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Ensure Success: Help Students Reach Their Goals

It’s not only important for teachers to encourage students to set goals, but for teachers to make sure they give their students the tools they need to be successful in reaching them. In this blog we will talk about how teachers can help students put those goals into practice and help students accomplish the goals they set.  

Execute, Execute, Execute: How to Put S.M.A.R.T. Goals into Practice 

S.M.A.R.T. goals are: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. For more information about introducing these goals to students, check out our past blog “Creating a Classroom of Goal Setters”. After teaching students how to write their own S.M.A.R.T. goals, it is time for students to execute and be able accomplish their goals. To help them put their goals into practice, encourage them to set one to two goals at a time. This will help them not get overwhelmed or anxious, which could impede their ability to reach their goals. 

Teachers should also encourage their students to set both short-term and long-term goals. Long-term goals are more likely to take a large portion of the school year. According to the teaching blog, “What I Have Learned,” while long-term goals are great, if students are only working on completing long-term goals that they are further away from reaching, they could become disappointed and want to give up on reaching their goals. Therefore, along with their long-term goals, have students set short-term goals to keep them excited and motivated on their goal setting journey. These short-term goals can be completely separate from their long-term goals, or they can be related to students’ long-term goals. For example, if a student’s goal is to read a chapter book by the end of the year, a shorter-term goal could be to read a certain number of pages a day or reading for 30 minutes a day to help them work up to their long term goal.

To help students put their goals into practice, make sure they write their goals down and create an action plan. An action plan is a written document that includes the steps a student needs to take to reach their final goal. It can be formatted with their end goal at the top or at the bottom with the smaller steps to get there as well as a timeline of when they will complete each step. For example, if a student’s goal is to memorize their times tables from 1-12, some steps to reach this goal may include: practicing with flashcards at home, doing multiplication worksheets, drawing arrays, and getting help during class. Within their action plans it will be important to remind students that they may run into bumps along the way as they try to reach their goals. If you’re looking for ready-made lesson plans where students set a goal and create an action plan, check these NexGen News lessons:

As students work on their goals, certain challenges or obstacles can pop up. These challenges can be discouraging to students, so it will be important for teachers to give their students the tools to work through these obstacles, so they can reach their goals. In an Edutopia article by Elena Aguilar, an author and teaching coach, one method students can use to help create an action plan is to “create a series of implementation intentions,” these are if/then statements that connect a problem that could arise as students work on their goals to a solution or a way to work through them. In the article Aguilar gave this specific example: “My goal is to read for 30 minutes this afternoon. If I get home and I’m too tired to read, I’ll take a 30-minute nap and set my alarm and then I’ll get up and do my reading,” she stated. Accomplishing their S.M.A.R.T. goals will take time and students will need strategies to track these goals.

Tracking Goal Progress

Tracking goals is a way for students to keep motivated and to visualize the progress they are making on their goals. There are many different ways that students can track their goals. Teachers can use the methods that work best for their classroom or even all of the methods mentioned in this section. 

Group Accountability

According to Maurice J. Elias, a professor of psychology, students can track their goals by being paired together with a classmate to help keep each other accountable. Elias believes that having students partner with each other or even having class discussions on personal goals is a way to encourage a growth mindset among students and foster an environment where a students’ goals are not only their responsibility, but a team effort. The whole class comes together to help each other accomplish their goals and work hard so everyone can be successful.

One-on-One Conferencing

Goal tracking conferences can also be a more formal activity where a teacher and student meet and discuss a specific goal, a student’s action plan, what their next steps will be, and how they are feeling about their progress. Tracking can be quick chats or check-ins in the morning or before specific content areas that students have focused their goals in.


Another way students can keep track of their goals is by journaling. Students can have their S.M.A.R.T. goal at the top of the page, and underneath they can reflect on their progress in reaching their goals by answering a few simple questions including:

·   What did I work on to help me accomplish my goal?

·   Do I feel like I am closer to accomplishing my goal? Why or why not?

·   What is the next step I need to take in my action plan to help me reach my goal?

Classroom Displays

Classroom displays are also good ways to track goals. Teachers can have student goals on a bulletin or display board. Their name will be put next to their goal to show their progress. Teachers can create a Bump it Up wall display on a bulletin board or white board in their classroom. These wall charts have general categories instead of specific goals such as “let’s get it started”, ”on our way”, “almost there”, “right on the mark”, and “above and beyond”. Teachers can use a sticker, or popsicle stick to represent where each student is on their journey in accomplishing their goals. Bump it Up walls also can encourage students to support each other as they work towards their individual goals. 

Making sure that students are keeping track of their progress while also encouraging them to stay the course will help them accomplish the goals they set. At the end of the goal setting journey, the hope is that students have accomplished their set goals, but even if they fall short, whatever progress that they make should be celebrated.

Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate

It is important to celebrate student success whether it be for long-term goals, short-term goals, as well as celebrating all the progress students have made in reaching their goals even if they fall short. Teachers can use group rewards such as a goal progress party at the end of a week or two weeks to see where students have progressed with their goals. This is where a Bump it Up chart can come in handy. Another way to reflect on goal progress is a whole-class community circle. Students go around and share something they’re proud of and have accomplished as they work towards a goal. They can also share their next step in reaching this goal, or a new goal if they have just reached theirs. Teachers can also send letters home with students detailing what goal they accomplished or the progress a student made in reaching their goal. Students will be able to celebrate their success at home with their family as well as at school.

For students who may fall short of their goals, it is important to celebrate the work that they have done. Remind students that not meeting a goal is perfectly normal and an important learning process. It can be helpful to sit with students and see where they went wrong in the execution of the goal and rework it so they can be successful in the future. Encouraging that student to stick with the goal and keep trying to rework the goal or even lengthening the time frame could help them succeed.

Goal setting is a way to create active learners, who are invested in their learning journeys and strive to become better students. Setting goals can also help students see areas that they may be struggling in, and help them focus on ways that they can improve in these areas. Every teacher should incorporate goal setting in their classroom. It is a way to encourage a classroom environment of student growth and helps teachers see students progress outside of just data and grades. 

Written by, Avery Etuk NexGen News Staff Member


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