Middle school SMART goal setting

Yesterday on Twitter, math teacher Sarah Martin and I briefly commiserated on student behavior and how it impacts learning. Coincidently I had the same discussion with our 8th grade math teachers the previous week. We talked about a range of behaviors–students talking out of turn, or not participating, others not taking ownership of their learning and being off task. We created this list with specific students in mind.

Establishing SMART Goals

Our first meeting led to a second. This time we invited our social work intern to get her insight on establishing and monitoring goals. We shared a few ideas we had in mind for particular students, but she was quick to point out that it is essential for the student to have input to create buy-in. I’m not sure why that fell off my radar, but it did. As we talked we realized every student, not just the striving ones, could benefit from a SMART goal.

A few students might create their own, but we identified six goals that will fit most of our students’ needs:

  • I will raise my hand to participate to in class. This goal is for students who continually blurt out, or students who do not participate.
  • I will use whole body participation by: maintaining eye contact, keeping mouth quiet, keeping body still, facing the speaker, and respecting the speaker. This goal is for students who are off task in either whole class or small group work.
  • I will seek timely support from a teacher when I don’t understand or to confirm I understand a concept. I will do this by asking a question in class, or homeroom. This goal is for students who delay seeking or do not seek support.
  • I will complete at least 60% of assignments each week (e.g., 3 out of 5, 3 out of 4, 2 out of 3). This goal is for students who struggle with homework completion.
  • I will lead my group in small group tasks. This goal is for students who are reluctant lead learners–those who lack confidence, or those who prefer to work alone.
  • I will organize my binder. This goal is for students who need to declutter their binder.

Monitoring SMART Goals

We ended the meeting, without resolution, on identifying an efficient means to monitor every student’s goal without adding too much to our plate. We joked about goal setting apps for students, so after the meeting I did a quick search. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any apps where the goals could be shared and monitored by the teacher.

A few days passed when I realized this Google Sheets file that I had been toying with for a different purpose could be put to use. Below is a gif which simply shows how the student would only need to type in a number 1-4 to capture progress.

The plan is to push out to students variations of this file using Canvas, where students would make a copy and rename their file. Each week during class students will report their progress.

Instead of the teacher opening 70 plus google sheets to monitor progress, students would take a screenshot of their progress and submit it to Canvas. That would likely be a more efficient method for the teacher to provide feedback.

Recognizing student progress

The last piece to this puzzle is student recognition. I’m thinking every 2-3 weeks students are briefly recognized for their progress. Depending on the student’s request the recognition could be a personal mention, or a more formal class announcement. I still need to flesh this out.

I know this plan will not change every student’s behavior overnight. However a few minutes each week pondering your goal may be just what some students need.


Adding tape diagrams to IM’s card sorts allow greater access to striving students

I’ve neglected to blog for a bit because I have been consumed with creating Illustrative Math resources that support student learning in our Title I after school math program.

It has been quite a challenge adapting and modifying our old resource to match IM’s deep conceptual understanding and lesson progression. Revising after school lessons that model and reinforce IM’s approach to learning isn’t easy. In many cases I’ve had to start from scratch.

Two activities worth sharing are modifications I made to seventh grade Unit 4 Proportional Relationships and Percentages.

Students in the after school program benefit from visual models so I wanted to add tape diagrams to the Unit 4 Lessons 4 and 5 card sorts. Since the 7th grade teachers were using IM’s card sorts in class, I needed to created new situations, equations, and tables along with the tape diagrams. I combined IM’s two card sorts since the students already received instruction on Lesson 5.

Below is an example of IM’s card sort.


Here’s my modification.


Adding the tape diagrams really allowed our striving students to better connect the situation with the equation and table.

The strategy was so successful I used it to reteach IM’s Lesson 6 Increasing and Decreasing. Students were given this handout (key included) and collaborated on completing the tape diagram, finding the percent increase or decrease, and creating the equation.



Feel free to use these two activities and let me know if they are helpful.