“It’s Goal-Setting Monday ”

by Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman


Do your students set goals every Monday? Do they do it every semester? Do they do it at all? Do they keep track of whether or not they are reaching their individual goals? If not, why not?

Many teachers have goals for students.  While teachers having goals for students is not a bad thing and we certainly recommend it, it is not the same as students setting their own goals.

When you set your own goal you have a greater investment in it. You become more committed to accomplishing it because you are its creator. A student is more self-motivated to work toward a goal that is internally generated than one that is externally imposed.

So why not have “Goal-Setting Monday”? Students likely do not know how to set appropriate goals, so begin by teaching them how to set an effective goal.

Left to their own devices, slow learners typically set two kinds of goals. A goal they often set is one that is so low that it is easy to achieve. “I intend to learn three chapter terms by Friday.” There is not much satisfaction that comes from something achieved so easily. The other type of goal low achievers often set is one that is so high they don’t have a chance of reaching it. “I am going to learn all the chapter terms in the book by Friday.” This is not a helpful goal either because the student may work diligently on-task for three days, and then realize she isn’t going to make her goal. She then says to herself, “See, I knew I wasn’t going to make it.” This reaffirms her opinion of herself as a person who “can’t.”

With these unskilled goal setters, it is best to arrange goal setting process so that the goals are mutually agreed upon between the teacher and the student. Work with students to create the kind of goal that high achievers have learned to create. High achievers typically set goals they have a 50/50 chance of reaching. Sometimes they get there. Sometimes they don’t.  In most cases, they get close.

One concept that is important for students to learn is that you cannot “do” a goal. They can, however, do activities that will lead them in the direction of accomplishing a goal. For instance, if your goal is to become skillful using the One Minute Behavior Modifier with your students, you cannot just go do it. Accomplishing a goal is not that simple. What you can do, however, are some activities that will move you in the direction of your goal.

You could:

  1. Read pages 189-194 in The Teacher Talk Advantage.
  2. Design several four-part messages to use in your classroom.
  3. Implement those four-part messages.
  4. Notice the reactions you get and modify as needed.
  5. Gather a group of teachers who want to work on this skill and meet regularly sharing successes and frustrations.
  6. Buy our book, The Only 3 Discipline Strategies You Will Ever Need.
  7. Read pages 3-34.
  8. Use the planning form with a student behavior you want to eliminate.

And so on.

Every time you engage in one of the activities, you will get closer to your goal of implementing the One Minute Behavior Modifier skillfully.

In addition to teaching your students how to list and do activities that move them toward their goal, help them create specific goals. A general goal is difficult to assess. “I want to be much better in spelling,” is too general. What is “much better”? How do you know if you got there? At what point do you get to celebrate because you crossed the line between “somewhat better” and “much better”?

Teach your students to get specific with their goals. “I want to get 75% Wednesday on my pre-test and have over 90% correct on Friday. With this type of goal, both you and the student know whether or not the goal was reached. It produces a specific time when the student can celebrate and say to herself, “I did it!” Reaching a goal feels good. It is self-affirming. When one reaches a goal and feels that sense of satisfaction, they are more likely to set higher goals next time.

Put the language of goal setting into your Teacher Talk. Talk about it, teach it, assign it, and debrief it. Help you students come to see themselves as goal setters and as people who accomplish things they set out to do. Help plant pictures in their minds of themselves as able, capable, and achievers. Make it one of your goals this Monday.


Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching.They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com



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