How We Create One Word Goals In My Classroom
One of my most asked about activities is my One Word Goal activity that I do with my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students the first week of class. Since I teach semester long classes, and our second semester starts in January, this means we do this activity the first week back after the New Year too! I think it works great for both times of year.
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This activity has evolved the more I have done it over the years (as every activity does) and let me tell you, the first time I had my students try this, their goals did NOT turn out like you see. But since then I have really tried to nail down how to give clear, specific instructions that will help students understand and put in the effort that I would like them to. If these are going up on my classroom wall, they better be putting some effort into them!
We do this activity as one of my First Week Learning Stations. Those have changed a lot too but basically it's a bunch of tasks I need to students to do at the start of the class anyway, but by having a day where they are organized as stations, it makes it a lot more engaging for students. For example, one station they do is read through my disclosure and answer some questions afterwards. I like this better than having me stand up in front of them and just read through it with them.
But anyways, creating a one word goal is one of the activities that they do on this day. It usually is the activity that takes the longest so I have them skip it and do it last if they're going to feel stressed about not having time to finish the other stations. I also allow them to take it home and bring it back the next class if they would like more time.
When I explain this activity we have a brief discussion about goals. We talk about why goals are important, and things to think about when setting a goal. I explain that today they will be creating a unique kind of goal--a goal that is only ONE word. I tell them to first think of a goal that they have, and it can be any type of goal. It can be related to school, but it doesn't have to be. It can be related to any aspect of their life. I also tell them it can be a goal for this term, this semester, this calendar year, this school year-- they can choose the timeline.
Once they have that goal in mind, I tell them to try to think of just ONE word that would summarize, describe, or relate to that goal they thought of. I like to give them examples of goals and words that maybe one might choose to go with them. I also give examples of words that maybe wouldn't be the best choice and how to help think a little further to come up with a better word choice.
For example, if someone's goal is to get good grades (whatever "good" means to them), instead of choosing the word "Grades" as their word, what might be a better word that wouldn't be a noun, but more of a descriptive word or an attribute. What would someone who wants to get good grades need to be more of, think more like, or do more of? I get some ideas from students and talk through each word they give as an idea. I'm always careful to never shoot down their idea or make them feel dumb, but rather I take their line of thinking and show how you can push it even further to keep getting better words. Some better word choices for this goal may be "determination", "perseverance", or "effort".
I explain that they almost want to choose a word where when someone reads it, they don't actually know exactly what the person's goal is. Their word shouldn't be a dead giveaway of their goal, but still connect to and apply to their goal. I also provide a list of words for them to look through because sometimes it's easier to just read through the list with your goal in mind til a word sticks out. I hang this list up on the wall near the supplies for this activity and also think I will make some smaller copies in the future for students to take to their desk. This list is included in my One Word Goal Activity resource.
I then explain how they will make their actual physical one word goal card. I have my students get a piece of cardstock paper (you could use index cards too but cardstock is cheaper!) I have a template for the cards in my One Word Goal Activity resource. I tell students they will be representing their word on the card. They will be writing it neatly and clearly and as big as it will fit on the card. They will also be coloring their card and outlining their word. This is where the checklist I give them really comes in handy. Because we all know that you can give clear specific instructions til your blue in the face, but it could all still go in one ear and out the other! Having a physical checklist for each student to be able to remind them what the expectations are has been game changing. This check list is also included in my One Word Goal Activity resource.
On the back of their card I have them write their name and at least one sentence explaining WHY they chose that word and how it connects to their goal. I remind then that no one will see this but me because when these are up on the wall, only the front will show. No one else will know which word is theirs unless they show them. But they will know and it will be a reminder to them every time they come into my classroom of what their goal is.
I first have students turn in their one word goals before they go up on the wall. This is so that I can read them and also to make sure they chose appropriate words, that they took the activity seriously... the first few times doing this I didn't have a good enough discussion with them beforehand and was not clear enough in my directions so I would get words from some who thought they would just be funny. I tell students straight up that if they don't follow the checklist expectations, I may not put their word up on the wall. But as long as they meet those requirements, everyone's goals will get put up. Ever since I started giving students the check list, I rarely have any that don't meet the expectations for going on the wall.
Once I have gone through their goals, I usually have a TA help me put them up on the wall. I have a designated large space on one of my classroom walls just for our goals! I simply use a stapler to staple them in all 4 corners to the wall because its fastest, but depending on the type of walls you have you may need to just use tape.
The last week of class I take down the one word goals and have students take them home if they'd like. I use one of these staple removers (they're the best, okay) to be able to quickly remove them. I let the staples fall to the floor as I take them out and then afterwards take a larger magnet and pick all the staples up (it's actually so satisfying). Then my wall is blank again and ready for my next set of semester students to add theirs!
If you would like to try this activity with your class and would love the extra help of the card templates, students directions and checklist, lots of one word goal card examples, one word goal ideas list, and teacher instructions then you can grab my One Word Goal Activity resource in my TPT store here!
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