SMART Goals For Students

Dreaming big dreams and desiring to achieve something worthwhile is natural to people. Setting the concrete goals to achieve these dreams is a skill that everybody of all ages needs to learn. It’s not natural for adults; neither is it natural for kids.

A study done at Dominican University showed that people who

  • had written goals,
  • were committed to achieving the goals and
  • had an accountability system in place,

achieved more than those who didn’t have written goals.

Like any other habit, if you do it consistently, it becomes integrated into your daily life. Many adults learn goal setting later in life. Imagine teaching SMART goals to kids, creating a goal-setting mindset from an early age…

What are SMART Goals?

The main reason for setting goals is to achieve the goals. It’s therefore obvious that you would like to set goals in the best way possible to enable you to achieve those goals. SMART goals are one of those tools that will help you define your goals in such a manner that it becomes achievable.

SMART is an acronym that stands for

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Attainable
  • R – Relevant
  • T- Timely

Specific means to describe the goal by answer these questions:

  • What is it you want to accomplish?
  • Who wants to accomplish the goal?
  • Why do you want to achieve this goal?
  • How are you going to make it happen?

Vague goals are difficult to understand and to complete. For example, a goal to do better in school may mean anything and everything. A goal to improve your math’s grade, for example, gives a better idea of what you want to achieve.

The secret in defining a goal is that a stranger should be able to read the goal and understand exactly what you want to achieve,

Measurable goals indicate how you will know if the goal is achieved. It is the way you will measure your progress. Taking the math example, one way of measuring your improvement is the test or exam results. The goal becomes measurable when you define the result. E.g., I want to improve my math grade by x points or percentage.

When you reach that grade, you know you’ve achieved the goal.

Attainable goals motivate a person to achieve it. Setting a goal to become an A student in math the day before the final exams without studying is not attainable. The goal becomes attainable when you set the goal at the beginning of the semester. Part of the goal setting is to decide how much time you will spend studying math each week. Do you need a tutor to help you? Is part of your goals to complete math homework with a friend who can help you explain concepts?

Realistic goals have to aspects to consider. The first is if the goal possible for you to accomplish. It’s impossible to learn the whole year’s math 24 hours before writing the exam. It is, however, realistic to set time aside for math and to ask the help of a tutor.

The second aspect of a realistic goal is whether you are willing to do the work to achieve the goal? It may be realistic to spend an extra 30 minutes each day to study math, but are you prepared to sacrifice that time to accomplish the goal?

If yes, then you will be motivated to accomplish the goal.

Timely goals include a time frame. Include the day you want to start as well as the day the goal should be completed. For additional motivation add interim milestones as well. To improve your math’s grade, you need to decide when to start the goal and when it will be accomplished. Your starting date could be the first day of the semester and the end date the day of exams. You can add milestones for completing chapters or lessons within a certain time frame.

How To Use SMART Goals in the Classroom

Before your students can start setting SMART goals, they need to understand the difference between a goal and a wish. A wish may be to do cool tricks with the soccer ball or to be the best and most popular cheerleader. The goal, however, is different from a wish. A goal could be to learn to play soccer or to audition for the cheerleading team.

Story Books About Setting Goals

One way to help students understand the difference is with books where stories are about setting goals. Here are a few examples of children’s books:

Set SMART goals for the class to reach as a group and also help students set their own goals. After explaining what SMART goals are, use a template to help students set their own goals. Create your template or download our template for free.

Simplify With Easy Questions

Simplify the process with a goal planner that answers these 5 questions:

  • Specific: What exactly do you want to reach, achieve or happen? Be as detailed as possible.
  • Measurable: How will you know you have reached the goal or it happened?
  • Attainable: Can you reach this goal if you work at it and follow the steps to reach the goal? Is it possible for you to do this?
  • Realistic: Is the goal important enough for you to do what is necessary to reach the goal? Are you prepared to give up what is needed to make this happen? Do you really want this?
  • Timely: When will you reach the goal. How long will it take for you to reach the goal? Give a date.

Use Sticky Notes and Sentence Starters

Another way to simplify goal setting is to use sticky notes with sentence starters. It works great for classroom goals. Examples of sentence starters:

  • In one week I will…
  • I will work towards this goal by…
  • I will _______ by _________
  • My goal is ________. I will reach my goal by______. To reach my goal, I will ____

Fun Activities Motivates Goal Setting

Fun activities can motivate students to create goals and to keep them motivated in achieving the goals.

  • A bucket list inspires creating and achieving goals as a group. Create a bucket list as a family or for classroom projects. Let everyone participate and then hang the list up where everyone can see it.
  • Let the students create vision boards by using pictures to represent the goal they want to achieve. Use pictures from old magazines, print images from the web or let the children draw pictures.
  • Use stars to inspire them to reach a goal. Let the student write three things they do well and add a star to each. Then let them set a goal of something they would like to do so that it may also receive a star.
  • Ask fun questions that relate to the students and allow them to be creative. For example, “If you had a superpower what would you do with it? Now how can you make a plan to achieve that dream?”

Set SMART Goals in all areas

Setting goals aren’t limited to academic and sports achievements. Students can set goals to improve characteristics and their attitudes toward authority and peers.

Classroom goals can include short weekly goals too. Behavioral and attitude goals are excellent for weekly time frames.

  • Sit up in my seat.
  • Use kind words when talking to classmates.
  • Do my homework daily.
  • Look at the teacher when they are talking.
  • Be quiet while the teacher talks.

One fun activity is to draw a wheel with spikes. Each area represents a certain area of the child’s life, e.g., family, friends, school, sport, religion, health, etc. Motivate the student to set goals in all areas of their life.


By teaching children at a young age how to set achievable goals, you create a mindset of accomplishments. SMART goals are tools that help children and adults accomplish things they wouldn’t have. It makes dreams attainable and obstacles less daunting.

Imagine a generation that achieves their dreams. A generation who understand that setting goals aren’t wishful new year resolutions forgotten and discarded. A generation that understands they can live their dream through setting goals and subgoals.

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