May 23, 2012

The power of daily goals

When students are working in a workshop setting -- both individually and collaboratively, on computers and in books -- there can be many distractions. Although proper coaching from the beginning of the year helps students understand the value of efficient work, it's easy for the chaos to get out of hand, especially when the year is coming to a close.

What I always fall back on that quickly reels my students back into solid engagement is daily goal setting.

Teachers often help students set yearly, perhaps even quarterly, goals. Sometimes the daily goal can be even more powerful.

I don't have students set daily goals all year -- next year when working in longer blocks I intend to do so -- but when I notice less engagement, I know it's time to return to this, as I did today.

The process is simple. We use my classroom message board, but this can easily be done on notebook paper or an index card. I instruct students to tell me what they'll accomplish in a specific amount of time. So, a goal might look like this:
"In 40 minutes, I will read two nonfiction articles, bookmark  them on Diigo and annotate both. I will also post a reflection  letter on the novel, The Hunger Games, on KidBlog."
What makes this truly effective is saving five minutes at the end of class and asking students to complete a self-evaluation, in which they now write down exactly what they accomplished and see if it matches the goal. If not, ask them what they could do differently next time to meet the goal.

What do you think? Can daily goal-setting work for you?