Great mini-lesson on goal setting using balls and baskets
Monday, February 4, 2019

Great mini-lesson on goal setting using balls and baskets







Classroom Ideas Career Advice Life & Wellbeing Lesson Plans Humor Free Printables Contests & Giveaways Uncategorized


Book Lists Motivating Students Teacher Problems Free Printables Writing Classroom Decor Self-care Positive School Culture New Teacher Advice Literacy Classroom Organization School Supplies Behavior Management Helpline EdTech Pop Culture Classroom Community Craft Projects Tough Topics Current Events


Elementary School Middle School High School 4th Grade Kindergarten 3rd Grade 2nd Grade 1st Grade 5th Grade PreK Higher Ed


English Language Arts Inspiration Reading Classroom Management Teacher PD Classroom Setup & Supplies Life Outside School Math Technology School Culture & Colleagues Science Social Studies Supporting Students Social Emotional Learning Arts STEM Holidays & Seasons Back to School Teacher Discounts & Deals Summer Survival Guide



Ideas, Inspiration, and Giveaways for Teachers


Topic: Supporting Students
Classroom Ideas

You Can Do It! How to Encourage Goal Setting for Students

Great ideas for kicking off 2018.

Lindsay Barrett on December 28, 2017

Goal Setting for Students

As a teacher, you regularly think about goal setting for students. From improving skills and meeting standards to being kind and putting the darn caps back on the glue sticks, there’s always something to strive towards. Have you tapped into the power of setting goals with students, though? Research spanning decades shows that setting students goals improves both motivation and achievement. Goal setting encourages a growth mindset.  It also supports the development of skills students need to be prepared for their future careers .

There’s no shortage of teachers doing innovative work around goal setting for students. We’ve compiled some of our favorite resources into this handy guide for you.

What is a goal, anyways?

For younger students, you may need to start by distinguishing between a goal and a wish. I wish for a giant bowl of ice cream every evening around 8 PM, but my goal this year is to stay hydrated by drinking 100 ounces of water each day. Sigh. A read aloud like Froggy Rides a Bike by Jonathan London can help make this distinction clear. Froggy wishes he could own a cool trick bicycle, but his goal is to learn to ride a bike—which it turns out he’s able to achieve with persistence and despite a few classic “more red in the face than green” moments.

For all students, it’s helpful to share books that portray goal setting. In early elementary grades, Peter’s effort in Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic example of persistently working towards a specific goal.   Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller presents a nice variety of goals, from learning to read to helping someone each day. However, upper elementary and middle school, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind , Young Reader’s Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer chronicles William’s work to relieve his village from drought. It includes the sub-goals he works towards along the way, such as researching viable solutions and figuring out how to build a windmill. A great picture book option for older students is Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo. This title is a biography of a diver who set and reached many goals, both physical and academic, along the way to becoming an Olympian.

Be SMART about it

Helping students hone their goal setting skills makes it more likely they will meet them.  SMART goals  have been a popular tool for years and many teachers have successfully implemented versions of this practice with their students. Consider these tactics:


Unpack the goal-setting process with students

SOURCE: Scholastic Top Teaching Blog

This lesson plan from Scholastic includes a free downloadable poster and graphic organizer. We love the brainstorm activity and interactive whiteboard sort for distinguishing specific and vague goals. These could easily be adapted for younger students based on the examples you choose.


Start small


SOURCE: 3rd Grade Thoughts

This blog post from 3rd Grade Thoughts includes a simple-but-powerful anchor chart and a straightforward system for students to publicly identify short-term goals. Students in this classroom work on “ WOW goals ” to be completed “Within One Week.”


Encourage nonacademic goals, too

In this lesson plan about character-based goals,   students work with partners to discuss goals related to specific virtues such as respect, enthusiasm, and patience. They make specific plans to upgrade their behavior and evaluate their own progress.


Don’t stop now: keep track and reflect

Raise your hand if you sometimes add items to your to-do list just for the satisfaction of crossing them off. Progress monitoring systems are motivating, and they are a crucial component of goal-setting work. Consider:


Visual tracking systems

SOURCE: The Brown Bag Teacher

This post from The Brown Bag Teacher  describes a star chart for keeping track of filled-out reading logs. This system displays progress in a concrete way and could easily be adapted to other goals.


Goal-setting apps

SOURCE: Goals on Track

There’s an app for that! This roundup of goal setting and tracking apps from Emerging Ed Tech gives you plenty of options for taking that to do list up a notch.


Sharing assessment data with students

SOURCE: EL Education

This video  from EL Education demonstrates how teachers can make the assessment data you’re collecting anyways more meaningful to students. This teacher discusses DRA data with students to help them reflect upon their progress and establish updated goals.


It’s time to celebrate!

Who doesn’t love a chance to be recognized for an achievement? Acknowledging students’ attainment of goals is an important component of classroom goal setting. Consider these ideas:


Make celebration a habit


Nurture a “hooray” classroom culture by adopting the perspective of teacher Kevin Parr,  who noticed an uptick in student motivation when he simply made a daily effort to provide more nonverbal and verbal recognition.


Recognize students in writing and in public

Send students “Happy Mail”, as described by Responsive Classroom. Use written awards or notes to give individualized and authentic positive feedback and publicly share them for added recognition.


Introduce fun classroom traditions

If your school allows balloons, we love Dr. Michele Borba’s suggestion to put small rewards––or reward “coupons”–– inside balloons and write a goal on the outside of each one. Make a big deal out of popping a balloon when a goal is met.

How do you go about goal setting for students in your classroom? Let us know in the comments!


Posted by Lindsay Barrett

A former elementary teacher and reading nonprofit director, Lindsay now works as a literacy consultant and freelance writer while wrangling her four young children.

All Posts

Leave a reply Cancel reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Get Our Newsletter

Recent Articles

  • 11 Printable Holiday Cards for Coworkers, Students, and Parents
  • Encourage Creative Movement in the Classroom With Free Wellness Way Printable
  • Top Teacher Stories: Week of December 7, 2018
Check Out Our Holiday Giveaways with $25,000+ in Prizes! Go Now >>


Skip to content


Big Life Journal


7 Fun Goal Setting Activities for Children

by Ashley Cullins


    We all know that setting and achieving goals is a life skill necessary for success and happiness. But it’s one that even adults REALLY struggle with: Studies say that only about 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions!

    How can we teach children to set realistic goals —and actually follow through?

    Make it fun!

    Research shows that children learn best when they’re playing and enjoying themselves at the same time. Fun experiences increase levels of endorphins, dopamine, and oxygen, all of which promote learning . 

    Here are 7 activities that can make goal setting more fun and effective. 

    goal setting activities - big life journal

    Before you move on be sure to sign up for our FREE weekly printables carefully crafted to teach your kids growth mindset, resilience, and much more. Sign up below to make sure you’re on the list!
    Once signed up you will immediately receive our popular Parent’s Guide to a Growth Mindset

    Growth Mindset Guide for Parents

    1. Make a Bucket List

    Typically, a bucket list is a list of accomplishments, experiences, or achievements that someone wants to have during their lifetime.

    To teach your kids goal-setting —and have fun in the process—you can create a YEARLY bucket list.

    Do you have teens? Encourage them to use resources such as Trello and Evernote to help create the family bucket list or to make personal ones for themselves. This gives them a chance to use their technology knowledge and creativity in a meaningful way. They can share their lists with the family and help track everything online. This is a great way to include older kids in a family project and to build connections.

    It’s even more fun if the whole family gets involved.


    Here’s what to do: 

    1. Gather your family together, grab a piece of chart paper and some markers, and start brainstorming.
    2. As a family, discuss what you would like to do, experience, and achieve over the next 12 months. 
    3. Once you’re done brainstorming, put this list up somewhere where everyone can see it often (for example, by the kitchen table). 

      Throughout the year, your family will have tons of fun accomplishing items on the list and checking them off.

      As the year progresses and you start to notice several items remaining, you can talk about if you still want to accomplish each of these goals or if your family’s goals have changed. If you still want to accomplish them, how can you go about doing so? What steps will you need to follow?

      Research shows that in addition to learning through play, children also learn effectively through experience. Keeping track of and planning toward goals will be a valuable learning experience for your child, and it’s a fun way for your family to bond as well!

      At the end of the year, you can look back over all of the things your family has accomplished. You may even make creating an annual bucket list into a new family tradition!

      Need some ideas? Check out the  Growth Mindset Activity Kit ! These brain-building activities and games include movement, art, crafts, music, and breath. They engage multiple senses to accommodate different learning styles. It includes activities such as My Big Life Bucket List and the Big Life Adventure Calendar

      activity kit bucket list calendar - big life journal

      2. Draw a Wheel of Fortune

      The idea for the “wheel of fortune” was created by Dennis Waitley, author and authority on personal development.

      A wheel of fortune goal-setting activity for children.

      Here’s what to do:

      1. Help your child draw a wheel divided into SEGMENTS. On each segment, your child will write important categories in her life: Family, Friends, School, Tennis, etc.
      2. Your child will then choose one category that she would like to focus on first. For this category, she will write out each goal she would like to accomplish in a set period of time (this year, for example). For instance, if the category is “Tennis,” your child might write that she would like to practice at least three times a week, improve her forehand, and learn to serve.
      3. Next, talk to your child about the steps she will take to achieve these goals and what obstacles she may encounter along the way. If she does encounter these obstacles, what will she do to overcome them?
      4. Let your child color and decorate the wheel however she would like, then hang it somewhere prominent.

      As your child reaches her goals in one segment of the wheel, do something to CELEBRATE, then repeat the process above for each additional segment.

      Over time, your child will improve in many aspects of her life, all while learning to set and reach goals.

      The Growth Mindset Printables Kit includes colorful, fun, and easy-to-use goal setting sheets and other encouraging activities and printables that are perfect to use for this step. 

      my power of YET - big life journal

      3. Create a Vision Board

      A vision board is a great way to help your child visualize her goals. Your child will also have fun with this meaningful arts and crafts project.

      Here’s what to do:

      1. Take out some old magazines and ask your child to cut out pictures that represent her hopes and dreams. If your child has something specific she wants to include that she can’t find, you can print pictures from the Internet.
      2. Your child will then paste these pictures onto a piece of poster board. She can also decorate with colors, glitter, feathers, etc.
      3. When it’s finished, hang the  vision board  somewhere in your child’s bedroom, where she will frequently be reminded of her aspirations.

      A vision board is a fun goal-setting activity for children at home or in a classroom.

        Making the vision board helps your child think through her goals, and it also serves as a powerful visual reminder of everything she would like to achieve.

        Revisit the idea of the vision board often. Ask your child what different pictures represent and how she plans to achieve her various dreams.

        If the goal is a big one, help her break it into simple pieces. What are some small steps she can take now to achieve her long-term goals in the future?

        Your child will learn to set goals, think critically, and plan ahead. She’ll also develop the understanding that what she does now and throughout her life does matter and can positively impact her future.

        Looking for inspiring and beautiful quotes to add to a vision board? The Inspirational Quotes Bundle is a curated a collection of over 40 beautifully illustrated inspirational quotes for kids, parents, and teachers. These quotes, both encouraging and thought-provoking, are perfect for homes and classrooms.

        be the calm quotes kit big life journal

        4. Play 3 Stars and a Wish

        3 Stars and a Wish is a fun way to get kids thinking about their goals while also providing some positive affirmation .

        3 stars and a wish is a fun goal-setting activity for children and adults.

        Here’s what to do:

        1. First, your child comes up with 3 “Stars,” or things she already does well. This can be anything from running fast to solving math problems to comforting her friends when they’re feeling sad.
        2. Talk to your child about HOW she became so good at these “Stars.” Did she have to practice? Did it take her time to learn ? Or did she magically acquire these skills overnight?
        3. Next, have your child come up with a “Wish.” The “Wish” is something that your child needs or wants to work on (a goal).
        4. Ask your child WHAT she can do to help make her wish come true. Explain to her that this isn’t chance; it’s choice. She can choose to take steps that will lead to the fulfillment of her wish.

        Make sure that you or your child write everything down. If your child is old enough, it’s a good idea to have her write about her progress toward her wish on occasion.

        Psychology professor Gail Matthews found that writing down your goals on a regular basis makes you 42% more likely to achieve them.

        Having your child share her hopes and dreams with you makes her more likely to achieve them too. Dr. Matthews found that people are even more likely to achieve their goals if they share them with a friend (or parent) who believes they will succeed.

        The Big Life Journal is a great place to record your child’s dreams, ask big questions, and have meaningful conversations. You can also explore how other’s turned their dreams into reality. Topics include: Dream Big, Take Action, and Effort is Key. 

        dream big effort - big life journal

        5. Ask Fun Questions

        Asking your child questions about what she would like to accomplish is a standard component of the goal-setting process.

        However, you can get creative and make the process more enjoyable with fun questions like:

        • What would you do if you won the lottery?
        • What is your biggest dream?
        • If you had a superpower, how would you use it?
        • If you found a genie and could ask for three wishes, what would you wish for?

        Of course, some of these questions may prompt unrealistic answers from your child, but you can help her tweak them to be more achievable.

        Ask fun questions when setting goals together with your children or students.

        Then discuss that she may not win the lottery or find a magic genie, but she can take her fate into her own hands by making a plan to achieve her hopes, goals, and dreams.

        6. Interest Maps

        Older kids can learn a lot about themselves by paying attention to their interests. Do they like art or science or writing or sports? Write down all their favorite interests. Next, see if they can find patterns in the things they enjoy doing. Do they enjoy working with people? Animals? By themselves? Check out our example of an interest map to get some ideas. Once they see their interests mapped out, they can create goals.

        The Big Life Journal Teen Edition has an Interest Map and details on how to use this method to flesh out future goals. Perfect for ages 11+. 

        interest map - BLJ teens

        7. Stair-step goals (or goal ladders)

        Using a stair-step visual for goal-setting , teens can break down their goals into doable steps. Follow this simple method:

        1. Write down your DREAM at the top of the staircase.
        2. Write down your FIRST GOAL at the very bottom of the staircase and the first action towards that goal.
        3. Create your second goal and the first action towards it.
        4. Create your third goal and the first actions towards.
        5. Continue “climbing” the stairs. Add dates, drawings, anything that helps motivate you!

          For example, your daughter chose “basketball” as an interest. She can now create stair-step goals based on her interests such as:

          • Practice everyday for 30 minutes
          • Run 1 mile 5 days a week
          • Score 50 points this season
          • Make 25 rebounds
          • Encourage my teammates

          Your tween or teen can practice creating stair-step goals or goal ladders in the Big Life Journal – Teen Edition .

          teen goal setting


          It’s common for kids to be uninterested in setting goals, and even more uninterested in pursuing them to fruition. You can try to change that by making the process more fun with the following activities:

          1. Make a family bucket list, checking off items as you go.
          2. Help your child draw and decorate her own “Wheel of Fortune.”
          3. Let your child create a vision board using magazine pictures, and hang it in her bedroom.
          4. Ask your child to come up with “3 Stars and a Wish.”
          5. Pose fun questions to your child to help determine her hopes, dreams, and goals .

          If you can get your child interested in setting and achieving goals , you’ll raise a determined and successful individual!

          Before you move on be sure to sign up for our FREE weekly printables carefully crafted to teach your kids growth mindset, resilience, and much more. Sign up below to make sure you’re on the list!
          Once signed up you will immediately receive our popular Parent’s Guide to a Growth Mindset

          Share on Facebook

          Tweet on Twitter

          Pin on Pinterest

          Related Posts

          A Guide to Making the Most of Your Big Life Journal

          A Guide to Making the Most of Your Big Life Journal
          This guide is for Big Life Journal for Kids 
          You’ve heard how much Big Life Journal rocks. And you’re pumped to get s…

          Read More

          1 comment

          • Thank you for this. I teach special needs transition students and they have a very difficult time understanding “goal”, probably because everything, from grades to awards, has been given rather than earned. This is helpful in teaching them to earn money and to earn position within a job. It is also helpful in teaching them to “earn” respect and put actions into making friends.

            Kelli Smirniotis

          Back to Growth Mindset Blog

          We use cookies and similar technology on this website, which helps us to know a little bit about you and how you use our website. To accept cookies continue browsing as normal or go to the Cookies Policy for more information and to set your preferences.


          Join 223,342 teachers and parents who receive free printables every Friday! 

          Free Printables