Setting Goals: Teaching Students to Set Reading & Writing Goals

There is a lot of energy in November. The end of the year is coming, which means that the holidays are around the corner – and that includes spending more time with family and friends and embracing the season. There is a lot for both children and adults to look forward to during these last two months of the year. 

This time of the year is also a great time to spend time working with students on setting goals for their reading and writing work. Goals setting can be done with older as well as younger students, it just needs to be framed differently depending on the age and grade level of the students you are teaching. Setting goals can often motivate students to put forth effort in their reading and writing work and it can help you as the teacher plan lessons that will support the students with their reading and writing so that they can meet the goals they set for themselves. Having students set goals gives them agency and allows them to feel in control of the work that they are doing. So, how do you set goals with students? 

I like an idea I heard from Dr. Nicole Sieben during a recent talk she gave at a conference about writing: teaching students to set three different types of goals: short-term goals, long-term goals, and a reach goal. She suggested limiting the number of goals in each category so that it is manageable for the students to work towards. For instance, she encouraged setting 2 short-term goals, 1-2 long-term goals, and 1 reach goal.

The short-term goal is something that can be implemented in a shorter amount of time. Some examples include reading for 20 minutes each night and marking it on a calendar, finishing the first book in a series, or marking post-it notes in the book when there is a part that is confusing or a part that is really enjoyable. Long-term goals need to be done over a longer period of time and need more support from the teacher in order to accomplish. Examples of long-term goals can include reading through an entire book series, working on looking at the points of view from different characters in the book, or reading different genres of books. Reach goals can include a host of different ideas. For example, reading a book that is more challenging and may be at a higher reading level. It can also be reading all the books written by a particular author in a set amount of time. 

When students set goals, it is important that they be visible so that students can see them and continue to make progress on them. Some teachers have the students write their goals and tape them to their desk. You can get creative with how the students record their goals. Additionally, it’s important to regularly reference the goals that the students set so that they are monitoring their progress and working towards what they set out to achieve. We as teachers can be there to coach and cheer the students on so they find their way to accomplishing their goals.

Finally, goals are very individual and will vary depending on the student. The goals that students set can shift as time goes on, and that’s fine. We want to teach students that as life changes, so can their goals.

Do you have your students set goals? If so, how do you work on goal setting?