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March 24, 2009

Setting Goals with Students

During center time, Jose was in the library reading The Three Bears by Byron Barton quietly to himself. He was totally engrossed in the book when Julia came over and asked, “Can I read with you?” “When I’m done,” Jose replied, implying that he did not want to read with Julia at that moment, but that she could have the book when he was finished. Julia stepped back and her eyes started to well up with tears. Just as she was about to start crying, I approached her and said, “Julia, I can tell that you’re upset that you can’t read The Three Bears right now. What are you learning to do when you get upset?” Without missing a beat, Julia replied, “Calm down all by myself.” And with that, she took a deep breath and smiled. “Like this! I’m going to read this book [she picked up The Little Red Hen by Byron Barton] while I wait.”


Each month I set approximately eight individual goals for each of my students; two goals each in reading, writing, math, and social/emotional development.  I share these goals with my students in child-friendly language, and we talk explicitly about what it will look like for them to work hard at and ultimately master these skills.  I also share the goals with each student’s family along with ideas on how to reinforce the targeted skills at home.  When my students achieve a goal, their classmates cheer for them and we talk briefly about what they have learned.   
I have found repeatedly that explaining to my students what they are learning and why they are learning it has increased their motivation and helped them take ownership over their own learning.  In the above anecdote, Julia knows that one of her goals for this month is to learn how to “calm down all by myself,” and she understands how to do this.  She also knows that this is a difficult skill, and that it will take practice to be able to do it independently. Julia is working hard at her goal, and has already made tremendous progress.  It has been amazing to watch her and my other students take control of their own learning and support one another in reaching their goals.  I’m excited to see how much more they will accomplish before the end of the school year!


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