Goal Setting in the Low-Level Classroom

Sarah Lynn Sarah Lynn

Goal Setting in the Low-Level Classroom

Why is goal setting important to our students?

  • It focuses students’ learning, making them more purposeful and self-directed in their studies.
  • It gives students a meaningful measure by which they can assess their progress.

What is a good goal?

“Good goals” are effective goals. They are feasible, specific, and have small manageable steps.

How do I get low-level students to set goals?

Here is one way to get low level ESOL students to set specific, feasible goals. …

Set Language Goals

1. Identify Language Needs

  • Show the class pictures of people in daily life in the U.S. For example:

    Talking with a bank teller.

    Asking for directions on a street.

    Talking with a doctor while being examined.

    Returning an item at a clothing store.

    Talking with a teacher at a parent-teacher conference.
    Ordering food from a restaurant.

    Applying for a job.

    Talking with a pharmacist about some medication.

  • For each photo ask:

    Where are they?

    What are they doing?

    Is your English ok in this situation?

    Do you want to learn more English to speak in this situation?

  • Write a title for each photo. [For example: Talk to a person in the bank.]

2. Select a Goal

  • Place the photos with their titles in different parts of the room.
  • Ask students: Which one is most important to you?
  • Students stand next to their most important goal. Everyone in the class can see students have different goals.

3. Write down Goals

  • Students only choose three goals.
  • Students can complete a contract like this:
My Goals Check  off
I want to learn more English to:________________ _______
I want to learn more English to:________________ _______
I want to learn more English to:________________ _______
Student signature __________________________ Date _____
Student signature __________________________ Date _____

Achieve Goals
1. Plan with the class.

  • As you start a new unit, ask the class: What English do you need to ____________[talk to a person in a bank]? Students may say: bank vocabulary, ask and answer bank questions, complete bank forms.
  • Write students’ ideas. Add other ideas that are in your textbook unit, too. Then show students the unit, show them how they will learn each of these sub-sets of skills.

2. Introduce each step.

  • Explain what you are doing and why. Always relate the sub-set skills to the bigger goal. For example:
    Now we are going to [study bank vocabulary]. This will help you talk to person in a bank.

3. Assess.

  • At the end of each step, give students a chance to test their mastery in a brief evaluation. Keep it simple. For example:
A quick test¦ to assess¦
Dictate key words and have students write sentences using the words. Vocabulary mastery
Dictate key content words. Spelling
Ask content questions and have students individually write the answers. Comprehension of content
Write sentences with grammar errors on the board. Students in pairs identify errors in sentences and correct them. Grammar mastery
Write prompts on the board and have students compose questions and answers. Grammar mastery
Students perform a short role play. Communicative competence

Share your ideas on my Teacher2Teacher blog.

Sarah Lynn
currently teaches at a literacy/learning program in Cambridge, MA. She
has trained volunteers and led workshops on many aspects of teaching
adult education students. Sarah has taught ESL for 20 years in the U.S.
and abroad. Sarah is a series author and a featured instructor on the
Teacher Training DVD. 

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