Help Your Student Set Goals for the School Year
The beginning of the school year—with its blank notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils, and clean slates—is the perfect time for students to set goals for the coming term. Having specific goals can help students stay focused and plan their time most effectively.
Experts say it’s much harder to reach goals if they are not written down and expressed clearly. A favorite way to correct this is by using the “SMART” goal system—something parents might be familiar with from the workplace. What are SMART goals? They are:
A typical goal for a student might be: “I want to get better grades.” Admirable, but not SMART.
Here’s a version that is smarter but not quite SMART: “I will get at least a B in all my math and science classes.”
Here is a SMART goal: “In each of my math and science classes [specific] this semester [time bound], I will earn at least a grade of B [measurable]. I can do this [attainable] by taking careful notes in class, asking my teacher for help when a concept is not clear, and seeking a tutor’s assistance if I’m still struggling. I won’t play video games or hang out with friends until my homework is completed each night [relevant].”
Brainstorming for Goals
Younger students will, of course, need more input from parents than older students will. But even so, the goals should come from the child rather than be imposed by the parent. This helps ensure that the goal is important to your child, and as a result, she will be more naturally motivated to work toward it.
Some students might easily come up with their own goals, but others might need a parent to help spark some ideas. According to Susan Bosak, creator of the Legacy Project, which encourages children to set goals and embrace the future with creativity, asking the student about what he’s studying in school is a good way to begin.
“Use what he is learning in the classroom as a springboard to thinking about [his] own dreams and goals. If the class is learning about animals, talk about what kinds of careers might involve animals[,] like a veterinarian, farmer, or biologist,” she says.
Refining Student Goals
It’s important for students not to forget the “attainable” portion of a SMART goal. If a student has been getting low marks in English class, it probably doesn’t make sense to set a goal of scoring 100 percent on all future tests.
“When we impose unrealistic expectations on ourselves, we tend to get burned out and discouraged and [are] more likely to quit. Instead, shoot for improvement, growth, and solid effort,” says Polly Campbell, author of How to Live an Awesome Life.
For younger students, it will probably suffice to set out the goals on printed paper or a whiteboard. But older students may benefit from tracking their goals on their smartphones. Here are seven apps designed to help people track and achieve their goals.
Students and their parents are the best judges of what specific goals would best suit them, but for inspiration, here are some examples of goals, broken down by grade range:
- Learn how to read a thermometer.
- Count from 0 to 100, and learn to count coins.
- Improve handwriting.
- Attain a basic understanding of the world’s major landmarks, from the Taj Mahal in India to the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
- Become comfortable writing a structured paragraph that contains a topic sentence, several supporting details, and a final sentence that wraps up the main idea of the paragraph.
- Master two-digit multiplication and basic division.
- Understand “retail” math (figuring out how much of a tip to leave in a restaurant; calculating a sale price; understanding interest on loans and credit cards).
- Become familiar with where electricity comes from and how it’s generated.
- Create and follow a study plan that includes good note-taking skills to get ready for high school and beyond.
- Meet with someone in a career that interests you. Discover more about what it’s really like to be a doctor, an electrician, a teacher, etc.
- Come up with a time-management plan that works for you. No matter what your plans are after high school, you’ll need to be able to use your time wisely.
- Become financially literate so you have a basic understanding of how to save, invest, and budget. Entering college or the work world without this knowledge will not serve you well in the long term.
Working with your children to set and achieve goals can give you a peek into what’s important to them. With your encouragement, they will learn that they can accomplish their goals, step by step. This experience not only gives them self-confidence but is also an important tool for success in school, career, and life.
Interested in getting more involved in your children’s education this school year? Visit the Connections Academy website to learn more about tuition-free online school, or the International Connections Academy website to discover the advantages of online private school.