Prepare For Spring Conferences In January January 06 2010

Kids are back in school after a long break, and the new year has begun. This is a great time to teach a goal setting lesson and prepare for spring conferences at the same time!


This goal setting activity will take two separate lessons - I usually did them on two separate days. The first part of the lesson involves Evaluation of Work and Self-Reflection on behalf of students regarding what they've produced in class so far this year.

Hopefully there's a collection of work for students to look over for this part of the lesson. I like to keep samples of work in each subject area throughout the year, filed by student name. One reason is that we are required by the school district to report state benchmark scores in different areas using these worksamples. The other reason is that it helps show parents at Fall and Spring Conferences how students are doing, and gives students a chance to evaluate their own work for improvement.

This evaluation will require some leading on your part. Choose a few subject areas, such as Reading, Writing and Math. Give your students their folders of work and have them find the earliest sample of work from each subject area (usually from September). Then have them find a later one or the absolute best sample they can find for Reading, Writing and Math.

For the evaluation part of this exercise, you might want to utilize the  Student Evaluation and Self Reflection Sheet, which focuses on three things: comparing their earliest work with their best work in order to acknowledge growth, stating what they like about their work, and including what they don't like about their work.

At the end of this lesson, have your students put the best work samples right on the top in their file folders and collect both the folders of work and the Student Evaluation and Self Reflection Sheet.

The next part of this process is a lesson involving your students setting their own academic goals.

What is a Goal?

Actually setting the goals is where students get confused. Typically, their goals are unrealistic, off-topic or unfocused. Therefore, it's necessary to start goal setting with kids by discussing what a goal is.

A goal is specific, achievable, and has a timeline.

I like to give examples of three goals I have achieved in the last year or so, and write them using the following structure:

I want to ___________________________________________ (the achievable task) by ___________________(date to be finished). I will know I've reached my goal when ___________________________________________.

At this point, it would be a good idea to have the whole group practice with you. It will be necessary to focus on how specific the goal needs to be. For example, "I want to improve in math" isn't specific enough; it will need to be changed to "I want to learn my multiplication tables through the 9s by March 30th."

Stick with the process of refining specific goals, and wait for your kids to practice thoroughly before continuing the goal setting lesson.

Identify Three Goals

When your students are ready to move on, be ready to give them focus to their goals. I like to lead students through making three goals (three is a magic number, after all). You might want to focus on subject areas, and have kids craft goals for Reading, Writing and Math. If this is the case, have students use the "What I don't like about my work" part of the Evaluation and Self-Reflection Sheet to figure out what they'd like to improve.

Another approach is to have students craft goals in different areas based on the issues in your classroom. I've had kids make goals for Behavior in the Classroom, a Subject Area and/or Skill, and a Personal Goal of their choice to help them apply goal setting to other parts of their lives. I still use the Evaluation and Self Reflection Sheet, but I might add a section on Classroom Behavior (what they like and need to improve regarding their own behavior).

Post Your Goals

Now that your students have crafted their three goals for a specific time period, have them write their specific, achievable goals on the Student Goal Sheet. Instead of stopping with that, see if they can fit their three goals on a 3x5 card, then use package tape to affix their cards to their desks. This keeps the goals right in front of your students, and you can refer to them on a regular basis. If there isn't enough room for all three goals, have them write one of them that applies to their work in the classroom.

Now that student goal setting is done, collect the Evaluation and Self Reflection Sheets and the Goal Sheets to file in each student's folder of work. At conferences, share the Evaluation Sheets, the Goal Sheets, and the best worksample the student chose from each area with parents!