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Why I Make Classroom Goals

Setting Classroom Goals
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Why I Make Classroom Goals

There are so many studies out that prove the importance and use of goal setting. I have been an avid goal setter for many years now and it has helped me get to where I am today! But, where did I learn to make goals? I can’t honestly remember ever being explicitly taught how and why to make goals. This is one of the reasons why I make classroom goals with my students. It is so important for them to not only see how to make goals but what it can do for them in their future.

I started doing classroom goals because I like having student voice and choice in my classroom. If you are a fellow teacher, you have probably heard this phrase “voice and choice” often. It’s one of our buzz words and is something we are constantly trying to incorporate into our teaching style. I see amazing results in giving students a say in what we are striving for in the classroom. Here is how I go about making classroom goals.

STEP ONE – Reflections

Data Collection

I always begin the process of goal setting reflection. After our first unit is complete, I begin to collect data. The main things I look at are missing assignments, test average, and class average. I sometimes get really specific if I see there is one area we are struggling with. For example, if my students are averaging a 6/10 on discussion questions, I track that. By this time I have gotten to know the class pretty well, and I make a mental note of behavior corrections. This would be the number of times I have to redirect the class. Some examples are: I have to tell them to not talk while I am talking or to focus on their work, or put cellphones away, etc. I put this all on a little post-it note and save it for the goal creation.

Guided Reflection

Once the students arrive in class, I lead a guided reflection on our first unit. I make this very informal, meaning I am sitting in a chair among them with a little note pad and listen to what they have to say. When doing the guided reflection, I ask them questions to help them think about how the class is going so far. Some examples of my questions are:

  • How did the first unit go?
  • How did you in this unit?
  • Did we perform well as a class?
  • What do you think we could do to improve as individuals or as a class?

On they have a good self and class reflection, I move on to questions about the course itself. There is where I can get a lot of student feedback about my teaching and how the course runs. Some examples of these questions are:

  • What did you enjoy doing in this unit?
  • Did you have any favorite activities?
  • Were there any activities that you found easier to do at school rather than at home (blended learning this year!)
  • What did you find difficult about this class?
  • How can I clear things up for you?

I also like to have students think back about classes/teachers that they have really like in the past and tell me why. And the same goes for ones they didn’t enjoy. I like doing this because I am in a constant state of self-improvement. My students are the best sources of feedback I can get, so why not ask them?

Once I have all of their feedback written down, I then tell the students that one way we can improve the class is by setting goals! I lead a quick discussion as to how goals could improve the class.

STEP TWO – Goal Creation

The next step in making classroom goals is to actually make the goals! I put the words SMART down the side of the board. Most of the student recognize the idea of SMART goals, but often they don’t remember what the letters stand for. With guess and check, we remember that SMART stands for:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Attainable
  • R – Relatable
  • T – Timely

Of course, there are many variations of SMART, but this is what I use in my class. This is when I take out the little post-it I created with their class data. I also write this on the board as a reference. These are the areas that we are going to focus on, and after that, we can make other goals if they like.

I do help a bit in the goal creation, at least to get them started, but the actual goal creation is their own. I love to help them brainstorm what is attainable! Sometimes they are VERY ambitious in their goals, which I love to see! As they create the goals I write them up on the board.

Helpful Tips When Making Classroom Goals

  • Giving students specific data to start from really helps. If they don’t know how the class is doing, then they don’t know how to improve it.
  • Using numbers and percent is an excellent way to make sure that you as the teacher can track the progress.
  • Make sure students have a mix of goals that are tough and easy to attain. If they don’t achieve ANY goals the first time, they may be disheartened to try again.
  • Make sure the goals relate to things that actually improve the class. Getting a 4.0 in high school is a great goal, but the class can’t really help in that
  • Having goals last only one unit at a time is very beneficial. It allows students to work hard for something, but then reevaluate. If a goal did not work, discuss why. Then, when you make new goals, add that adjustment.
  • Goals can be both academic and behavior-based. When I have a class that chats too much or is off-topic often, that’s when I guide them towards a behavior goal.

Goals Should Never Target

The biggest thing to remember when making classroom goals is to make sure they are not used to target anyone. When it comes to missing assignments and behavior corrections, the students know who the “problem children” are. It is VERY important that on day one, you make sure to tell the students that goals are not meant to penalize anyone. It should never ever be half the students vs. the other half.

What I tell my students is that instead of pointing the figure at a student and saying “your the reason we didn’t make this goal,” take a step back and think about how you could have helped. If it’s a missing assignment goal, maybe make sure you have no missing assignments so that other students can be allowed more. OR if you notice a student is talking out of turn a lot, offer then a gentle reminder that now is not the time to talk. Try to look at the goal as a team effort instead of looking at the people stopping you from reaching the goal. I’ve noticed that students learn pretty quickly how to make goals a positive thing.

STEP THREE – Rewards

This is my student’s favorite part because they love to come up with fun and funny rewards! When I guide students, I make sure their rewards meet school rules, COVID guidelines, and match the goals they are assigned to. When I say match, I mean that if they have a small goal, like have fewer behavior corrections, they can get a small reward like a snack.

Students can get pretty creative when coming up with goals. Here just some examples that we have done in the past.

  • Pizza Party
  • Potluck
  • Ice Cream Party
  • Movie Day
  • Game Day
  • Nap Day
  • Join a Gym Class (for a big game)
  • Prank a Teacher
  • Duct Tape Someone to the Wall
  • Pie your Teacher
  • Shave a Head
  • Dye some Hair
  • Extra Credit
  • Homework Passes
  • No Test
  • Snacks

I would suggest getting parent and administration approval on some of these, which I did.

We do set pretty high goals. Some of these rewards do take away from class time, but I combine them whenever I can. For example, we can have a potluck, movie day, and get extra credit and I only lose one day of instructional time.

Speaking of instructional time, I am very ok with giving up time for an excellent reason like making a goal. If my students worked hard in a unit to make sure they have no more than 3 missing assignments as a class, dang right we are going to celebrate! In life we don’t work hard just for the sake of working hard, there has to be some kind of reward at the end to motivate us. Given students a break once every unit for students to celebrate what they earned is exactly what I should be doing as a teacher.

STEP FOUR – Results

My Biggest Benefit

The best result for me that I see in making classroom goals is that I get to know my students better. When we complete step one, reflections, I really get to listen to my students. I can talk to my students person-to-person and get their feedback. Learning what works best for them AND showing them that I care enough to change and improve is so impactful. Sometimes the best conversation is the informal ones.

Classroom Culture

The biggest result I see for the students is a change in classroom culture. Students learn quickly that in order to attain their goals, they have to function as a unit. I see them reaching out to each other to offer help and asking their neighbors for advice. They are in this together, and they can achieve anything they set their minds too.


Many of our goals are focused on grades, and because of this I see a big improvement them! For me, grades are not the most important thing when it comes to creating and achieving goals. If they learn how to create goals, work hard for them, and reflect, then my work is complete. Improvements in grades is just a fringe benefit.


If you have read my other post “The Most Impactful Moment of My Teaching Career” you know how important it is for me to really talk to my students. Talking with students and giving them a say in their education is more important than we realize. The more say they have, the more ownership they possess, and the more they will try to be the best that they can be.

Making class relate to life is a huge goal of mine! Creating goals can be a life-changing experience. I want to teach students HOW to make goals, especially how to make them attainable. If they set too lofty of goals, they may get frustrated if they don’t make them and then give up. However, if they set their goals too low, this will not help them improve in life. Something as simple as setting goals can have a lasting impact.

Do you set goals? How have they impacted your life?

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