Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Student Goal Setting the Gold Standard- Affirmations the Silver Lining

Each day a teacher carefully decides the key topics to be addressed that day.  When a teacher decides to have students set goals; the strategy pays big dividends.  Robert Marzano in his book, Classroom Instruction that Works, provides ten research-based teaching strategies which are key to student academic success.  One of the ten strategies is goal setting.  

Student goal setting is a critical skill to ensure a student’s life success, both personal and academic.  The skill of goal setting requires self assessment, which does not come naturally for students. Most importantly students are taught to value their own perceptions of how they learn and are guided to trust themselves and their experiences.  Students begin to take responsibility for the choices they make in order to take control of their destiny.  The student is no longer in a “teacher dominated” classroom.  Rather, the student is empowered.  


How does a teacher embolden the student to set doable, realistic, make-a-difference goals?  The teacher models goal setting using the think aloud strategy. The students listen to the teacher’s thought processes while he/she sets a goal.  Initially the student is encouraged to set goals in an area of strength.  For instance if the student is stronger in math than language arts, then encourage the student to start by setting math goals.  The student might set a goal to study for math tests, explain math concepts to their table group, and maybe to consistently participate in the math lesson.  Once the goals are created, a system to keep the goals alive is the next important step.  A 3x5 index card is where the student writes the goals, and the index card is attached to the top of the desk.  Students often reflect on their effort to meet the goal and put a check next to the goal to celebrate that on that day they met the goal. When students have not met their goal, the teacher reinforces their commitment by encouraging them to try again. A lapse in effort is not a failure, but rather a chance to do it better next time.  Confidence grows with each check next to the goal.  Students also reflect on goals by talking about the goals with their table group.  Students then are accountable to one another.  Students may track their progress by graphing test scores. Students may set a goal about what they want to learn when studying about the human body, such as “I want to know more about the kidneys and how they work. My grandpa is having a kidney replaced soon.”  Checking in with the student once a week on their progress is a way to connect the dots for the student; a student understands that goals are connected to better grades.  The teaching magic is passing the power baton to the student. 

What inspires a student to step out of their comfort zone and reach new heights when learning is rigorous and struggle is necessary?  What gives the student with low self-esteem the drive to try again after a set back? The answer is practicing affirmations.   Affirmations increase student resiliency and is a key piece of the goal setting process.  Affirmations provide the mental parachute when the student is free falling.  There are web sites that provide affirmations for students.  Choosing affirmations that meet the needs of your students is important.  Some powerful affirmations that have worked for my students are: I contribute to the learning environment in every way that I can. My life is what I make of it and today I make it a great place to learn!  I hear and I know. I see and I can. I DO and I achieve.     


Setting goals and fulfilling the goals gives students needed stability in their life.  Students are mindful of the importance of buying into the learning process, rather than being a complacent bystander.  When students have a plan, the anxiety of a new experience lessons.  Life becomes less about competition and more about self improvement.  Parents also become partners in the process. Explaining the importance of goal setting and affirmations at Back to School will bring them on board.  Also, set classroom goals. When students are on recess the class behavior goal could mean a visit from the playground supervisor extolling your class on just how amazing your class behaves.  And yes, the teacher’s life becomes a little easier when the entire team, parents and students, are tracking and achieving worthy goals. 



  1. Thank you. You never fail to inspire me =)

  2. I love, love, love the poster you created! Do you have it for purchase anywhere?

  3. Is there a game or activity that can help demonstrate why goals are so important.


Sheila Chako
Sprinkle Teaching Magic