Help Your Middle School Students Set Goals to Reset

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) has many of us reevaluating our priorities. As resilient and creative people, our goal is to come out on the other side of this episode stronger than we were going in. Guiding students in setting short- and long-term goals can communicate hope to students, and we can use this current health crisis as an opportunity to help our students visualize how their own behaviors, effort, and actions create pathways to achieving their goals.

SMART goals give learners a clear direction on what they want to achieve, a plan to achieve it, and a timeline for achieving it. At a time when many students are feeling anxious and scared because of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers can help by encouraging them to focus on those things that they can control. Creating SMART goals with students can help them stay on track with their studies and possibly keep their minds occupied with something other than the current situation. Everyone is seeking a sense of control and normalcy under ever-evolving circumstances, and creating SMART goals can support students in navigating this situation one step at a time.

Setting SMART* Goals

Teaching middle school students to set SMART goals is an effective way for them to learn both goal-setting and time management skills. The SMART goal process:

* Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound

  1. Requires students to visualize and unpack the logic of what it takes to move from hoping to achieve a goal to actually achieving it.
  2. Helps students to see how they need to manage their time over a sustained period in order to achieve a goal
  3. Teaches students to give forethought to their actions, which helps develop self-discipline and self-control

The SMART Goal Planner

The SMART Goal Planner is a useful tool for helping students set SMART goals and assess their progress toward that goal over time. Below is an example of how students would map their efforts to the small changes that may occur (Figure 1). The arrows help students see the logic of how their effort influences the goal, encourages perseverance, and keeps their hope alive that they can achieve their goal.