4 Steps to Successful Goal Setting for Kids

What is the best way for your kids to set and accomplish their goals this year?

Defining, setting, and prioritizing your goals is the first step to accomplish what you want to do. If you have not clearly defined a goal that you want to accomplish, it is much harder to actually achieve it. When you set specific goals, it increases your motivation to take the steps to actualize them.

Writing these goals down makes it more concrete than just thinking about them. After writing your goals down, identify what steps you need to take to actualize the goal. This is known as backward design: the process of defining an end goal and then working your way backward to figure out the steps you need to do to achieve the goal. When you have clearly defined what the goal is and what steps are needed to accomplish the goal, it is much easier to actually take the steps necessary to attain the goal. When it comes to acting and taking the steps, you already did the thinking behind it, so it is that much easier to act.

How do executive function skills relate to goal setting and planning skills?

Great executive function skills make it much easier to attain your goals. Executive function is the ability to control your own behavior. Are you tempted to have a cookie, but you reach for an apple instead? Those are your executive function skills at work. Executive function includes your ability to control your attention, to tune out irrelevant stimuli or information, and to think about multiple concepts. It is also your ability to manage your time effectively.

Setting goals and priorities can dramatically help your kids develop their executive function skills.

Executive function skills are learned skills that develop quickly in childhood and teen years, but they keep developing into your mid-20s. By developing habits of note-taking, writing, and planning, you actively improve your executive function skills. By planning, estimating time, problem-solving, and reviewing, you improve your ability to plan and accomplish your task at hand the next time.

Accomplishing your goals does not innately get better with age. Sure, most adults are often better at their executive function skills, but not everyone grows up to be able to accomplish their goals and what they want in life. Sometimes it is easy to get overwhelmed with everything else that is happening in the world and your life where your goals get put on the back burner.

Download FREE Goal Setting Worksheet

4 Steps to Successful Goal Setting for Kids

1. Write Your Goals Down

The first step is to clearly define what you want to accomplish. Try to make concrete goals that are not vague. The new year is a time that is great to set a big audacious goal that might put you out of your comfort zone, but that is still attainable.

An example of a big audacious goal could be for your child to give a presentation on a topic your child may know something or nothing about to their classroom or another group. Another goal might be for them to learn how to play a song with an instrument.

The goal will depend on the child. If they already excel at something that they want to focus even more on, the big audacious goal would be to push their talents further than what they currently think is possible. Help brainstorm ideas with your child and even come up with an audacious goal of your own this year.

The research from Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University of California, shows that the actual process of writing goals down can help improve your chance of accomplishing your goals by 33%.

2. Define the Steps Necessary to Accomplish Your Goals

How are you going to accomplish the goal that you set? This is one of the most important parts of achieving your goal. Write clear detailed steps for what you must do to make progress to achieving your goal. If your child wants to write a book, some steps might be to write just a sentence every day. Sometimes just writing a sentence can lead to a paragraph. But just planning to do a little bit each day will get you that much closer to realizing your goal.

3. Plan Your Day, Week, and Month

Take out your calendars! Figure out when and where you are currently using your time and figure out where you can schedule in a little bit of time each week to work on your goal. Working a little bit every day on something will have a much bigger impact than working one full day per every few weeks. Our After-School Reading Program has the perfect Daily To-Do forms to help you budget your time each day along with weekly and monthly calendars.

4. Review and Reflect

At the end of each week, review what you have done over the week. It is a perfect time to reflect on what you did well, what you struggled with, and what you want to do the next week. By actively reflecting and writing down your successes and struggles, you are able to look at your performance objectively. Make sure to celebrate your successes each week! It is too easy sometimes to always think about what you need to do to do better, but it also important to pat yourself on the back for the small wins you have each week. Our After-School Reading Program has the perfect Week-in-Review forms to review and reflect each week.

Download FREE Goal Setting Worksheet

We put together a goal setting worksheet to make the whole process of setting goals a little bit easier. We start off with a big audacious goal, move on to another goal that your child needs to accomplish (but might not be something that they are the most excited about), and we wrap up with one goal that they’d like to do if there is time to do it. Download the goal planning worksheet and share it with your friends.

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.

Executive Function and Reading

If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail.
– Benjamin Franklin

Executive function is all about planning and organizing. It’s also your ability to strategize and pay attention to and remember details. Executive function also involves flexible thinking. This is used when you have an assignment or project, or a problem that can be done in several ways. Do you get stuck, or do you look for a different way to do it? When we read, we use our executive function skills.

Executive Function Directly Impacts Reading Skills

Every time you read:

  • You decide what you are going to read.
  • You decide when you are going to read.
  • You plan your reading to fit into your day, whether it is at a break, after school, after dinner, or before bed.

While reading, whether it’s a news story, social media, an article, or a book, your brain constantly uses executive function skills by asking yourself:

  • Is this important? 
  • Do I need to remember this?
  • What associations or connections can I draw from the characters?
  • Do I have any personal experiences that I can relate to what I’m reading?

The process the brain uses as it asks these questions is executive function. Asking these questions filters and sends the information to both the short and long term memory centers of the brain. This helps you to retain, understand, and fully comprehend what you read. 

Scholar Within After-School Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

3 Brain Processes Work Together

  1. Working Memory:
    Your ability to recall steps of a word problem while solving it or recalling the steps of a recipe while cooking.
  2. Flexible Thinking:
    When you are stuck, flexible thinking is the ability to try new ways to solve a problem.
  3. Executive Function:
    This is your ability to ask yourself questions, plan, and organize your thoughts. 

When you are able to retain what you’ve read, organize your thoughts with your working memory and flexibility, you are able to act succinctly.

Specific Areas of Reading are Impacted by Executive Function

  • Vocabulary:
    Helps you organize, associate, and categorize words to retain meaning.
  • Grammar:
    Helps you to interpret the content. e.g.: Let’s eat grandpa. vs Let’s eat, grandpa.
  • Word and Sentence Emphasis:
    Helps you determine the mood or emotional context of the passage which aids comprehension.

Your ability to maintain focus impacts your ability to read easily. Working memory comes into play by helping us to hold onto multiple bits of information in a paragraph as well as a story. Executive function helps us to comprehend.

Executive Function Skills Build Foundational Reading Skills

Many researchers, including Laurie Cutting and George McCloskey have established the connection of executive function to the reading process. Executive function skills work directly with working memory. If you improve your executive function skills, your reading comprehension skills will naturally improve. There are specific activities for different age groups that strengthen executive function and reading skills.

In a nutshell, executive function is a term used to describe a set of mental processes that helps us connect past experience with present action. We use executive function skills when we perform the following activities:

  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Strategizing
  • Paying attention to details 
  • Remembering details

These skills allow us to:

  • Finish work on time.
  • Ask for help when needed.
  • Wait to speak until we’re called on.
  • Seek more information.

Executive function can improve. These are learned skills and can improve with instruction! Study skills instruction that incorporates planning skills can and does make a real difference!

Many schools do not teach these executive function skills. They expect students to just catch on to how to plan. However, when you teach your kids these skills, both reading and overall learning improve.

Learn about our After-School Reading Program to find out how we integrate executive function skills into reading instruction.

Scholar Within After-School Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.

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