In preparing for a new year, we have all heard about New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you have made some for yourself before! This is when a person reflects on their current state (be it physical appearance, personal finances, various relationships, etc.) and decides to make a plan in order to improve him or herself.

Although we do not typically ask students to create New Year’s resolutions in our classrooms, a new year basically provides our students with a fresh start and an excellent opportunity to reflect upon their performance so far in the school year! Students can evaluate their achievements in school and take steps to make the second half of the year more successful. Educators can facilitate this process by implementing goal setting into the classroom.

What Kinds of Goals Can Students Set for Themselves?

As an educator, it is important to encourage our students to set goals, but what types of goals should students set for themselves? When setting goals, I first ask my students to think about what they would like to improve about themselves. These improvements can be related to academics, school performance, behavior, or social skills and situations. Below are several examples of the different types of goals that students may want to set.

Academic Goals:

Turn in Assignments 

As most educators know, there will always be those students who struggle to turn in their assignments fully competed and/or on time. These particular students could set this goal to help them stay on top of their work.

Improve a Grade

Most of our students are keenly aware of their performance in various subjects. They are also upset when those grades do not match up with their own expectations. Setting a goal to improve a grade is an excellent opportunity for students to pinpoint a subject that they need more help with and create an action plan. As part of their goal to improve their grade, they may need to schedule study breaks each evening to review materials, create opportunities to learn or study with a classmate, reach out to a tutor for additional assistance, etc.

Ace the Test

Testing is an inevitable part of education. There will always be another test to prepare for and master. Students can set goals to help them perform to the best of their abilities on the test. From regular classroom tests to the ACT or SAT, testing goals keep students focused on what they need to accomplish in the long term.

Contribute During Class Discussions 

Some students may benefit from setting a goal to interact more during class discussions by adding information to the conversation and/or by answering questions more often.

Others: Participate in the spelling bee, join a scholarly club, increase knowledge of a particular subject, etc.

Social and Behavioral Goals:

Be Respectful 

Students with behavioral issues will benefit from setting a goal to improve their interactions with others. If a student is consistently in trouble for blurting out, saying inappropriate words, or simply talking at the wrong time, this goal would be greatly beneficial for them.

Show Kindness

Students may wish to make a difference in their surroundings. By setting a goal to show kindness, students can potentially change the atmosphere in a classroom. Kindness is contagious after all! If a student sets this goal, they may watch out for situations in which they can lend a helping hand to the teacher or a classmate, they may sit with and befriend a lonely student, stand up for what is right, and so on.

Make a New Friend/Be a Good Friend

It is always nice to have friends. Students may set out in the new year to make a new friend. This could mean introducing themselves to someone new or befriending another classmate who does not have many friends. In addition, students could make a goal to be a good friend.

Others: Avoid getting upset when things do not go as planned, help others in need, clean up the school campus, join a club, etc.

Goal Setting During COVID-19

This school year has been presented with unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The classroom setting has shifted for many students and is no longer located within the walls of a traditional classroom; however, educators can still stress the need and importance of goal setting with their students. Goals for the virtual classroom are extremely important (maybe even more so than in a traditional setting). Students are forced to be more responsible for their instruction and learning. Goals will keep students headed in the right direction while learning from home.

How to Help Students Set Goals

Goals require accountability. The purpose of a goal is to make the student accountable for their own progress and achievements. First, ask students to jot down things that they would like to improve in regards to their school performance (academically or socially) in a journal. Then, discuss how to formulate successful goals. In order for them to be beneficial, goals must be specific! Vague goals will not keep students focused on what they want to achieve for very long. Specific goals are more likely to keep students on track.

An example of a vague (nonspecific) goal would be “I will turn in assignments.” A specific goal says, “I will turn in all of my assignments on the day they are due, and I will check them thoroughly for missing work before I turn them in.” The specific goal provides the students with guidelines or “steps” for accomplishing the goal. This is crucial in order for the goal to work! Finally, students can revisit their journals as needed to review their goals and evaluate their progress toward accomplishing those goals.

Depending on the age of the student, they may need guidance in order to understand what a goal is. A goal is something that can be accomplished or achieved by perseverance and consistent hard work. Younger students may need additional assistance in creating their own goals.