Goal setting? With K-5 students?? Are you kidding?

Nope! And it’s do-able!

My first teaching job was in a high school that really tried to focus students on setting and meeting weekly goals. When I left there (3 years later), I wanted to bring the same goal setting awareness to my elementary students. Now, as a special education teacher, you might be thinking: “don’t you do enough with goals?”  The answer: no!

Yes, every student gets 2-5 goals a year around just academics. No, not every student meets these goals regardless of how hard I work. So what can we do? Teach the kids what their goals are, and how to set smaller goals to achieve the big ones!

I started by having students create daily goals for themselves, and paid them if they reached it. This does require the teacher to really get to know their kids first. At the start of each 45 min session I tell the kids what we will be working on (Ex: spelling practice, then fractions). I then ask the kids to write a goal around spelling, math, or behavior (depending on the kids in the group I include behavior or leave it out). They write their goals these sheets:


Once kids get in the habit of writing goals, it should only take about 5 or less minutes to go through this routine.

In the last 5 minutes of each session I check in with kids on their goals. Did they meet it? If yes, they get a dollar (don’t worry, it’s a fake dollar!). They also fill out a quick reflection. Why did they or didn’t they meet their goal? What behaviors helped them? This can be difficult for kids. This is where modeling and lots of practice are key.


For the older kids, we also do weekly goals. These goals could be, get 10/10 on spelling, or turn in complete homework, or even not yell or whine during class. If the students can meet this goal, they get $2.

Why do kids want fake money? Well, in my class they have to buy all their supplies. I provide binders, dividers, and journals. But the kids have to buy (from me) pencils, pencil holders, erasers, white board markers, and high lighters. This is to help with ownership of class materials.

There is also a student store every Friday. The kids can use their goal money to buy different fun things. This could be anything from a fun pencil, to a garden set, to a jumprope.


This system helps students with so many larger concepts; goal setting (both short and long term), responsibility for supplies, and money management.


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