As teachers, it is our job to provide them a paddle and point them in the right direction. One great way to help a student take ownership for his own reading development is to learn how to set learning goals. Goal-setting in reading is accessible for students because goals can be devised out of concrete and measurable actions (words per minute, number of pages read, chapters finished, levels advanced, etc). Many teachers find setting goals is especially powerful to support independent reading or the reading workshop structure.
To help students learn how to set their own learning goals, teachers should consider the following:
- Start with a read aloud to emphasize the importance of reading. Two great books to consider reading to early reading students are Thank You Mr. Falkner by Michigan author Patricia Polacco and Why I Will Never Ever Ever Ever Have Enough Time to Read This Book by the amazing Remy Charlip.
- Model how to set a reading goal. Using a standard goal setting sheet (depending on grade level it could include a space for students to draw a picture, write a goal, or both) teachers explain how to determine what a good goal would be, set criteria for meeting the goal, and how to record the goal. It is also important at this point to set procedures for where goals are recorded and stored (in a reading folder, notebook, or on a class goal board).
- Begin by individually meeting with students to set goals. Although the gradual release of responsibility allows for teachers to aid in goal-setting at the beginning, the ultimate outcome is for children to be setting their own goals. Individual student/teacher conferences to set goals are an important step in transferring responsibility to students.
- Help students determine when they need to re-evaluate or set new goals. Teachers should monitor the progress students are making toward their goals and reconvene conferences as needed to discuss goal progress. As students become progressively more independent the teacher begins to assume a facilitator role, ensuring students are setting realistic, measurable goals.
Setting goals with even the youngest children provides a base-line for monitoring student performance through collaboration and self reflection. Robert Wood and Edwin Locke (1987) found a significant relationship between goals and self-efficacy: Students with a stronger sense of efficacy also set higher, but reachable, goals. Wood and Locke found that more challenging goals usually prompt higher achievement. It’s worth doing!