Goal setting is so important, not only for teachers but also for students. We want our students to be setting their own reading goals. When students have a reading goal they are working on, they have basically created a vision and path for their future learning.
Setting goals in reading can encourage and motivate students to work on their reading throughout the year. But you want to make sure that the goal-setting strategies you are using are effective.
How do students typically set reading goals:
Having students set reading goals is a very common practice in most schools. I typically see students set three different types of reading goals:
- Students set a reading goal to reach a certain reading level. Example: By the end of the year, I will be reading on a level Q.
- Students set reading goals that are based off of mastery of the state exam. Example: By the end of the year, I will score 85% or higher on the ______ test.
- Students set goals that are based on mastery of the standards. Example: By the end of the year, I will have mastered 95% of the reading standards with at least a 80% mastery of each standard.
Why this approach doesn’t work:
While it is great that students are setting reading goals for the year, the examples listed above are not the most effective way to motivate and encourage students to grow as readers.
Here are some reasons why these types of goals don’t really work:
- Annual goals take a long time to achieve. It can be really challenging to keep students engaged and invested in working on one goal for an entire school year. If kids have to wait 10 months to see if they have met a goal they are going to lose interest and not be as excited about working towards that goal.
- Goals that focus on reading levels are really abstract for students. Even if the goal is to get to a specific reading level, our students don’t really have a clear and solid understanding of the characteristics and attributes of each reading level. I mean let’s be honest, teachers have a hard enough time telling the difference between a level Q and a level R. If WE don’t really know the difference between all the levels, why do we think our students will understand what it means to try and get to a level R?
- None of the goals listed above are fun. Even if we try to make them fun and exciting, they are all based on some standardized reading process which just takes the joy and excitement out of reading.
Working towards a goal should be fun and exciting. You want to help your students set goals that will truly motivate them and inspire them to want to read.
When you’re helping your students set reading goals, consider the following:
- Goals should be measurable. You want your students to set very clear and specific reading goals. You want to make sure that their goal is something they can measure and they will know for sure if they have set their goal.
A lot of times I have seen my students set goals like “I want to become a better reader.” While this is a great concept for a goal, it’s not a goal that has a clear and specific end-point. Your students won’t really know when they have achieved this goal… But if they say “I want to read 100 books this year.” That is very clear and specific and they will know exactly when they have met that goal.
- Reading goals should be short-term. Students are going to be more motivated if they are working on a goal that is only going to take them a few months or weeks to achieve. Encourage your students to set weekly, monthly, or quarterly goals. Here are some examples:
- I want to read 5 hours this week.
- I want to read 20 new picture books this month.
- I want to read books from 18 different genres this quarter.
Even if you have students set annual goals, encourage them to break down those annual goals into smaller milestones so they don’t have to wait until the very end of the year to know if they have met their goal. Smaller goals help students stay motivated to keep growing as a reader.
- Reading goals should be tracked and celebrated. Regardless of the type or length of goal, you want your students to be tracking the progress they are making towards their goal. If students are going to set a goal it should help guide how they spend their independent reading time everyday.
You can give students a goal setting journal, a book log, a reading tacker, or any other template to help them keep track of the progress they are making towards their goal. You also want to make sure that you are celebrating all the progress students are making. Anytime a student meets a goal you should celebrate in some small way.
This is part of the reason why short-term goals are so effective. If a student meets a reading goal every week or month and gets to celebrate, that is going to motivate them to keep on reading and setting more goals. Make sure you celebrate every goal that gets met.
- Working towards the goal should be fun and exciting. You want your students to be excited about working towards their goal. Goals are meant to inspire and motivate your students to WANT to read. If students are dreading working on a reading goal then they have the wrong goal. There are lots of things you can do to make the process of achieving the goal fun and exciting.
- You can regularly incorporate reading challenges
- You can spotlight students who have met their reading goals
- You can even create a bulletin board that tracks the progress your entire class is making towards achieving their goals….
Hopefully, these ideas help you (and your students) get excited about setting some awesome reading goals this year. Remember that student goals should be measurable, short-term, tracked and celebrated, and working toward achieving them should be fun!
If you’re looking for some help getting started, you can grab these free reading challenges. Each reading challenge will help inspire and motivate your students to keep reading!
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