K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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  • Creating community in the classroom: Part 1 (setting goals ): This series of lessons is designed to help develop a sense of classroom community. Group goal-setting, brainstorming, peer feedback, group decision-making, positive reinforcement, and positive peer pressure are used to create a safe, supportive environment for learning in the classroom.

    In Part 1, students are introduced to the goal-setting process. They will practice the first step of the process as they set individual and class behavioral goals.
  • Creating community in the classroom: Part 4 (rewarding improvement): The fourth lesson in a series on improving classroom learning climate, this lesson provides an opportunity to evaluate student progress and to provide positive reinforcement for improvements in behavior. Using a one to ten continuum, students will subjectively evaluate class progress on the ten adjectives listed as class climate goals. After this process, students will publicly recognize those classmates who have helped the class improve or who have personally improved.
  • Creating community in the classroom: Part 2 (cooperative planning): This series of lessons is designed to help develop a sense of classroom community through use of group goal-setting, decision-making, brainstorming, peer feedback, positive reinforcement, and positive peer pressure. The lessons will help students create and maintain a supportive environment for learning. Part 1 focused on goal-setting process and practice. In Part 2, students will apply knowledge of the goal-setting process by cooperatively creating a plan to work on group goals.

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • list benefits of goal-setting.
  • describe steps in a goal setting process.
  • practice all the steps of the goal-setting process.
  • have an opportunity to observe how goal setting can improve performance and self confidence.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

45 minutes


  • one soccer ball (or a similar type of ball)
  • open space large enough for a class to stand up in a circle


  1. Have the students arrange themselves into a circle. Begin the lesson by asking each student to find one feeling word to describe how they feel today. Demonstrate: Call the name of a student and throw the ball to that person. As the students receives the ball, they says how they feel. They then choose another person, speak their name, and throw the ball to them. The ball will be passed around the class until everyone has had their name called, received the ball and said how they feel. After the demonstration and after all questions are answered, look at the time and then start the activity. Look again at the time as the activity finishes and calculate how much time it took for the ball to go to everyone. Tell the students how much time it took for everyone to receive the ball and ask if they think they could pass it to everyone more quickly. (Present it as a challenge and they will say “yes.”)
  2. Explain that today’s lesson will focus on the goal-setting process and the benefits of using goal setting. Ask students for a definition of “goal.”
  3. Present the steps of the goal-setting process. Important goal-setting steps include:
    • Setting a goal.
    • Looking at options to meet the goal.
    • Establishing a plan.
    • Thinking about rewards for reaching the goal.
    • Monitoring progress toward the goal.
    • Evaluating progress, which may result in adjusting the goal or the plan or both.
  4. What is the Goal? (Example: We think we can pass the ball around to everyone in ___ minutes.) Explain that the activity will only require that every student in the class touch the ball. The students’ job will be to work together as a team to accomplish the class goal of having everyone touch the ball in ___ seconds. Try to get a consensus that will be the class goal. Do they think they can reduce the time to 3 minutes? 2 minutes? 1 minute? Help them agree on a goal, pointing out that they can always set a more difficult goal later.
  5. Now for the other steps in the process. What are the options in how to reach the goal? What plan will help them reach their goal? Have them brainstorm options as they work toward a plan. How can they reduce the time it takes to have everyone touch the ball. No rules except no one gets hurt and everyone must touch the ball. (Don’t hint, but they could rearrange how they stand, move from a circle to a line, stand closer together, stop calling out names as they toss the ball, stop throwing the ball and start passing it, etc.) Help them pick a plan to try first, saying things like “What plan are you going to try first?” or “OK, your first plan is to.…” or “Let’s try our one of these plans and I will keep the time.” Generally, classes will set a goal, try a new plan for reaching it, realize they are still improving, and set a more difficult goal. They will try a new way of attacking the problem (a new plan) and try again. They may repeat the process of setting a goal, considering options, making a plan, trying the plan, measuring success, and evaluating as many as ten times in fairly short order.
  6. Process after each attempt to set a goal, make a plan, and try out the plan/improve the time. (What worked about this idea? What didn’t work about the plan? Want to try one of the other ideas that was suggested?) Help them celebrate reaching their goal each time and help them stay reminded of the process they are following. Ask how it feels to set a difficult goal and then reach it (the good feeling in this case is the reward.)
  7. After they set and reach a goal and you do the processing, ask “Are you happy with that goal? Do you think it’s possible to do it any faster…?” Encourage them to set a new goal, using the same brainstorming and creativity they used to reach the first goal. Each time they set a new goal, have them consider the options, make a plan, and monitor progress as you time them. Encourage them to be accepting of mistakes (ideas that don’t work very well) and to listen to each other. Anyone might have a terrific idea but if they can’t be heard.…
  8. The class may set several goals and try out numerous ideas on their way to getting the job done in the least amount of time possible. When you think they have gone as far as possible, ask “When we first did this activity in ___minutes, would you have thought it possible that you could do it in ____seconds?” Ask “How did the goal setting process help us get the time down to ____seconds?”
  9. Explain that research says goal-setting helps people:
    • Achieve more (Do you think setting a goal helped you achieve more?)
    • Improve performance (Did having a goal improve your performance?)
    • Increase your motivation to achieve (Did having a goal increase your motivation?)
    • Increase your pride and satisfaction in your achievements (Did it…?)
    • Improve your self-confidence (Did it…?)
    • Suffer less from stress and anxiety (Do you think it could…?
    • Concentrate better (Could it help…?)
  10. Compliment the class on their teamwork and on any other productive behaviors you observed. Point out how they used critical thinking and problem-solving skills to develop a plan.


Ask students to describe how the goal setting could help them improve their grades. Have them verbally walk through the process steps to reach the goal of making better grades.

Ask the classroom teacher who witnessed the lesson to incorporate concepts from the lesson into other quizzes with extra credit for correct answers.

Supplemental information

It doesn’t matter about the length of time the group achieves or the excellence of the plans they develop to reach their goals. Walking them through the process is very helpful, and they improve on using the process from the first plan to the last. You can also see critical thinking skills improve from one plan to the next. It is fun to watch them come up with ideas and try them out. Just for your information, the shortest time I ever saw a group achieve was three seconds. They had forty students get a running start and race by one student who stood still holding the ball firmly. I’ve done this many times and only one group ever came up with that idea.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Guidance (2010)
      • Early Emergent/Emergent

        • EEE.C.1 Use creative strategies to solve problems. EEE.C.1.1 Create strategies for solving problems that have been problems for some time. EEE.C.1.2 Use creative strategies to achieve academic, personal, social, and professional goals.
      • Progressing

        • P.C.1 Use creative strategies to make decisions and solve problems. P.C.1.1 Understand how to make adjustments to strategies that are not effective in making decisions or solving problems. P.C.1.2 Analyze strategies you have used in the past to determine the...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Guidance (2001)

Grade 6–8

  • Goal 2: Complete school with the academic preparation essential to choose from a wide variety of the substantial post-secondary options, including college.
    • Objective 2.02: Communicate critical thinking skills.
  • Goal 4: Acquire the skills to investigate the world of work in relation to knowledge of self and to make informed career decisions.
    • Objective 4.03: Demonstrate the importance of planning.
  • Goal 8: Make decisions, set goals, and take appropriate action to achieve goals.
    • Objective 8.08: Calculate long and short term goals.
    • Objective 8.09: Evaluate alternative ways of achieving goals.
    • Objective 8.11: Develop an action plan to set and achieve realistic goals.

Grade K–5

  • Goal 2: Complete school with the academic preparation essential to choose from a wide variety of substantial post-secondary options including college.
    • Objective 2.01: Demonstrate critical thinking skills.
  • Goal 4: Acquire the skills to investigate the world of work in relation to knowledge of self and to make informed career decisions.
    • Objective 4.04: Explore the importance of planning.
  • Goal 7: Acquire the attitudes, knowledge and interpersonal skills to help understand and respect self and others.
    • Objective 7.02: Communicate the goal setting process.