As a new teacher, goal setting for writing can feel overwhelming and just another set of activities to do on an already busy curriculum.
However, setting writing goals doesn’t have to be difficult. Scaffolding learning with clear and consistent goals is something that can become a fun and rewarding experience for both teacher and student.
1. Create realistic goals The goals you set with students should be aligned to your curriculum but must be achievable. Kindergarten students can start with labelling a picture and move towards higher goals for their age group such as writing on the line with finger spaces.
First Grade students may start with writing simple sentences and move towards using more noun groups in their writing. The goal will depend upon the student’s own level of achievement. You must differentiate for students without setting the goal too high and unachievable for them.
2. Personalise goals One of the first things I do when I start a new school year is to collect samples of student writing. Then I examine each piece for the achievement standards for that year and develop a spreadsheet for goal setting. This sounds time-consuming but it’s a worthwhile investment of your time and means that at any time of the school year you have a running record of their achievements and goals.
For example, I might have a student in First Grade who still cannot use finger spaces when writing. This will be the first goal I set for that student. Simple. Differentiated. Achievable.
Pictured: spacemen and spacewomen spacers to help students create spaces between words when writing.
3. Let students feel a sense of success Once I have grouped students into goals, I will sit with each student one-on-one for a few minutes and give some explicit instruction on their individual goal or goals. I will then give the student a laminated name tag and ask them to place their name next to their goal on the writing wall. It’s important to let a student feel ownership of the wall space and their writing goal.
Once a goal has been achieved, allow that student to move their own name tag to the next goal on the writing wall. This keeps students motivated and gives them a sense of success in their own learning.
4. Create a dedicated visual space in the classroom Create a space for a writing goals wall in your classroom and keep rotating the goals as needed. Do not place more than 4 or 5 goals on the wall at one time as this can be overwhelming for students.
Place goals appropriate to student writing needs and sample pieces of ‘good’ writing from students. I’m a big believer in student ownership of classroom wall space and this goes double for goal-setting targets. Walls need to help the learning in an explicit way, not just merely decoration. Let's celebrate student success!
You can find supporting resources for Kindergarten and First Grade writing goals and prompts in the Writing Checklist and Prompts Bundle for 30% off here.