Goal Setting in the Classroom

Goal Setting in the Classroom

I’ve been working hard to develop a growth mindset culture in my classroom. We’ve been practicing persistence and effort. Part of this practice means looking back at where we’ve been, then looking ahead at where we’re going with our learning.

Can goal setting really be achieved with five-year-olds? Absolutely!

**Read about how I teach Growth Mindset in the Classroom**

When I first started teaching I would plan big goal setting moments, usually around conference time. Students would look through all their work and choose goals to focus on, then share them with their families. This is still something I do, but I find it works SO much better when I embed mini goal setting moments within everyday learning. It makes goal setting a lot more familiar for students when they do it regularly. Plus, reflecting on their learning and planning for improvement really does help students learning move forward.

During a recent writing lesson, I showed students an anonymous sample of student writing (actually borrowed from the class next door). We looked at it together and students loved pulling it apart and pointing out the errors. There was no risk of failure as they were looking at an anonymous sample.

Students shared their thinking about what the writer had done well and then suggested a goal: eg. “I think they are good at remembering their full stops but they need to get better at remembering finger spaces”.

Then it was my turn to model the practice of writing, reflecting and goal setting. I wrote a mini recount of my weekend on the board and used the same sentence structure to reflect and set a goal: “I think I’m good at writing sight words and I’d like to get better at remembering to use capital letters at the beginning of a sentence”.

This is where one of my favourite classroom tools came in very handy: Seesaw! I took a photo of my writing using the Seesaw app (it’s free!), then used the microphone tool to record myself reflecting on my writing. I replayed the recording to check it, modeling good portfolio practice, then uploaded it.

The students then wrote their own recounts and used Seesaw to reflect on their writing. This made the reflection and goal setting process SO easy! Pre-Seesaw I would have students write their goals on a post-it note and put it on their writing page … which is a HUGE task for five-year-old students to do on top of writing a recount in the first place.

Here are a few examples of their first attempt at goal setting during writing lessons using Seesaw:Goal Setting with Young Children

Goal Setting with Young Children


We will continue to use this goal setting practice with our writing and other learning opportunities. I’ll let you know how it goes!

How do you support your students to set learning goals? 

Growth Mindset in the Classroom

Growth Mindset in the Classroom - Octavia and Vicky

Growth mindset has gained a LOT of attention in education. Our Partnership has chosen to invest in growth mindset PD for all staff (six schools) with continued support to learn and grow together. I feel pretty lucky to have these opportunities!

Recently we met in year level groups at one school, where I had the chance to share with and hear from other early years teachers about supporting growth mindset in the classroom. I love visiting other teachers and hearing their ideas!

What does growth mindset look like in the classroom? 

I’m no expert! But in my own words, growth mindset is about developing a school and community culture of perseverance and risk-taking. It’s teaching children strategies to help them persist, even when things are difficult. Growth mindset focuses on effort more than achievement. Who wouldn’t want that for their students?

If you’re interested in getting deep into it, I highly recommend Carol Dweck’s book ‘Mindset‘. I listened to the audiobook, it was very easy to take in while I was pottering about washing dishes or cooking dinner. I do love multi-tasking :)

Unfortunately, growth mindset is not a quick fix and won’t be  easily developed and supported by stand-alone lessons or a few posters on the wall. Sorry! For a growth mindset culture to really flourish and thrive, teachers need to embed growth mindset language into their practice while also walking the talk.

Ideas for  building a growth mindset culture in your classroom

  • role model making mistakes or getting stuck, then keeping on trying. I love hamming up the drama in these moments
  • read picture books to encourage a growth mindset (see below for ideas)
  • use growth mindset songs for brain breaks (our school recently chose songs with growth mindset focussed lyrics for dance performances)
  • when celebrating local heroes (school sport players and award winners) be sure to talk about how they got there and the effort and persistence they put in
  • when conferencing students on their reading, writing or problem-solving discuss the strategies they’re using well and the effort they’ve put in, as well as teaching strategies for how to move learning forward
  • help students set goals for their learning and teach them how to review their effort and achievement regularly

Find more ideas on my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board

There are some fantastic picture books for promoting growth mindset, here are a few curated lists:

Does your school promote a growth mindset culture? 

What is a vision, anyway?

What is a Vision, Anyway? - Octavia and Vicky

I’ve been messing around with the ‘inspiration’ map that I made last year. It was a map of all the ideas that were capturing my teacher heart and mind at the time. I kind of opened up my brain and tipped out all the cogs and wheels onto a page.

As I picked over it I noticed some ideas that I am not so keen on anymore. Some I’ve found a lack of evidence for keeping in my toolbox. Others had good evidence but I’ve been distracted by something else shiny and forgotten all about them. There are also favourites that stay consistently on my radar.

As I reflected on what I wanted to keep and what needed to go, I thought about how I wanted to use this map. I also noticed that the original map was WAY too busy for me to even consider keeping up with.

I went away… I came back… I sniped and pruned and hacked away until I was left with a much smaller set of ideas that burn brightly for me. Not only that, but they align pretty neatly with what my school, partnership and Department are aiming to achieve, so there’s that.

Is this my teaching vision? No, not really. Perhaps it’s the backbone of one? What is a vision anyway? Perhaps I should write one. I think they’re making all the kids do that these days. For now, while no one’s making me write anything,  I have this set of guiding lights to steer my practice.

What is a vision, anyway?(designed using Canva)

Just because some things are now missing from my ‘map’, it doesn’t mean that I’ve binned those ideas. Maybe at some point I’ll write a little more about that …

Do you have a teacher vision? Or something like it? What steers your teaching every day?

Supporting students’ self regulation

Supporting Students' Self Regulation - Octavia and Vicky

**This post continues on from my reflection on learning about Self Regulation at a Learning 4 All conference with Jo Buttfield, from Kid Sense – a private provider of Occupational Therapy And Speech Pathology based in Adelaide, Australia. Read the original post here**

I learned a lot from the Learning for All workshop. Let’s not mention the fact that it’s over a year since I attended and I’m just now picking up where I left off. It was a really useful session and I don’t want to lose what I learned. Here goes!

When planning to support children with their self regulation teachers and parents should consider booking an appointment with an occupational therapist (OT).  OTs can prescribe students with a ‘sensory diet’ – a range of strategies to support that child’s particular needs.

However, educators can try many strategies without OT support, based on their observations of the child and discussions with their family. The one big key to all of this is that ANY INTERVENTION MUST ALSO BE SUPPORTED AT HOME for any meaningful success to be achieved. Parents and educators need to work together, along with OTs and other professionals.

Jo describes the sensory diet to kids as ‘finding the right fuel for your body’. What do you need to make it work?

  • For students who need touch:
    • try ‘brushing’ (you’re going to need an OT for help on that… I googled it but it’s complicated)
    • finding words/letters/numbers in beans/rice or other tactile materials
    • writing on clear perspex with liquid chalk to get that ‘smooth’ tactile input
    • drawing and painting
    • shaving cream
    • play dough
    • and any number of ‘fidget toys’ available from online shops

  • For students who need movement:
    • swings
    • crash mats
    • activities that involve lots of bumping into others (safely!)
    • digging
    • carrying (water/dirt)
    • setting up spaces for movement using masking tape or hoops in the classroom (e.g. star jumps, run on the spot, hop)
    • theratubing tied to chair legs for pressure/resistence
    • scooter boards
    • textured cushions
    • vibrating toys
    • chair push ups
    • running up stairs
    • playing on the play ground
    • obstacle course
    • other equipment available from online shops
  • For students who have oral sensory needs:
    • chew toys
    • bubble blowing
    • sports bottles
    • chewy tubes
    • whistles
    • straws (for blowing)
    • some available online
  • For students who need visual regulation
    • activities which narrow visual attention eg. hunting through a page of text for a particular word
    • glowing and spinning fans
    • light up toys
    • mazes
    • pop up tents with a torch (for reading)
    • iPads
    • a hole in a piece of card to focus attention when reading
  • For students who need aural regulation
    • noise cancelling headphones/ear muffs
    • music
    • chewing (reduces sound)
    • place them away from noisy doorways, teachers and fans/heaters
    • gradually increase sound tolerance over time with games, eg. music games where they are in control of the volume

The bottom line is that we need to give these kids what they need or they will find it in inappropriate ways anyway! Movement is one of the most likely sensory inputs to work for most children – it helps alert kids use energy and helps lethargic kids become alert.

Our regulation is SO important: regulation is contagious. The more controlled we are as educators the better the students’ regulation is going to be.

This is not an all-inclusive guide to self regulation, not by a long shot. This is just some of what I learned on one PD day and what I found most relevant to my situation in an early years classroom. To learn more about self regulation, try these links:

Teaching inspiration

You know when you go to all the PDs and do all the learning…. but the school year is all-encompassing and sweeps you away with all the jobs… then one day you look back and go “Oh yeah! I forgot about the awesome stuff I learnt last month, year, three years ago”. You know that?

Well, as part of my performance management this term I felt the need to document the drivers behind my teaching style, incorporating all the amazing PD I’ve done in recent years. Continue reading “Teaching inspiration”