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Academic Goal Setting- Helping Your Child Achieve

It's the time of year that we all start setting personal and family goals for the upcoming year. Have you made a new years resolution?

Your child may also be looking in to the new year with some academic goals in mind. Maybe the first semester didn't go quite as well as anyone was expecting. Maybe there were some bumps in the road that left everyone in the family feeling a bit jolted. This time of year is a perfect time to talk about goal setting with your child.

Goal setting with kids- Academic goal setting

So how do you help your child raise their grade or improve their academics?

I wish I could say that there is a direct answer, but the answer is that it really depends. Figuring out why grades are low will take delving in to what is really going on in and out of the classroom. When helping my students figure out why they are seeing low grades or unsatisfactory academic performance, I usually lead them through a series of questions to help us both understand the situation better. I ask some of the following:

  • What do you feel like you are doing really well in your class?

  • What do you feel like you aren't doing so well on in your class?

  • Do you always turn in your homework, or do you sometimes have missing assignments?

  • How focused do you feel in class? Do you feel like there is something that is distracting you?

  • How do you study for tests and quizzes?

  • When you are confused about a concept or a question, what do you do?

  • When you are taking a test or quiz in class, how do you feel?

Hopefully these questions and any that you come up with will lead to a good conversation between you and your child about what is contributing to their grades and performance. Once you and your child better understand why their grades are low, you can help them set a goal grade and lay out what steps they need to take in order to achieve their goal.

Here are some areas that you might work through with your child based on their reflection and ways that you can help them improve performance if you determine it is a trouble area.

Completing assignments

I know it doesn't come as a shock, but missing assignments or incomplete assignments can sink a grade fast. In many schools, once a student has a few missing assignments it can become really hard to catch up. So even if your child turns the ship around and starts to bail out water and really understand the material half way through the grading period, the damage could already be done. Additionally if a student is not completing classwork and homework assignments they may be missing out on valuable practice that will help them pass tests and quizzes.

If your child feels like this could be part of their problem talk to them about ways they can make sure they do ALL their work. With many of my students I suggest that they start to use a planner, and I guide them through how to use it. I also suggest setting up a homework routine to make sure time is spent doing assignments every day so that it is easier to stay ahead. Talk to your child about what to do if they do miss an assignment or what to do when they were sick or out of class and didn't receive the homework. Some kids are afraid to ask their teacher for missing work, help your child practice how they will ask and when it is and isn't an appropriate time.

Reading the material

I have the "I know you are reading it but are you really reading it?" conversation with many of my students. Your child needs to determine whether they are reading for comprehension or just reading to find the answers the the questions they were assigned. Actually reading the book will help students understand the content and what is going on in class. I will be the first to admit that I found this out a little too late in my school years.

Some of my students set a goal to read the chapter or assigned reading before class so that they are prepared. For some, reading before class helps them absorb more of the material when the teacher teaches. Others may aim to read more slowly and answer comprehension questions to make sure they understood what they read.

Studying before tests and quizzes

There is a shift in elementary/middle school in which students have to start studying for their tests in most subjects (not just spelling). I haven't quite figured out when that shift happens, but I have seen it throw a lot of students for a loop. Sometimes a conversation about how success follows effort can go a long way, but sometimes students also need to be taught how to study.

Everyone studies in different ways, so this can actually be a lengthy learning curve. Start having conversations about how your child feels they learn best and brainstorm ways that they can study to get the information to stick. Studying consistently is usually a big step in reaching a goal grade.

Class participation

Some teachers actually grade class participation, while others just encourage it. Whether it is graded or not, class participation is always a good idea when you are trying to learn something. I know that not all students are the outgoing type, trust me, I am right there with them. Class participation can take many forms depending on the structure of the class. I encourage my students to participate in class and ask questions because it will keep them really involved in what is going on and therefore the chance of learning goes up. For students who are not so comfortable speaking up in class I encourage them to take their questions to the teacher privately whenever possible.

Time management

Time management is something that we all struggle with occasionally, am I right? This is a skill that must be practiced until perfected. Help your child think through how they are managing their time when it comes to school assignments. When are they doing their homework? When they have a project, do they do it little by little or all at once the night before? Ask them how they feel their time management is working, how stressed they are and whether they think something should change. Sometimes making a plan on when and where to do certain assignments can make a big difference.


I feel like organization falls in with a lot of the topics above, but I think it is also worth mentioning on its own. A student who learns how to get organized is more likely to reach their goals. Sometimes it is easy to forget that organization is a learned skill and is often a fluid process. I have times in my life where I am very unorganized and times when I seem to have it all together. Help your child find an organization system that works for them. Different colored folders for homework and classwork or an accordion file with a pocket for each class might be a good place to start.

Make sure that backpacks are getting emptied often so that papers don't get lost in the abyss.

Minimizing Distractions

When having a goal setting session with one of my students I asked the question "Do you feel like anything is distracting you in class?" to which she replied "I talk a LOT, so sometimes I don't hear what the teacher says or I don't finish my assignment.". I was blown away by her observation and honesty. When we finished, part of her goal was to talk less in class so that she would be less distracted. She also decided that when she was really struggling she would bring headphones so she could listen to music to remind her not to talk.

Whatever your child's distraction might be, help them brainstorm a way to take responsibility and minimize it. This may be asking the teacher if they can sit closer to the board, moving away from a friend, bringing a different pencil or even noise cancelling headphones.

Once you are done reflecting and brainstorming with your child, you should have a goal plan that looks something like this:

My goal is to get at least a B in Math

I will achieve my goal by:

1. Turning in my homework on time.

2. Sitting further away from my friends in class so that I can focus.

3. Writing tests and quizzes in my planner so that I can study before they are given.

When the goal plan is written have your child hold on to it and maybe post it in a prominent place in their room. Every week or two check in with your child on how their progress is going. When doing a goal "check up" I usually ask what my student things they did well, what they didn't do so great on and which part of their goal they hope to focus on in the upcoming week.

Feel free to use this FREE goal writing template that I made especially for you!

Happy New Year!


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