6 Steps to Setting Goals with IB PYP Students

Its that time of year again……reflection, fresh starts, new beginnings and goal setting.

A New Year or even a new school year, is an exciting time to gather as a class community and to think about all the dreams and goals that everyone wants to make come true. When we begin with this type of thing, it’s a great idea to just make a list of ALL those aspirations. Dream boards are fun ways to do this. I make one every single year! Dream BIG! Think beyond school! Just get them thinking forward.


Now, in order to make this list meaningful rather than a forgotten exercise within a few days, we need to encourage the children to turn those dreams into goals.


Dream boards or vision boards are simple and fun ways to just go ALL out and dream! Goals begin with dreams.

As adults, we know the importance of setting goals and creating an action plan that will help us to actually MEET those goals. As teachers, I believe it is a part of our responsibility to guide our students towards this all important part of self-reflection, self-management and life planning. The ability to set goals is a skill that can help children to develop a sense of responsibility and practice those self-management skills of prioritising and time management.  Goal-setting can also build self-esteem by showing the child that  they can accomplish what they’re working for.  Setting goals can simply be a way for your child to understand what she wants, or what she wants to happen.


Below, I have shared a simple six steps  to prepare your kiddos for a new year and new goals. And at the end of this post, I have a set of free goal setting activities that you can use to practice this process.

1. Create a Habit of Reflection

Whether its a brand new year or even a new school year, its important that we encourage the idea of a new start. It feels good to know that we can have this new beginning, this idea of a fresh start. Create an atmosphere that celebrates self-reflection.   This begins with really getting to know who we are. After all, we have to know where we are before we can consider where we’d like to go. This is the first step to setting goals.
Read more about these IB PYP Reflection Journals here.

Reflective thinking is something that can be practised. I created a Reflection Journal for every stage of the IB PYP, as a means to build upon the skill of reflective thinking. Since the enhanced PYP, there has been a greater emphasis with on-going reflection. These Reflection Journals can be used daily or weekly.  Focused around the Learner Profile the social, emotional and cognitive benefits include:

  • Self awareness
  • Improving self esteem & confidence
  • Improving decision-making abilities
  • Developing critical thinking skills
  • Teaching how to organise their time and resources.
  • Developing focus and accountability
  • Improving motivation, self-management and responsibility
  • Teaching dedication & perseverance.
  • Goal-setting for learning
  • Developing belief in the power of their own achievements


    • IB PYP Early Years Reflection Journal

    2. Teach Children How to Set Goals

    Setting goals isn’t always easy. Oftentimes, children begin with dreams like, ” I want to play in the World Cup football! ” Well, this is all well and good for the future, however, we want goals to be reachable in the shorter term. We want success to be in site. Acknowledge the dream and celebrate their big picture. Then move on to the here and now. Start with smaller goals that are relevant to the child’s current development and interests. Ask them specifically what they would like to accomplish in the next week, or simply tomorrow.  We are teaching the children that goals are things that we take action with, step-by-step. We teach them how to turn their dreams into SMART goals.

    • S-Specific
    • M-Measurable 
    • A-Achievable
    • R-Rewarding
    • T-Time-based

    We teach them to take ACTION for themselves. (You can read more about developing student-led action in this article. )

    Taking Action Classroom Posters.

    3. Help Them Choose their Goal

    By combining action with goal setting, the children make the connection that it takes steps to accomplish anything. This brings in the action cycle:

    choose – act – reflect.

                      IBPYP Reflection Journals
    Setting goals, tracking goals with the Reflection Journal for Big Kids

    We want the children to see this as a step-by-step process that they can use daily to benefit themselves and others. Taking action doesn’t have to be done separately and can be easily integrated into your days. The key to setting a goal is to let them choose it on their own. We want to give them their voice.

    To help them to discover their main goal, you can ask guiding questions such as:

    • What is something that you want to try?
    • What is one thing you want to improve?
    • What challenges do you keep coming up against?
    • How can you make your talents grow even more?

    And don’t forget to schedule a deadline for the main goal. The mini goals will proceed with finishing dates too. Making each step timely, helps to track the goals and measure the progress. When goals are time-based, there becomes a sense of urgency and drive.

    ** I advise that you only stick to one goal per term to avoid putting too much pressure on the children. We want it to be attainable and within a time-frame that they can see ahead of them. We also want it to be personally rewarding. We want them to COMMIT.

    4. Break the BIG goal into Smaller Steps

    Now that the child has defined their goal, we want to make sure that it is achievable. To make this BIG goal more manageable, help the children to break it down into smaller steps or mini-goals. This will become the action plan leading to their objective.

    Example 1: MAIN GOAL: I will KNOW my times tables by December.

    Action plan: 1. Make a chart to record my progress. 2. Make a times tables fan to keep in my desk. 3. Create a times tables poster to hang above my bed. 4. Learn one times table every week. 5. Practice with my Dad. 6. Set up a time tables practice group at playtime with friends.

    Example 2: MAIN GOAL: I will tie my own shoelaces in one month.

    Action Plan: 1. Ask my Mummy and Daddy to show me everyday for a week. 2. I will practice by myself every morning. 3. I will NOT ask my teacher to help me at school. 4. I will UNDERSTAND that I am learning and I will make mistakes at first.

    5. Identify Possible Challenges

    As much as goal-setting is a positive behaviour, we want children to recognise that things could go wrong. Part of embracing failure is understanding that things may not go to plan and to prepare them for overcoming potential problems. This mindset helps children to see that everyone can run into difficulties, to believe in their own power to persevere and to find solutions. This is a great discussion for those Approaches to Learning Social Skills and Self-Management Skills. 

    • Ask a grown up for help.
    • Remember why you started this goal
    • Celebrate your achievements, even the tiny ones.
    • Reflect on how you can improve.
    • Focus on finding solutions


    Teach IBPYP Children How to Set Goals


    6. Write it. Record it. Document it.

    Many studies state that writing down your goals is strongly associated with successfully meeting those goals. That’s why I have created these goal-setting resources. Each of the resources I have created for goal-setting puts these 6 steps into practice in a kid-friendly manner, turning them into a tangible action plan that allows for accountability. You can take a look at any of the resources by clicking on the pictures or links. And, the free set is all set up for big kids and little kids. If you’d like a set, just add your email below and I’ll send it to you.

    Start setting goals with your students now! Make the new year the perfect opportunity for developing reflective thinking skills and building those life skills which lead to greater self-management.


    P.S. As always, I’d love to hear how you put these resources to use with your class. You can comment below or simply tag me in social media posts.  Instagram @pypteaching Facebook @ PYPteachingtools





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