5 Ways to Help Students Meet Their Goals & Resolutions

Our students will not have us around forever to help them meet their SMART goals or new years' resolutions, so we need to set them up for success now and provide them with the tools they need to be successful. In this post I explore five different ways that we can help students achieve their goals and resolutions. Some work with a common enemy, some work with student choice, and some work with identifying the root cause. I've included a free teacher resolution download for you, too!

Many of us teachers incorporate SMART goals, growth mindset, perseverance lessons, RTI processes, charting growth with data, or other methods to help our students improve over time.

All of these pursuits are great and CAN work. My only concern with SOME school-led initiatives is that SOME of them do nothing to help student independence.

Moving forward, students might not always have you, that magical graphic organizer, or your programs with them in the future. When my 8th graders move on to high school, I have to at least try to make them independent "enough" that they can identify, tackle, and solve their own problems, and not wait on an adult to do it for (or even with) them.

My proposal is, whether we're setting SMART goals in September or resolutions in January, we need to use processes that will:
  • Help students truly self-identify a goal or problem, 
  • Figure out the best method(s) to achieve it, and
  • Adjust, try again, or get the plan done.
So, how on earth can we do that in a differentiated manner (and with limited classroom minutes)? 

Just as your students and their goals are all different, there won't be one right answer in this post. BUT, here are some ideas to try that might help shake up the goals and resolutions in your room. 

#1: Take a poll and pick a common enemy. 
Hear me out. Yes, I'm all for differentiation and individual goals (keep reading #2-5). And yes, you already know some of the skills or facts that your students need to improve. But student buy-in is SO different if you can tell students that "Your survey results show that you really want to get better at ________, and I'm going to help you do that." 

Use your favorite paper or electronic polling method and ask a simple question: What do you want to get better at before the end of the school year? 

Every time I ask this question, the results are fascinating, and not always what I expect. Maybe your high schoolers have more test-taking anxiety than you realized and need some targeted skill work before a standardized test. Maybe middle schoolers are secretly sweating the amount of note-taking they think they'll have to do in high school. But it's worth finding out what "common enemies" you can tackle as a class!

For example, when we realized that our eighth graders had poor note-taking skills and were conscientious of it, another teacher and I co-taught this Note-Taking Skills Lesson to try multiple note-taking styles and identify what they needed to do differently!

#2: Give a choice project. 
Depending on the amount of time you have, your curriculum, and your objectives (are you addressing academic goals or behavioral ones?), then you might like EITHER... 
  • My Life Skills Project, in which students pick a skill or topic to get better at and move through a planning process to meet and achieve that goal, OR...
Our students will not have us around forever to help them meet their SMART goals or new years' resolutions, so we need to set them up for success now and provide them with the tools they need to be successful. In this post I explore five different ways that we can help students achieve their goals and resolutions. Some work with a common enemy, some work with student choice, and some work with identifying the root cause. I've included a free teacher resolution download for you, too!
A sneak peek of my Life Skills Project!

Either way, the idea is that the fixed time frame of a challenge or project can help make the goal-reaching process seem more tangible, instead of a nebulous "should-do" in their lives.

#3: Get to the root of their academic or behavioral issue. 
One day, in a moment of what I call "spontaneous weirdness", I blurted out to my students that I was tired of their "procrastinitis", and that we needed to find a cure for it ASAP.

Well, like any good middle school metaphor, that concept took off like wildfire until 10 different student "diseases" were born...

Our students will not have us around forever to help them meet their SMART goals or new years' resolutions, so we need to set them up for success now and provide them with the tools they need to be successful. In this post I explore five different ways that we can help students achieve their goals and resolutions. Some work with a common enemy, some work with student choice, and some work with identifying the root cause. I've included a free teacher resolution download for you, too!
The poster component of my Student "Diseases"/ Skills Unit!

... and now, we're doing a skills mini-unit in January together about how to "cure" their diseases once and for all. Find out more about it here!

#4: Give reproducible or keepsake tools that will last.  
I've seen some mighty, amazing graphic organizers that are given to students... once. But not every student is a one-and-done learner, and if they ONLY learn how to write that essay or SMART goal with a specific worksheet, then they might not be able to reproduce those results in the future. 

Consider trying ONE of these in your next semester:
  • Keep more copies publicly available. Print more and display them in a milk crate/hanging file, a binder/folder in the room, or on a bulletin board, so students can grab and go!
  • Always pass out an extra blank one with your assignment. Tell students to use one now, and tuck the other in a special "save forever" section of their binders!
  • Be careful with digital files, though! For one, if you didn't make the graphic organizer, then putting it online might be breaking copyright law (for real!). Also, if you put it in a class website or something, will students ACTUALLY be willing and able to go back there years later? Probably not. Just give them a printed keepsake!

#5: Give students more freedom to get it done their way. 
Yes - shocking - what if we surrendered more control of the process? We do gradual release for other areas of learning, so why insist on gripping tightly to student goals even through high school? 

If you (or at least your students) are ready for some independence, try this FREE Student Resolutions BINGO board, which still helps them pick goals (and have a time element) without stringently clutching to some of the steps in-between.

Our students will not have us around forever to help them meet their SMART goals or new years' resolutions, so we need to set them up for success now and provide them with the tools they need to be successful. In this post I explore five different ways that we can help students achieve their goals and resolutions. Some work with a common enemy, some work with student choice, and some work with identifying the root cause. I've included a free teacher resolution download for you, too!

BONUS: I made a FREE version for you, too! Pick up the Teacher Resolutions Bingo Board in this blog post

What other ideas do you have to help students this year? Tell me in the comments!

3 comments

  1. So many brilliant ideas here! I love giving students choice and also think it's important to seek feedback. Sometimes I use Socrative for polls in my classes.

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  2. I love that you continually reinforce how powerful it is to give students choice when identifying areas that they would like to strengthen and the ways that they will create a plan to meet their goals. I believe that this is critical as well. Thank you for sharing such sound advice and awesome resources!

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  3. Thanks Sara - this post is a real keeper! My favorite is giving them tools that last. And I am inspired by your willingness to differentiate for students to optimize their strengths, here! Happy New Year and hope you have the best term yet!

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