On Track and On Target {Student Led Goal Setting}

I get so many questions about how I set individual goals with 5 year olds (when they are not so independent yet).  So I thought I'd show a quick little tutorial on the process I use that works well for me. I try to start goal setting as soon as possible into the school year. It usually depends on my group of kiddos, but I definitely like to have a good start by the beginning of October. Here is what setting writing goals looks like in my classroom.

1. Assess students' independent writing.

The first and second week of school I take independent writing samples from my kindergartners in each genre (narrative, information, and opinion) based on the common core.  These writing samples are taken with very little direction. I simply prompt students to "write a narrative piece with beginning middle and end." There is absolutely no help from me. As you can imagine, the kids look at me like I have 3 heads, and ask for help 736 times but that's okay, this is a baseline...they can only grow from here! :)

2. Score writing on a rubric with grade level team.

I use the rubrics in Lucy Calkins New Units of Study. I love that they have grade level specific expectations along a continuum so I can really see where kids fall. Also it's a big reality check for how much most of my students need to learn, as a majority score minimal and basic with a small handful scoring close to proficient. I try not to worry too much though because there is plenty of time to get there!

3. Look at goals from VOICES menu that may be appropriate for groups of students.

I use the goal cards from the writing menu that I created based on the rubrics above to choose the goals that might work for at least a handful of kids based on the assessments/rubrics. Because small group instruction will be based on these goals, I try to limit choices to a manageable number of groups for myself. (Usually 5 at the most) 
 You can find the Voices Menu here.

4. Pull students individually to look at writing and choose from 2 or more goals.
I pull out the writing sample I took and read it back to the student then give them a choice of 2 or more goals.  For now I chose 2 that would work for about half of my kids, and 2 that would work for some of my more capable writers. Here is an example of one of my students needing a lot of support. As you can see both goals would be good choices to work on.

5. Students complete their goal sheet while I pull the next student.
The student selects which goal they would like to work on and then write it on their goal sheet by copying for now.  This is where the cards come in really handy because I can send them to their seat and pull the next student.

 The goal setting sheets that I use also have a spot for the students to add how they will show their evidence of learning and their learning plan.  We work on these together in our small group meetings, but this is about all they can handle in their first goal setting conference so we stop here for now.  

After setting goals with all of my students, the students with the same goal become a writing strategy group. I know my focus for each group and each time I confer with a child.  I am always amazed at how good students are at picking a good goal for themselves.  Of course it is guided so that I don't have 22 different goals at the same time, but still I rarely have to point out why a particular goal might be a better choice for them.  

For math and reading I use the same process.  I simply use any beginning of the year assessments I have in these areas along with the standards for kindergarten.  I have goal setting menus created for Math and Reading here as well.

These personalized goals really make learning more meaningful to students because they feel ownership in what they are working towards and it is specific to their needs.  making even the youngest student a part of goal setting has been a powerful tool in accelerating learning and increasing motivation/engagement in my classroom! 


  1. I think having students set academic goals is so important! I love that you have provided goal cards and think that many learners would find this very useful. Thanks for a great post!

    Lattes and Lunchrooms

    1. Thanks so much! I'm glad you value goal setting as well, I think it's often overlooked especially in the primary classroom.

  2. I love your voices menu! It's very easy for the students to read and know what the expectations are! Melissa from Mrs. Dailey's Classroom