Setting goals is a valuable skill that can be taught to most levels of learners. Taking the time to teach students the skills required for effective goal setting will provide them with the tools necessary for reaching their full potential. The month of January is a perfect time to implement a quick and engaging lesson on how to successfully set S.M.A.R.T. goals.
Start the lesson by having students write down one goal. Make sure you don’t give them any parameters. After students have written down their goal, show them the sobering statistics. According to U.S. News, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. Give students a moment to brainstorm why this is the case. Next, explain the power behind setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals allows you to clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, use your time wisely, and increase the chances of achieving what you set out to achieve.
Have all students stand up. As you go through each letter of the S.M.A.R.T. goals acronym, have students sit down when their goal does not meet the exact criteria. Begin with S (specific). Ask students if their goal is specific. Is it fine tuned, and do they really understand what they are trying to achieve? Use running as an example. Setting a goal to become a better runner is vague, but setting a goal to run a mile within a certain amount of time is specific. Have students sit if the goal they wrote down is not specific.
Move on to M (measurable). Let students know that their goals must be measurable. How will they know that they have achieved their goal? Is there benchmarks they can hit along the way? For example, running a faster mile is specific, but not measurable. Indicators of progress toward a faster mile might mean decreasing the time in ten second increments. Have students sit down if their goal is not measurable.
The next letter in the S.M.A.R.T. goals acronym is A (attainable). An attainable goal is something that can be achieved with current skills and abilities. Continue to use the running goal as an example. If the goal setter does not currently have the ability to run a complete mile, improving the mile time is not an achievable goal. Another great example of this is the goal to become a professional athlete. While a valid dream or ambition, it is not a S.M.A.R.T. goal because the student does not currently possess the skill and ability required of a professional athlete. Have students sit down if their goal is not attainable.
The R in S.M.A.R.T. goals stands for relevant. If a goal is relevant, it is meaningful and important. Go back to the running goal example. Why is it important for the runner to improve their mile time by twenty seconds? Maybe they are trying to make the track team or get a better grade in gym class. Either way, the goal has importance. Have students sit down if their goal is not meaningful.
Last, the T stands for timely. It is critical that the goal have time constraints. There is no urgency created by an open-ended goal. For example, the runner will decrease his or her mile time by twenty seconds within six months. Putting a sixth month deadline on the goal will create a sense of urgency. If any remaining students are still standing, have them sit down if their goal is not timely.
Looking around the classroom, it will become apparent that everyone needs to rewrite their goal. In order to inspire students to write viable and meaningful goals, read through some famous motivational quotes together as a class. Additionally, streamline the goal-setting process with your students by using a goal setting worksheet. Visit the Literacy in Focus Teachers Pay Teachers store to download a free S.M.A.R.T. goals planning template. The template clearly explains each letter of the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting acronym and includes close sentences for students to complete. Space to record action steps is also included.