A Powerful Goal Setting Activity to do with Students

Goal Setting With Students (the right way!)

For the past ten years, I have started the new year in January with a powerful goal-setting activity (linked below) with my students. I tell my students, it's a new year, a new semester, a new start, and new opportunity to really define themselves!   

One reason I know this actually works is that my students often request to do this month after month. Imagine that? Students requesting to do more work!   That is what happens when students find work meaningful and valuable.  

It starts simple enough- students set a goal for January. But rather than just setting a goal, they develop a game plan and that's why this works so well!  


Students have to explain why the goal matters to them and what will likely be their biggest obstacles to achieving this goal. Many students don’t naturally consider these things. Next, they develop a simple action plan- specific steps they will take to achieve this goal!

Then, every Monday for a month students take a few minutes and reflect on how well they are doing with meeting their goals. Are they showing improvement? What’s helping them? What challenges are they facing and how can they strategize to overcome them?

Yes, it takes away from content and I have to pinch my pacing guide a little to fit this in, but it's worth it!

how to build students confidence

Activities like this demonstrate to your students that your classroom is not just a place to learn a lot of cool history, but it's a place that helps them become better people. It shows students you really care about helping them be successful in life, not just in your class.


Generally, after doing this in January, we continue to do it each month for the rest of the year. Students who started out just wanting to get As for grades or turn in all their work on time, start setting goals like being better leaders on campus, participating more in class, developing more self-confidence, helping their peers more, or making new friends. 

Yes, I let students choose non-academic goals too.

Here is a link to my free “Level-Up Goal Setting” sheet. I hope it helps you and your students make big strides in 2024!

And if you have plans to improve your classroom management or to build a more positive community in your classroom, you will really love my self-paced mini-course, “1 Week Classroom Management Makeover.” 


set goals with students


Best of luck in 2024,
Dan Lewer
History For Humans
2020 Hawai’i History Teacher of the Year

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