Sunday, August 28, 2016

Using a Growth Mindset to Set Goals in the Classroom

Have you ever set goals with your students? In order for our students to grasp the growth mindset of trying, failing, trying, making mistakes, trying, and finally succeeding – we have to guide them through the process.  One of the ways I like to guide my students is by setting goals in reading, math, and writing.

When I first begin to talk about the process with my third graders, they really didn't "get it". It was definitely a process that developed over time - but a very effective one.


First, you want to get your students thinking about what kind of student they want to be. Initial responses are usually words like smart and straight A. But, you need to lead them to deeper, more specific adjectives and phrases. In the picture below, you can see that we used words like: determined, problem solver, and always improving. These are growth mindset words. They open the door to all students to become the student they want to be. 





The next step is to set goals and strategies for how they will reach those goals.


  A goal without a plan is a wish. 

Antoine de Saint-Exupery French writer (1900 - 1944) 


No wishing necessary - just a simple strategy for HOW we will reach our goals. How will you know what goals your students should be setting?  Use whatever beginning of the year assessments and screenings that are available.  You can also wait a few weeks and gather data from classroom work or tests. Once you have this,  you can begin helping students set SMART goals. What are SMART goals? They are simply:

Specific...Measurable ...Attainable ...Realistic ...Time Specific 


To make this even easier for you and your students, I have Reading, Writing, and Math goal worksheets with sentence starters. These are perfect for primary grades and beginning 3rd graders. 




If you have upper elementary or even middle schoolers, this plan sheet works well because they can personalize the wording of their goals and strategies.



Here's a breakdown of what and how your students will fill out the goal worksheets:

Look at each of the goal sheets. See how SPECIFIC the goal is? Make sure the goal is VERY specific. Otherwise it is pie in the sky for kids. They won't know what they are reaching for ...an A...a B? 

Next, goals must be MEASURABLE. How will students know they have reached them unless you collect data and they track it.  So a goal must be numeric in some way - points or percentages work really well.

Remember...nobody is going to gain if the goal isn’t ATTAINABLE. In this box is where the HOW will be written.  With your help, the student can identify exactly what they are going to work on, decoding, fluency, summarizing text, underlining text evidence. Whatever you determine will help them move along, but keep it short and sweet.  It needs to be something a child can comprehend and act on. Be specific. 

As a bonus, this section works for the student and the teacher. They know what to work on and you know what to plan for small group or RTI. 

Realistic goals are within reach and definitely doable. Why? Because we have a growth mindset! This is where the connection to What Kind of Student Do I Want To Be can come in. I like to have students choose a few of their phrases or adjectives to reinforce this thinking. 

The 4 week graphs work really well for primary grades. It's not too long nor too short. They can see their progress or if there isn't any, you can adjust the practice or the goal.

For upper elementary, the 9 week time frame works well for them. It gives them sufficient time to reach their goals and can be planned to coincide with a grading period.




At the beginning of this post, I mentioned how effective goal setting was for my third graders. Well, the proof was in what they would do without my input. I "caught" them getting post-it notes to write their goals on before tests. They would put the post-its on their privacy screens for a visual reminder. Isn't that the best? Just when you think they aren't paying attention! Did their post its strategy work? ABSOLUTELY!!  I couldn't get their tests graded quick enough for them! MAJOR growth mindset happening!!!!




Of course, achieving goals is celebration worthy! So, not only did we make a BIG deal when a student reached their goals - I gave them a certificate to take home and share with family.



If you want to help your students, whether primary or upper elementary learn to set goals and support a growth mindset, you might want to look at my resource Goal Setting for a Growth Mindset on TPT. Included are goals setting worksheets for reading, writing, math, AR Points, and math facts. Check out my preview for more detailed look at all of the resources that are included!







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