto the concept, and went beyond my expectations. I wonder what else I may be avoiding teaching because I am uncomfortable, but need to move past that in order to better myself as an educator.
Just some food for thought!
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