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10 Tips to Help Students Set New Year Goals

Janelle Cox


Now is the perfect time to teach students the importance of setting new year goals. This is an important life skill students need to learn. While young students may not be planning for college just yet, they can learn the importance of setting and achieving new year goals.  

Here are 10 tips to help students set goals for the new year.

1. Define the Word “Goal”

Make sure students know what the word “goal” means. Younger students may think it refers to a sporting event, so use that prior knowledge as a base when explaining the meaning you’re referring to. Tell students that when an athlete makes a goal, it is the end result of their hard work. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word goal as “something that you are trying to do or achieve.” Use this definition to help you explain the meaning of the word.

2. Teach the Importance of Setting Goals

Once students know the meaning of the word “goal,” now it’s time to teach them the importance of setting a goal. To help you do this, read the following to your students:

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Setting a goal will:

  • Improve your confidence.
  • Help you make better decisions.
  • Give you motivation in life.

Explain to students how powerful setting a goal and achieving it can be. You can say something like:

I want to take my children to Disney World, but in order to do that, I have to go on a budget. This means that I cannot go to Starbucks every morning and buy coffee, or go out to lunch with my friends. I have to save money so that my family can afford to go on a family vacation to Disney World.

This example shows students that you can sacrifice something you like, for a positive outcome. In this case the students will see that you had to plan your budget, and put money aside in order for your family to go to Disney World.

3. Set Realistic Goals

Help your students set small, achievable goals that can be achieved quickly. This will help them understand the process of setting and achieving a goal. Then, once they grasp this concept, you can have them set more goals. Have students focus on which goals are most important (make sure they are measureable, achievable, and specific).

4. Help Improve Unrealistic Goals

Some students may dream big, maybe too big, and you know that this goal will be unachievable. Instead of telling the student that they cannot do it, help them refine their goal into something you know they will be able to achieve.

5. Develop a Step-by-Step Method to Achieving the Goal

Once students have set their goals, it’s time to develop a step-by-step method to achieving this goal. Let’s say one student’s goal was to get 100 percent correct on their minute math test. The first question they should ask themselves is, “How am I going to achieve this goal?” Then, “What are the steps I need to take in order to get a 100 percent on the test?” Here is an example of the steps he/she needs to take.

Step 1 – Do all math homework.

Step 2 – Do math flashcards everyday.

Step 3– Practice minute math worksheets.

Step 4 – Play the game “Around the World” to practice math facts.

Step 5 – Get 100% on the minute math test.

6. Visually Create Your Goal

A visual reminder is a great way to help students physically see what their goal is. Depending upon what the student likes, visual reminders can be in many forms. For example, students can write down their steps on a ladder worksheet, where their goal is at the top and the steps to reach it is going up the ladder. Or, it can be in the form of a picture where it is literally a goal post with the goal written in the middle and the steps along the side.

7. Keep in Mind the Time Factor

Make sure students set a timeline to achieve their goal. Let’s use the example above about the minute math test. If this was a short-term goal, the student can set his or her timeline for one week. If this was a long-term goal, then the timeline could be one month, or even a few months depending on the student’s ability.

8. Have a Monthly Conference

Each month, have a conference with each student to see how their goals are developing. They may need some guidelines or motivation to help them achieve their goal by the time they set it. This tip is extremely important because children tend to forget about their goal, or get discouraged if they think they may not be able to achieve it. This is when you can help get them back on track.

9. Set Up a Reward

The reward may be achieving the goal in itself, but for some goals a little something extra will make achieving that goal even better. As adults, if we set a goal to lose five pounds, and we achieve that goal, we may treat ourselves to a special shopping trip, or a dessert to celebrate our accomplishment. If a student’s goal was to turn in his or her homework on time every day for a month that may not be as rewarding as physically seeing that you lost five pounds. Set up a reward with the student that you both agree on: Something that will help them to continue to see the benefit of achieving their goals.

10. Celebrate Once a Goal is Achieved

Hooray! You have achieved your goal! Now it’s time to celebrate. If all students set a goal and had the same end date and they all achieved their goal, celebrate with a class party! Then have students set new goals.

Happy New Year! What are some ways you teach goal setting in your classroom? Do you have any new year goals set for yourself? Please share with us in the comment section below! We would love to hear your thoughts. 

Janelle Cox is an education writer who draws on her 15 years of professional experience in the education system. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, where she provides educational information and lesson plans for teachers around the globe.

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