Coaches' Corner: Goals in a Jar

Weekly goals invigorate learning and build skills for goal fulfillment

For Middle Level

Dear Coach Scott,
What's a structure I can use to make goal setting and goal maintenance something I do on a regular basis? Students set goals at the beginning of the year, and we post these in my advisory room, but I haven't been good about revisiting them. The goals tend to wither on the wall and become an afterthought.

Coach Scott says,
Goal setting provides students with a clear learning target and supports students' need for autonomy, competence, and relationship. Students experience your concern for them when you ask them what they want and give them a voice in their own learning. One teacher at St. Albans City School in Vermont has found a way to make checking in on goals safe, fun, and routine. Each Monday morning during advisory, students write a short-term goal on a small piece of paper. He asks them to make the goal specific, school-related, and something that can be completed by the week's end. A few example goals include:

• Get all my homework done
• Bring a pencil to each class
• Study two times for the science test.

After a few volunteers read their goals to the group, all students place their goals in a jar. The jar sits in a prominent place in the room.

During the week, the teacher may choose to do several things to keep students mindful of their goal. He may verbally refer to the goals, or point to the jar when he has everyone's attention and ask, "What progress are you making? Share your response with a partner." Or he may have students write a quick note about their progress.

On Friday, students stand and form a circle. They take turns pulling a goal out of the jar and reading it to the group. The student who wrote the goal then shares what she did to reach the goal and how close she came to reaching it. She and/or other classmates may then say what might have been a barrier or a builder in accomplishing the goal. The whole class does a quick cheer or acknowledgment for the student before the next goal is pulled from the jar and read. See Cheers.

Over time, students develop a better understanding of how to set meaningful, short-term goals and how to take action to achieve their targets as they move incrementally toward meeting their semester or annual goals. This skill will help them their entire lives. The school year provides advisory students over thirty weeks of meetings-over thirty chances to practice using goals to achieve success.

Scott Tyink is an Origins Developmental Designs consulting teacher.