Teaching Reflections · Teaching Topics/Activities · Topics for Parents and Students

Hello January: 5 Easy, Engaging Activities to Teach Goal Setting

Hello January! Just like that, a new year’s begun – full of potential and opportunity. It’s become a cultural tradition in North America to use this time of year for reflection, goal setting and planning for the upcoming year. To many of us, these activities come as second nature – especially A type teachers like me:) But for others, even the thought of goal setting and planning sends chills up their spine. It’s not that they don’t want to evolve, plan and accomplish their goals, the issue is that they don’t know how. Yes, goal setting is a skill – one that we all need to learn, if not in school then at home or through necessity.

Teaching students the skill of goal setting is one that they will use both in school as well as for the rest of their lives. I’m big on ‘soft skills’ in my classroom: socializing, communicating effectively, organization, responsibility, goal setting – they’re all my bread and butter. I try to intertwine these topics in my daily classroom activities as much as possible. I genuinely feel that (next to literacy of course) they are the most important lessons I can impart to my students. These are the keys to their future success in school and life. ‘Soft skill’ lessons are especially important for any students at risk, most of whom struggle with executive functioning skills. For these students, not only are soft skills a foreign entity,  their brains aren’t programmed to make the process of learning them very easy.

Luckily for me, the English classroom serves as the perfect setting to teach goal setting and any other ‘soft skill’. Since I can use any topic as a medium to teach media, oral communication, reading and writing January is the perfect time to focus on setting goals and making resolutions. Moreover, since I’m already interested in setting my own goals for the year, creating goal setting student exemplars ends up saving me from doing it on my own time. Bam! I love optimizing my time management. Yes, I’m aware of how corny that sounds.

Now onto the fun part – how does one go about teaching goal setting to students? In my opinion, as with any other skill the best way is through engaging activities, teacher modelling and practice. I’ve used a variety of activities in my classroom to teach goal setting in the past, but I wanted to take it to the next level this year. So, I came up with 5 fantastic activities that could be used in any intermediate or senior English classroom. Read on to read all about them!

#1: Create a Vision Board

Vision boards are all the rave these days. Essentially, these are goal setting collages of images, quotes, words, desires, etc. The idea is that once created the owner must display their vision board in a spot that they will frequent regularly to keep their ‘visions’ for the year. Teaching this as a goal setting activity is both easy and dynamic. Once students brainstorm their goals, they are simply challenged to communicate them visually, either in a physical or technological medium. Check out some vision board examples here.

#2: Year to Come Movie Trailer

My students have worked with the iMovie trailer program quite a bit over the past couple years, and for me this medium never gets old. Kids know movies and understand the medium genre of the trailer (i.e. an anticipatory summary of the film to come). Flipping this to challenge them to create a trailer about their visions and goals for the upcoming year is a great creative expression for goal setting. With the various templates to choose from in the program, students can literally set the tone and theme for their goals and pick some great images and music to communicate them to an audience. If you don’t have access to iMovie via Mac products, using any movie making program will also work for this task – you just won’t have the templates to build off of.

#3: Researching Effective Goal Setting 

Did you know that only 8% of people who make New Year’s Resolutions actually accomplish them? Cool fact. In this activity, challenge students to research the ‘why’ behind this phenomenon. You can also expand it to researching goal setting skills and techniques for success. I like this as a group activity, with whole class sharing and teacher collating of information for students to then use as a writing prompt for their own goal setting.

#4: Bucket List Writing Assignment

Writing a ‘bucket list’ has become more about creating a list of goals one wants to accomplish then a morbid gathering of final tasks before death. Challenge students to write a  ‘bucket list’  of goals they’d like to accomplish over the next year. Their writing should include not only an exploration of what they’d like to accomplish, but why and what obstacles may block their path.

#5: Articles of the Week

I use articles of the week in every unit or topic I teach, so this one isn’t an exception. Essentially, these are topic and grade specific, teacher chosen articles that are high interest, engaging and promote topics for discussion and writing. Finding articles about goal setting and new years resolutions in January is child’s play. They are spilling out of every media source imaginable. Pick one or a couple that suit your students reading level and interest, then create oral communication, media or writing tasks to follow up with the reading topics.

As usual, the activities I’ve briefed above are available as full resources and handouts on my teacher pay teachers’s store, teacherevolution. Check out the direct link here: 5 Easy Goal Setting Activities.

How do you teach goal setting or other soft skills to your students? Comment and share below:)

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