It is that time of year – the time when everywhere you look, you see advice on creating resolutions for the New Year. Let’s clear this up right off the bat – this is not that type of article. A resolution is a decision to start doing this or stop doing that. It’s a first step, in some ways to setting a goal, but it is it the goal setting process that helps to ensure success.

Setting a goal is a chance to shift course, change behaviors, and approach challenges in new ways. Goals are tools we use to reach new levels of ability and help children learn new skills. The goal setting process is thoughtful and requires us to step out of our comfort zone

We can often identify potential goals be examining what’s not working for us in our daily lives. For example, if the transition from lunch to nap is problematic, a goal can be created to address that. If we feel stressed out, every day, before arriving at work, there are goals that can be set to address that, too.

You may have heard about SMART goals. The acronym provides a few guidelines for writing solid goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Including these 5 elements in a goal can help you succeed in your efforts.

Let’s say you wanted to create a goal related to lesson planning.

Initial Goal: To become a more intentional when lesson planning.

You can check your initial goal against the SMART acronym, using it as a guide to improve your goal. Ask yourself, is my goal:

• Specific: What exactly does intentional mean, in this instance?
• Measurable: How will I know I have achieved the goal?
• Achievable: Do I have the skills and resources to meet this goal?
• Realistic: Is the goal do-able as written?
• Timely: How long do I have to achieve the goal?

As a result of reviewing the SMART acronym, you can see that the initial goal does not meet all of the criteria of a SMART goal. You can then revise the language to create a SMART goal. It might sound something like this:

New SMART Goal: During the month of January, I will adapt 10 curriculum activities to include children’s interests.

Now when you review the SMART goal criteria, the elements are more obvious:

• Specific: Adapt curriculum activities to include children’s interests
• Measurable: 10 activities
• Achievable: To achieve the goal, I need to reflect on what I know about children’s interests.
• Realistic: Adapting 10 activities is probably realistic over the course of a month
• Timely: Within the month of January

Hopefully, you can see how SMART goals provide a framework for writing goals that are grounded in reality, rather than lofty, too big, or out of reach.

Review the effectiveness of the goal once the determined timeframe is reached. It is completely fine if the goal is not 100% fully achieved – that just means that you should reassess the goal, progress, timeframe, and supports, in order to make adjustments. If the goal has been achieved, identify the next skill or task that you want to accomplish. This can be determined by revisiting your list of priorities or reviewing the learning progressions to determine the next set of skills children should be working toward.

This approach can be used for both individual and group goal setting. Group goal setting provides the opportunity to capitalize on the strengths of the individuals within the group. Be sure to assess the strengths of the group members and assign tasks accordingly.

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