- Reading: Read deeply.
- Writing: Write convincingly. (Not sure about this one.)
- Speaking & Listening: Communicate effectively.
- Language: Express appropriately. (Also not completely sure about this one.)
- Media & Technology: Evaluate/Analyze effectively.
- Thinking: Think deeply.
- They aren't well-defined.
- They're not measurable.
Sticking with my original list would only cause my students and I confusion because we would never know what the goals are or when we'd reached them.
Asking the Right Questions to Determine the Right Goals
I set my original list aside for a few days and tried not to think about them too much. But, as the first week of school quickly ended, I knew that I needed to revisit them right away. The question I hadn't asked myself prior to my original list eventually surfaced:
By the end of each year, what do my kids consistently improve in?
The answer was simple: reading, writing, and communicating. From there, I created three goals centered around each of these improvements that my students consistently make big gains in. I revised my goals to:
- Be a better reader.
- Be a better writer.
- Be a better communicator.
With this list in place, I needed to take my thinking a bit further so that I would have well-defined goals that could be measured.
- How would I prove to someone else (parents, administrators, other educators) that this stuff is well-defined and actually happening?
- What would it look like if kids were able to do these things?
For each goal, here's what I added:
- Choose books that are on your reading level.
- Monitor your speed, phrasing, expression, understanding and thinking.
- Identify texts that are interesting.
- Keep a reading journal.
- Analyze and evaluate the texts you're reading.
- Follow the writing process.
- Choose good topics to write about.
- Spend more time revising and editing.
- Share what you've written.
- Give feedback to your peers (and me).
- Analyze what is good/bad writing.
- Keep a collection of your works.
- Reflect upon your writing.
- Re-do your pieces, as needed.
- Speak loud enough for everyone in class to hear you.
- Change your voice, tone, volume in ways that match the words you're reading.
- Volunteer to share, conference, give feedback.
- Make eye contact with audience, or the person sharing.
- Ask what, why, how questions to help the writer clarify his/her ideas for the reader.
- Listen by looking in the direction of the person speaking.
These sound a lot better than my original list because they're well-defined and measurable. They're written more clearly and they read like goals should read. As we work our way through the school year, my students and I will be able to understand exactly what's expected of them. With these goals in mind, we'll use them to analyze and evaluate their improvements, areas for refinement, and create additional goals as needed.
Fine Tuning Goals So They Feel Just Right
With my goals and sub-goals in place, now I can work on refining them. I need to think about adding something to the end of the ones that still feel a little less defined. This requires me to think about adding an evaluative or quantitative piece at the end of them.
Let's take a closer look at two goals that could use further clarification.
- Choose books on your reading level.
I could refine this goal by adding one (or more) of the following how-to clauses:
By using your lexile scores from your reading class.
By using the data from a 7 Minute Reading Test to help you determine the grade level at which you read. You will then choose books that are written at (or slightly above) this grade level.
By choosing books you can read easily and comfortably. Books where you can pronounce most of the words correctly and read with fluency.
- Analyze and evaluate the texts you're reading.
By using our classroom criteria. (For each text we read, we create a list of items that we believe makes a particular text good writing. Our lists are specific to genre and form and answer two questions: What makes this good writing? What would make this writing better?).
By using The Five Facts of Fiction to determine how a character changes/doesn't change within a novel.
By writing character/literary analysis essays.
By writing book reviews for each book we read.
In refining these two goals, I noticed that simply adding the word "by" to the front of the how-to clause helped me clarify what would be considered evaluative or quantitative. This refinement provides clarity about what I want my students to do and how it will look once we've they've done it.
Goals that Work For Your Students and For You
Goal setting is one of the things that I most enjoy about planning out the school year. Goals are exciting to write because I get to determine what I want my students to be able to do by the end of the school year. I can revisit them throughout the school year, refine them, establish new goals, determine how a goal will look once its been met, and include them in conversations about where we are, where we need to go, and why it's important to have a plan in the first place.
A word of caution about writing well-defined, measurable goals: a goal shouldn't feel like you've boxed yourself in. Nor should a goal be too lengthy. In writing my goals for this year, I discovered finding the right balance means stepping away for a short period of time, soliciting feedback from colleagues, and spending time in thoughtful reflection. I feel confident that I've chosen the right goals for my students (and I) this year. I'm looking forward to measuring our progress with each piece we write, each book we read, and each conversation we have.