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Bright Idea: Behavioral Goal-Setting

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So happy you’re here to check out my Bright Idea for the month of May: behavioral goal-setting!
Helping students learn to manage their behavior is a challenge from the first day until the last day of school. This year, while working with a fifth grade class, I wanted to help students who had a history of struggling to control themselves and their behavior make some better choices. 

On the first day I worked with them, I shared a set of classroom expectations. Yes, I know we usually ask students to contribute to the expectations, but there were very specific areas of difficulty this group of students had and I needed to replace some behaviors with positive ones. So the statements on the chart below were our three expectations that we consistently referred to.
Each morning, as we began our work together, we reviewed the expectations in one way or another. I had students act out examples or non-examples, or brainstorm words to describe what the expectations looked like.

During instruction or working time for the students, I monitored them for these three things and, when I saw a group demonstrating one of these expectations, I said something like, “Team Two is really working on being engaged in their own learning! Each team member is participating by sharing their thinking!” and I added some tally points to their row on the table. (These points never become anything, like a prize or reward. They are simply for recognition’s sake.)
After about a week of this, students were able to identify when they were or weren’t following an expectation. At this point, I introduced the goal-setting aspect of our classroom expectations. Each team, each morning, chose one expectation to focus on and work on throughout the day. They discussed for about two minutes about the following things:
1. Which expectation will be our goal?
2. Why?
3. How will we practice this expectation today?

I wrote the goals on index cards and taped them to their group supply bucket on their table. Then, throughout the day, students worked on that expectation and prompted each other for it in a respectful manner, such as, “Remember we’re trying to control our comments.”
At the end of the day, the groups evaluated their progress toward the goal and decided on tomorrow’s goal. Would it stay the same or change?
I knew we had arrived when I overheard this conversation from Team One:
Cathy: I think we still need to work on controlling our comments.
Max: I don’t think so. I need to be engaged in my own learning.
Cathy: But you made a lot of comments today that weren’t related to the story we were reading.
Max: Yeah, and if I was engaged in my own learning, I wouldn’t have been saying that stuff.
There’s still a long way to go, but I hope this helps your kids as it has helped mine! Happy teaching!
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  1. I love this idea! Giving kids a goal to focus on and reinforcing it throughout the day is so helpful to those kiddos! I love notecard as a visual reminder. I also love how you give them time to identify which expectation they need to work on. Gives them that ownership. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Sarah's First Grade Snippets

  2. I love blogposts like this. Thank you for showing all of the steps it takes to give our students ownership in self-regulating their behavior and learning. It takes more time, but the end result is so worth it! Awesome post 🙂

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