We all know that goals are important in our lives; they give us a purpose. Students need that, too. They need a purpose in the classroom, one they choose.
I’ve been incorporating writing goals in our class for the last couple years. They have changed significantly from when I started due to student feedback and my growth as an educator.
This year, these writing goals have changed again. This post is dedicated to sharing the beginning of this process, how it’s worked in the past, and how it will change this year.
“A long, long time ago…”
Okay, it wasn’t really a long time ago, but that song popped in my head when I moved on to this section.
What are writing goals? How does they look? Are these questions spinning in your mind right now?
When I first started using writing goals in the classroom, my purpose was to encourage a variety of writing. Students had six different sections on their goal sheet to work through.
The top four sections (which can be modified for students who need modifications), were “free” in the sense that the teacher doesn’t choose the topics. The “Word Collector” part is based on Corbett Harrison’s Vocabulary Workshop.
The bottom two sections were assignments that students worked on in class, and they changed based on the unit we were in. Both of these sections encouraged the the writing process.
Problem 1: As the school year progressed, I encountered the problem of students simply trying to fill up space without any cares toward the content or presentation of their writing. Paragraphs that should have had multiple sentences would be written in large print with only one sentence.
Problem 2: I also noticed that many students would wait until the last week of the grading period to complete their goals, which resulted in Problem 1 above.
Solution: In order to encourage students to take their time on pieces and use the entire grading period, I changed the goals again. Drastically.
“Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes/Turn and face the strange…”
I decided to keep with the musical headings. Music helps me through planning, so it fits, right?
At the end of that school year, I asked for student feedback about the writing goals. I already knew the things I wanted to change, but I wanted their insight, too.
- “There were too many entries.”
- “I never felt like I had enough time to finish what I started.”
- “I didn’t like the limit in how many poems I could write.”
- “We should get to choose how many entries we want.”
These insights helped show me how to change their goal sheets. Along with many other comments, students showed me the things that worked and didn’t work from their perspective.
As you can see, the format of the goal sheet completely changed. The calendar at the top served as not only a visual reminder of writing days, but it also served to help students keep track of their stamina over the grading period.
Each section of this new goal sheet was differentiated per each student’s needs and modifications.
- Stamina – dedicated to improving handwriting and writing daily (or semi-daily).
- Craft – dedicated to improving grammatical errors, which depends on skills each student needs to work on.
- Format – dedicated to improvement using the writing process. (The STAAR writing process I teach excludes the 2nd draft.)
Problem 1: Students wrote fewer stories, essays, and longer pieces.
Problem 2: Some students still waited until the last week to complete their goals.
Problem 3: I did not conduct regular student-teacher conferences to address progress in the craft section.
Solution: I again reached out to students, researched better ways to incorporate goals, and looked back at what did and didn’t work from my end. These wonderful goals have once again changed. I changed the goals a few times during the school year, which changed the goal sheet slightly throughout the year.
“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone/I can see all obstacles in my way…”
Okay, maybe I’m having a bit too much fun with the songs in my head… And I definitely can’t see every obstacle I could encounter, but I do know what I hope will happen.
Student feedback at the end of last school year helped me focus on what needed to be better.
- “The stamina goal didn’t help me. I felt like I was just writing a sentence sometimes to get my day.”
- “I didn’t like doing just one skill for the whole six weeks.”
- “I liked the format goal, but some people chose easier ones than I did.”
- “The revising and editing on the rubric should be part of the goals.”
I started researching different methods earlier in the year when students first started having issues with their writing goals. During this research, I came across Jeff Goins and his 3-Bucket Writing System.
Each bucket represented a different part of the writing process, and I wanted to see if I could incorporate this into writing goals since students wanted the revising and editing to be a part of their goals.
I added a bucket to his system and created a foldable that will help students identify which step of the writing process they’re on.
front and back
As a writing teacher, I know students are constantly making lists or creating idea banks for when they don’t know what to write. The list above helps students take those ideas and write something with them.
I’ve used a version of this list every year, and students find it quite helpful. In Google Classroom, there is a student-created prompt list to help with generating ideas, too.
What can they do with these buckets, and how do they relate to this year’s writing goals?
I’m not sure why they look like different colors, but this document is front and back (I always use the back for the rubric to encourage responsibility). Click here for a Google Doc Copy of Goal Sheet.
On the front, you can see the incorporation of the bucket system. These sections are differentiated per student by allowing students to choose their own goal. Buckets 1 and 2 allow for us to focus on whichever skills we’re currently learning in class as well as the skills students already know.
There are still lines to fill in, which was a problem the first time around. The difference here is that every single line does not need to be filled.
For example: If a student chooses ‘7’ for their Bucket 1 goal, then they only need to complete seven different planning tasks. I would encourage them to leave the other lines there (instead of marking them out) in case they plan a lot more than expected.
These goals also follow the S.M.A.R.T. Goals format. They are a bit ambiguous when it comes to the ‘what,’ but that is where student choice comes in.
- Specific – Who: each student; What: differentiated per student, each section tells what is needed; Where: may work on in or out of class; Why: to improve writing skills; Which: minimum is the set goal, and maximum is more.
- Measurable – Students can visually see when they’ve reached their goals, and there is a rubric with it.
- Attainable – Each section must be reachable; there is no point setting a goal you’re not ready to reach.
- Relevant – All skills are needed for class and writing in the real world.
- Timely – Work on throughout the grading period, and due at the end. Students may need to set short-term weekly goals to complete their long-term six weeks goals.
“In the future when all’s well…”
School starts here next Monday (8/28), and we’ll set up our writer’s notebooks before we talk about goals.
The first few weeks — During the first few weeks, we’ll work on different assignments in class that will help students complete items for each bucket. They will learn how to add it to their notebook and their goal sheet.
Student-Teacher Conferences — One of my most successful years of teaching involved one-on-one conferencing. Students have what Corbett Harrison calls Sacred Writing Time. Students will meet with me during that time once or twice every two weeks in order to conference about their writing.
Students should complete pre-conferencing before their day. During pre-conferencing, they will answer a few questions and find examples of each answer in their writer’s notebook.
- What are two things I’m doing well?
- Where have I worked on my “conference” skill, and how am I progressing with it?
- What is one thing that I don’t understand?
- Do I have any other questions?
Foreseeable Problems — Not taking time to do the best work possible or waiting until the last week to complete goals.
Possible prevention for those problems — Since we are working on most of these as class assignments this six weeks, students will hopefully feel the need to do their best from the start. This will also keep them from waiting until the last minute. I’ll walk them through setting short-term goals to see how much they need to accomplish each week, which will also help encourage “timely” completion.
All in all, I’m looking forward to this new format, and I’m hoping that it goes well! I’ll definitely post an update sometime next grading period.
What are your tips and tricks for writing goals and writing in the classroom? Which resources do you use? Share with me in the comments.
I’ve already added the links above, but I’ll create a comprehensive list here in case you need it.