goal setting for students

How would you feel if your students could take ownership of their own learning?

It’s time to teach your students how to set their own learning goals and boost learning!

This free SMILE Folder Goal Setting Kit will put you and your students on the right track to setting goals and tracking success!

Goal Setting in the New Year

The new year is the perfect time to set new goals with your students. The new year is also the perfect time encourage your students to be more independent and take responsibility for their own learning. Just saying that makes me smile!

Below is the SMILE acronym that I use with my students. I use it as a visual in the classroom, as well as print it out and add it to their SMILE Folder. Many classroom use the SMART Goals acronym, but I have created a system that works great for students and teachers: SMILE Goals!

I get lots of questions about whether or not the SMILE Folder with work with RTI – Response to Intervention. Yes, this goal setting system works ideally with RTI in the classroom and also at the district level.

SMILE Goals:

  • See yourself achieving your goals.
  • Move toward your goals.
  • Invest in your own learning.
  • Lead yourself to learn.
  • Excel and celebrate.

How to Set Goals with Students

Next, is the basic process that I go through with students to assist them in setting goals for themselves.

Goal Setting with Students:

  1. Look at the data with your student.
  2. Guide them to set their own goals.
  3. Teach them how to make a plan.
  4. Provide your student with a way to track their progress.
  5. Celebrate the successes with your student!

Each of the five SMILE Goals coordinate to a simple form that helps to keep students as well as teachers on track while setting goals for learning.

I do not typically give students a copy of this process, but I do hang it up close to my guided reading table and have it accessible to help me stay on track when setting goals with students.

how to set goals with students

Teacher Tips for Setting Goals with Students:

  • Work TOGETHER with your student to set their learning goals.
  • Share with students where they fall as a learner. Show them the data – it does make a difference!
  • Be a good resource for where most students should be at that time during the year. You must know where students should be to help them move forward.
  • Students take the data and decide what they need to do to get where they need to be. Let your students do a lot of the thinking and talking.
  • Work with students to choose one to three goals to work on. Having too many goals at once will be overwhelming for everyone. It is simpler to work on one goal at a time.

Some questions that you will want to consider before meeting with your students:

  • What type of learning goals will you help your student set for themselves?
  • Will your student set performance or study skill goals?

Performance Goal: A performance goal can be a score on a test, striving to get a certain strategy correct, or increasing reading fluency speed.

Study Skill Goal: A study skill goal are daily practices and skills that your student have direct control over. 

Some examples of study skill goals are:

How often will you meet with students?

Decide how frequently you will meet with your students to review their learning goals:

  • Weekly or bi-weekly
  • End of six or nine weeks
  • End of semester
  • End of year

If your student is not making progress, how will you help them to develop a new plan of action?

So, going back to my Goal Setting with Students list above, I work my way through the steps.

goals and making progress

Step 1: Look at the data with your student: 

Included in this kit is a form where students get real with where they are right now. Your student will list two things that they do well and two things that they want to improve.

Remember, you want your student to do most of the talking and thinking during the goal setting and planning process.

how to set goals with students

Step 2: Guide them to set their own goals:

The form that assists this step helps students to focus on one goal. Students state why they chose the goal. Most importantly, students create three action steps for meeting the goal. If my student need to focus one more than one goal at a time… I use one form for each goal, that way students really think about what they want to accomplish and why.

how to set goals with students

Step 3: Teach them how to make a plan:

The form above helps students to state their action steps and gives them a place to document their actions while they are working towards their goal. At the end of every week, students will write their progress in their own words.

goal and progress chart

Step 4: Provide your student with a way to track their progress:

The chart for measuring their goals will encourage them to think about the goal and what actions they took to meet it. Simply, students will start at the bottom at Week #1, color in the column squares and show their level of effort and learning.

setting goals in the classroom

Setting Goals for Individual Assignments:

If your students will benefit from setting goals for individual assignments, I have also included mini-sheets that you simply cut apart and staple to an assignment. These SMILE forms work great for “ongoing” or weekly assignments, such as spelling words or math facts.

This goal setting resource would make the perfect compliment to your TEST PREP lessons.

How do you help your students to set goals in the classroom? Please share your ideas in the comment section below.

Grab your free SMILE Folder Goal Setting Kit in my Teacher KARMA store over at Teachers Pay Teachers.

set goals with students

Best wishes!


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