As teachers, you want to push your students to be the best they can be. That feeling of ending the year with amazing student growth is hard to beat.
To make sure you’re helping your students progress, start by setting ambitious but attainable goals. Holding students to high expectations shows that you see potential in them they might not see themselves. Your encouragement and deep-seated belief that they can achieve these goals shows your students you care.
We asked teachers just like you to share how they support their students in reaching ambitious goals. Here are some of their recommendations:
1. Involve Students from the Beginning
One way to get students on board in setting (and understanding) stretch goals is to have data chats. These can be formal, scheduled meetings with individual students or quick discussions in passing. The goal is to get a dialogue going with your students by identifying their strengths and growth areas before establishing goals. When students are involved in the goal-setting process, they take ownership for their goals. Even if they are ambitious, students are more inclined to reach them.
2. Track Data and Hold Students Accountable
Once you’ve held your data chats with students and set stretch goals for them, it’s imperative to track data and hold them to high expectations. Allison Pernas, Grade 1 teacher from Florida, suggested, “Data tracking from day one! I held my students accountable!” This data can come from many sources—summative assessments, formative assessments, even anecdotal notes can provide guidance that will help you support student growth.
One way to track data that worked well for me when I was a teacher was a digital spreadsheet. I used this for all the data I collected, even things students liked/disliked, and made sure to share it with my co-teachers to support collaboration. The spreadsheet was directly linked to a survey that I saved on my phone, so all I had to do was open the survey link, pick the student from the list, and record the data. From there, the survey entered the recorded data automatically into the spreadsheet. This strategy not only supported my co-teachers in collaboration, but it also helped me hold my students accountable and made our data chats more effective, because we could look at specific data points and reflect on how those impacted their progress.
3. Create and Utilize Intervention Groups
Intervention groups are a great way to support your students in meeting their goals. Set aside planning time to create intentional groupings based on students with similar goals, and work as a team to support them.
When I used intervention groups in the classroom, I found it helpful to remind myself that these groups don’t have to be set in stone. At the end of the month, I would look at the most recent data and readjust groups accordingly. This helped me provide support to students with different areas of growth and accelerate those who had met their goals more quickly than others.
4. Recognize and Reward Achievements (Big and Small!)
Many teachers suggest recognizing and rewarding any student progress, no matter how big or small. Jenna Dennison, Grade 3 teacher from Missouri, said, “I stayed consistent with recognizing and rewarding [my students’] accomplishments all school year!”
If you notice the hard work they’re putting in along the way or if they finally nailed down that multiplication strategy, give them a high-five and send a positive note home. Maybe they wrote a complete paragraph for the first time. Share it with the class (with student permission, of course)! Get creative with recognition to keep the momentum going. Involve your students—ask them what rewards they’d like to see around the classroom to give them a voice.
My students had two favorites: lunch with me and a friend, or permission to bring in a stuffed animal from home to keep on their desk. We also created a fun chant that we’d all do as a class when someone made progress. I would say, “You did it!” to which the class would respond, “They did it!” a few times, then close out with, “And we all are rooting for you!” The student we were celebrating got to ring a bell! Recognition doesn’t have to be big, but it helps students see that you’re all rooting for them along the way.
These ideas are only a starting point for helping your students achieve their stretch goals. See what works best for your class, and don’t be afraid to try out new ideas, ask your students for input, and adjust. Before you know it, they’ll meet their stretch goals and maybe even exceed them.