Top Teaching > Danielle Mahoney > Helping Students Set Their Reading Goals

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Helping Students Set Their Reading Goals

Settinggoals Knowing what they're really good at as readers and what they need to work on can spark students' thinking about setting important reading goals. As we sit and talk to our students about what they want to improve on in their reading, we gain great insight into how much they know about themselves as readers. Working on reading goals at the beginning of the school year can set the tone for the kind of reading work you expect from your students . . . and what they expect from themselves. 


Teachers Have Options

There's been a lot of buzz about the "right" way to have kids plan for their reading goals throughout my school this week. Goal setting seems to be on all of our minds. Teachers are working hard across the grades to think of ways to help students create and internalize their reading goals. How do we get our kids to really understand what they need to work on in language that is appropriate for them?

Use Picture Books to Help With Goals



It's nice to begin the conversation about goal setting with a read-aloud. For kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade students, try using a picture book like Leo the Late Bloomer. Get conversations started as kids identify with Leo's struggle with learning to read, write, draw, and speak. 




For upper grade students, I think that Patricia Polacco's book Thank You, Mr. Falker can be a great place to start talking about what readers struggle with. It can also remind your students that as teachers, we are partners in their learning. (Be warned, if you've never read it before, you may need to read it with a box of tissues close at hand!)



Have Real Conversations About Reading Plans 

During a common prep time, I got together with some super 2nd grade teachers to create a goal sheet that would help students record their current reading goals. We agreed that there should be a picture box on the sheet to provide a space for students to draw how they visualize themselves as good readers. We also included sections to record their goals and their plans to reach them.




With a copy of Leo the Late Bloomer in hand, I made my way into a 2nd grade classroom. I can't tell you how much fun we had creating our reading goals. The classroom teacher and I collaborated to help kids really understand what they needed to work on as readers. In this photo you can see Abigail focused on writing out her goals, while Juan David (photo above) took a break to give me a smile.




During our goal setting, I used the Flip video camera to record mini interviews with the students. Check out what Philip, Brandon, and Lena are working on to become better readers. It's incredible how well spoken they are about their goals!



Take a look at some of the completed reading goal sheets: 





Research! Use Your Running Record Results

I created this research form to help me organize the notes I collect when analyzing a student's running record. When working with students on setting goals that are a bit more specific to the needs of the learner, this sheet comes in handy.


As I developed a plan for setting reading goals with an incredible group of 4th graders, I found that the students had diverse needs and were working at many different levels. However, most of them had one thing in common — the desire to work on staying focused during independent reading. If you have students who have issues with tuning out distractions, you can start off your goal setting by thinking of specific reading behaviors that need to be worked on. Then follow up with the specific reading strategies they need to practice.

Ms. Lee helps Israel get his goals down on paper.


Donta completes his sheet by adding pictures.


Here is a close up of some of the goals we created, using this goal setting format.









 I will go to a new place that is quiet.



My reading work is good. I need a little bit of

help starting reading and I want to learn how to 

read sight words.







I want to focus more 

on my reading to get



I will want to read tricky 




Search Printables for Ideas

I came across this "Teacher-Student Reading Conference Form" — a free printable from Scholastic that may help with reading conferences and goal setting. Do you have a subscription to Scholastic Printables? It's a worthwhile investment. I've never been a "worksheet" type of teacher, so the fact that you can view the documents in full screen for use with interactive whiteboards (and never actually print them out) compelled me to search the printables database for resources I can use during my mini-lessons. I love the recent addition of their online filing cabinet. It allows you to save and organize your favorite printables!

I hope you can use and modify these goal sheets to meet the needs of your students. Having conversations about reading behaviors, specific strategies, and future plans can help students truly understand their goals. How do you tackle goal setting in your classroom? What resources do you find helpful? I look forward to hearing from you!



  • #1 Danielle Mahoney

    Monday, November 29, 2010 at 12:52 AM

    Hi Hillary!
    Let me start by saying - Welcome to Teaching!! The first year was the hardest for me. I'm glad you found your way to my blog! I hope that I can be of some help. Hang in there!

    I'm glad you like the goal sheets. I think they are really helpful and I'm constantly revising things as I see fit for my students. You might want to do the same. See what works best for you and your students.

    As far as the circles go: We use colored dots to code the levels on our independent books in the classroom libraries. The kids know their colors (as well as their level). We use the Fountas and Pinnell system for leveling books. We figure out each child's reading level by assessing them throughout the year. We use the Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project's Assessments. Check out this link if you are interested in finding out more about them.

    As long as you have some system in place for assessing your students and finding an independent reading level for them, you're good to go. You can still use the goal sheets to help kids get their goals down on paper. Feel free to revise them to make the work for you!!

    Best of luck!

  • #2 Hillary Darnsteadt

    Saturday, November 27, 2010 at 09:42 AM

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful strategy. It will definitely benefit my classroom.

    I am a brand new teacher :) and have one question about your goal form, which I LOVE by the way!

    What are the 2 circles at the top for? AND How do you know the reading level? We use a numerical sysem associated with Accelerated Reader. Thank you for your help!


  • #3 Danielle Mahoney

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 10:00 PM

    Hi Martha! =)

    Thanks for taking the time to read through the post and watch the video. I appreciate the feedback! Yes, I like to give students a place to draw out where they see themselves as they try to reach their goals. . . I feel like if they can see it - they know it can happen. We have to give kids opportunities to express themselves in different ways. With these goal sheets you start off with a conversation and continue with writing AND with a bit of drawing. (SHHH.. don't tell anyone, but it makes it fun, too!)

    Try this out with your English language learners and let me know how it goes!


  • #4 Martha

    Monday, October 18, 2010 at 04:59 PM

    Thank you so much for this post. I was unsure how to go about setting goals with my beginner English language learners who have trouble expressing themselves in words. I love how the reading goal sheets have a section in which students can draw what their goal may look like, as well as explain their goal in words. The video clips are great, too!

  • #5 Danielle Mahoney

    Tuesday, October 05, 2010 at 08:59 PM

    Sorry the forms are giving you trouble, Amanda! :(

    I'm a Mac user myself! Are you trying to use Pages to open up the documents - or Word? I create most of my documents using Pages. I save them as Word documents here so that they can be easily opened by anyone. (At least that's what I thought!!) Thanks for making me aware of this problem. I know that sometimes when a document is saved as a PDF it's impossible to edit for your own use. I will work on making these forms user friendly. In the meantime, try this: download one of the forms to your desktop. Hold down the Control key and click on the document. From the pop-up menu, choose Open With and then choose Pages from the submenu. That should do the trick! Thanks for your patience! Please let me know if that doesn’t work.

    Good luck!

  • #6 Amanda Nickerson

    Tuesday, October 05, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    I love your forms, but I am a Mac user. Is there any way that you would be able to easily convert them to pdf? I still have access to the text, but the structure of the document is lost in translation. Thanks in advance!

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