6 Ways to Set Goals with Students

Early January is a time when thoughts turn to the upcoming year and the goals we want to set for ourselves. New Year’s resolutions are a great topic to discuss with your students at this time of year! Try these ideas for turning personal and academic goals into an educational experience, and read about some important benefits for both teachers and students when it comes to setting academic goals.

Personal Goals

There are many ways you can introduce goal-setting to your students.


1. Small Talk – Put students into pairs or groups, and have them discuss their personal goals for the new year. You could even do it as a whole class, especially if you brainstormed common New Year’s resolutions first. This topic would work well as a warm-up or filler.

2. Presentations – Have students prepare mini-presentations about their goals for the year. You could even make them choose one specific goal, and get them to present their step-by-step plan to achieving that goal.


3. Blogging – Have your students write a blog-style piece on their personal goals. ESL-Library has a lesson on blog writing that will be available in January, and we will post the link here as soon as it’s ready!

4. Essays – Turn goal-setting into a more formal writing assignment by having students prepare an essay with an intro, body, and conclusion about their plans for the new year. This could be done in class or for homework.

Academic Goals

5. Discussion:

Put students into groups and tell them to choose the top three areas that they want to focus on this year in order to improve their English. Students will appreciate sharing common language-learning obstacles with each other. Finding out they have similar academic goals to their classmates (e.g., improving pronunciation) means they will feel more connected and be more willing to help each other out.

This will also give valuable insight to the teacher about areas each individual student wants to improve. Keep a list so that you can focus on each student’s needs throughout the year, and offer encouragement or suggestions for improvement in this area whenever possible. Use this information later in the year to point out how much the student has improved in this particular area.

Make sure the goals are realistic! If a student says, “I want to be fluent in English this year” and he/she is a low-level student, you can gently remind the student that language-learning is a long process, and suggest setting a smaller, more attainable goal such as “I want to improve my writing” or “I want to understand gerunds and infinitives.”

6. Grammar Lesson:

Teaching the simple future verb tense will naturally lead to a discussion about future plans. You can present this verb tense in two ways: teach the grammar first and then discuss future plans, or discuss future plans first to elicit the grammar naturally, then teach the finer points of the verb tense. Personally, I prefer the second method.

ESL-Library has many resources on the simple future:

Happy New Year, everyone!



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