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Goal-setting activities for middle school and high school

Goal setting is an important part of character education for teenagers. It teaches students how to take responsibility for their own learning, develop a plan to reach their goals, and persevere in the face of setbacks. Keep reading to find goal-setting activities you can use to help students develop a growth mindset and achieve lifelong success.  

Types of goals  

Before you ask students to set goals, start with reviewing the different types of goals they might want to achieve. You may want to focus on just one of the following areas or ask them to work toward goals in each area. 

  • Academic goals: These might include getting good grades, improving test scores, or completing a challenging project.
  • Personal goals: These could include learning a new skill, developing a healthy habit, or improving communication skills.
  • Social goals: These could include volunteering in the community, participating in extracurricular activities, or speaking up when collaborating with classmates. 

Tips for goal setting 

If students aren’t invested in their goals, it will be hard to keep them motivated. Review these tips for helping them stay engaged in the goals they set for themselves.   

  • Make sure each student’s goals are things they are truly interested in and motivated to achieve. 
  • Teach them how to set SMART goals.  
  • Help them break down large goals into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Provide them with support and encouragement along the way and celebrate their successes.  

Setting SMART Goals 

A SMART goal is a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goal.  

When students set SMART goals, they are more likely to achieve them because they have a clear understanding of what they want to achieve, when they want to achieve it, and how they will measure their progress along the way.  

As students work on the following activities, guide them in using the SMART format for each of their goals.   

Goal-setting activities 

There are many different classroom activities you can use to help students practice goal setting and stay motivated. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Teacher and peer feedback: The first step of setting goals is understanding the areas you need to work on or the things you want to achieve. Either hold a conference with each student or pair them up to give each other three pieces of feedback on what they do well and three pieces of feedback on what they can work on.
  • Practice, practice, practice: Use this goal-setting graphic organizer to help students think through their goals and write them out as SMART goals. They may find they need to modify some of their goals or that they aren’t attainable in a realistic time frame. Once they’ve written out each of their goals, conference with them or have them meet with their peer partners to get feedback on how well they followed the SMART format.  
  • Small steps: Large goals can seem daunting, so it’s helpful to break them down into smaller, more manageable steps. Have students write out each of the steps for their goals and then create a way to visually check off each step as they go to feel a sense of accomplishment.  
  • Goal-setting journal: Have students keep a journal where they write down their goals, track their progress, and reflect on their successes and setbacks. 
  • Goal tracker: Have students create posters or visual trackers that illustrate their goals. This is a great way for students to visualize their goals and stay motivated. You can also create a classroom tracker and let students add something to it each time they check off a goal or one of the steps in their goals. For more incentive, make this a competition between classes with a reward at the end for the students who reached the most goals throughout the semester.
  • Goal-setting contract: Have students create contracts with themselves that outline their goals, the steps they will take to reach their goals, and the rewards they will give themselves for achieving their goals. 
  • Vision board: A vision board is a collage of images that represent your goals and vision for your future. It’s a great way to give students a way to conceptualize their goals and think critically through what they mean to them. 
  • Mentors: Connect your students with older students, parent volunteers, community members, or staff members who can serve as mentors. The student can meet with them weekly or biweekly to do a quick check of their progress and give them feedback, tips, and encouragement. Setting your students up to mentor younger students on their goals also provides another layer of responsibility and investment. 

Empowering students through goal setting for lifelong success 

Goal setting is a powerful tool for building perseverance and motivation. With the SMART goal-setting framework, students gain clarity and focus, which increases their chances of achievement.  

Further classroom activities such as feedback sessions, goal-setting journals, and visual trackers encourage student involvement and reflection.  

All these activities empower teens to take ownership of their growth, nurturing essential life skills and fostering a proactive mindset for future accomplishments. 

Goal-setting activities for middle school and high school

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