Have you ever looked at your students’ writing and thought to yourself, “Where do I begin?” We all have. Writing is complex. Teaching it and creating it. So, where do you begin? Let me help you with setting writing goals for students with this step-by-step guide.
I’m a big fan of Jennifer Serravallo’s The Writing Strategies Book. With hundreds of writing strategies, you’re guaranteed to find something that will work for your students. The book is organized into 10 writing goals for students from composing with pictures to organization and structure to partnerships and clubs.
In the early years, you’ll find that many of your students will fall under most of the beginning goals–composing with pictures, engagement, generating ideas, and organization–, but some will be a bit more advanced–elaboration and word choice.
Here are 6 steps to setting and implementing writing goals for your students.
1. Observe Your Students
The first step is to let students write, and as they’re writing, you observe and ask questions. You’ll want to print this checklist beforehand and have it available as you are observing your students.
Focus on one goal each day. If a students is demonstrating the characteristics of someone that uses strategies in this goal give them a +. If they don’t demonstrate proficiency, give them an X.
Using the writing goals card to remind you of what you’re looking for, begin wandering around the classroom. Begin looking for pictures in your students’ writing. Are the pictures detailed? Could the student add more? Do the pictures connect from one page to the next? If you need to, ask the child questions. Then begin taking notes. Add a + for students that are showing an understanding of composing pictures and an X if you feel a student would benefit from working on this area.
Once you’ve observed all students on this goal, analyze your data. If a student received an X, this will become his/her goal. If not, move on to the next goal and observe your students on the next goal.
2. Form Groups
Next is to make groups. Deciding how to form groups for writing was the death of me until I began using these writing goals for students. After observing your students and recording their strengths and next step, creating groups is simple.
All students that need to work on the pictures goal are one group. The students that need to work on focus are another group and so on.
I prefer to work with students in very small groups of no more than 4. This allows you to give more attention to students and there are less students to get settled in, which saves time and allows the group to run quickly and smoothly.
3. Gather Your Materials
- Writing goal card
- Anchor charts
- Writing goal cards for students
Each student will need a writing goal card. Laminating it will allow it to last longer and you can stick new goals to the card with tape. It’s up to you how you want to organize this for students.
Have your writing anchor charts ready to go so you’ll be prepared for your groups at the drop of a hat. Your anchor charts don’t need to be fancy and because it will be with a small group, you can easily make them on 8.5″ x 11” paper.
Then make your writing goal cards look just like the anchor chart, so your students can have their own artifact to keep with them and to use for reference.
4. Schedule Your Groups
Now make a weekly group schedule, which will ensure you meet with each student. If you have it available in a central location, you’ll be ready to go!
5. Meet with Your Groups
Invite one group to your meeting area. Have them begin writing as they sit with you. Then ask them to stop and listen.
Talk to your students about all the things they are doing well. Then tell them you have a goal that will help them (fill in the blank).
Next show your students the anchor chart for their goal. Explain how it is used and show them in your own writing. Then tell them that their writing goal is to (fill in the blank). Give them their goal writing card and ask them to place it next to their writing. Now have the students continue writing and ask them to focus on their goal.
As the students are writing, remind them of their goal, confer with students, and praise them when you see them attempting to work on their goal.
6. Set the Next Writing Goals for Students
As you observe students working on their goals and using them consistently, it might be time to check in. Using your checklist, observe what the student is and isn’t doing and start a new goal with the student. Get your hands on these writing goals resource here.