These 7 activities for setting goals with middle school students will help your students pick topics, develop plans, and think about the best way to accomplish their goals.
I’ve got to be honest. Sometimes setting goals with students can cause a legit headache.
Just saying the words ‘goal setting’ can send my students into a tailspin of statements like…
“I don’t have any goals.”
“I don’t know what to write.”
“This doesn’t work for me.”
“I’m not a goal-setter.”
And you know what?
I get it.
We all have those days when some of these types of tasks feel a little pointless. However, research study after research study has proven that goals (especially those that are written down, frequently reviewed, and honestly assessed) are incredibly valuable in schools and the workplace.
It is my firm belief, as an educator, that if I can help my students come up with a goal they are passionate about, they will be more successful in accomplishing that goal.
So, today, we are going to make coming up with goals easier for your students with 7 idea-generating activities for goal setting with middle school students.
These ideas were created with middle school students in mind. They are active, quirky, and thought-provoking.
7 Activities for Setting Goals with Middle School Students
#1 | 20 Questions
Simple and cunning, this activity for setting goals with middle school students is really quite simple. Ask the students to write down some part of their life they would like to improve. Then pair them up.
Each student will get to ask the other a series of 20 yes/no questions in an effort to guess what the first student wrote down.
The trick is that the game is just a distraction. The main goal was just to get the students to write down something they want to improve on. You’ll instruct them to write their first goal around that part of their life.
The goal of this activity is to get students to think quickly. The game takes away the pressure of having to come up with the RIGHT thing to set a goal about. Instead, students are just asked to pick a topic on which they know they need to improve.
For many students, coming up with a topic to base a goal around is the hard part. However, once we hide the topic in the form of a game, it becomes easier.
You can also have them write down answers to these questions to get a similar result:
- Write down the activity you’ve always wanted to try.
- Write down the part of this class that is hardest for you.
- Write down something that distracts you.
- Write down a part of writing that is hard.
- Write down your favorite topic in science.
#2 | The Game of Life
My favorite part of The Game of Life is that we all secretly have an avenue that we hope our little car of people will take.
To start this activity, let your students play the board game The Game of Life. Tell them that the person who’ll win is not the person with the most money but rather the person who is the happiest with their result in the end.
Once they’re done, ask them to rate their level of happiness and journal on what outcomes they would have rather seen their avatar achieve.
Use their writing to inspire their goal setting by having them pick one of their ‘ideal outcomes’ and consider what they can start doing today to achieve that outcome for themselves.
#3 | My Perfect Day
This is a writing activity, but it can be life-changing and eye-opening.
Ask students to consider themselves as adults. Ask them to write out their perfect day as an adult.
For this activity, we are focusing on the day. So, their writing will probably have lots of times on it. At 6:30 am I wake up and have a latte made by my butler or at 7:00 am I am woken up when I hear my baby crying or I wake up at 4:30 am to head to the gym to lift weights.
The goal is to let the students have a little fun dreaming while also helping them to think through where they want to be in 8-12 years.
If your students go over the top with their planning, and get a little too silly, ask them to do a second write-up that is focused a little more on reality.
Next, ask them to write about their perfect day as it would look at the end of the school year, but with that 8-12 year goal in mind. The goal of this activity is to get students thinking about what they can start doing as a 13-year-old to get them where they want to be in the future…What goals they could set now to have a better chance at making that future a reality.
For example, if their perfect day has them working as a lawyer, then their ‘end-of-year goal may have them participating in an 8th-grade mock trial.
Their goal for right now might have to do with researching the best clubs and teams an aspiring lawyer should consider trying in high school.
#4 | Spin the Wheel
This one is simple. Ask students to write down 5 areas of their life they are most interested in improving. (or 5 academic standards they want to improve), and then assign each to a spot on a spinner.
Students will spin the wheel and see which one they land on. The first topic they land on 3 times is the winner and gets to be the focus of the first goal.
You can also use this method for class-wide goals.
What I find most interesting about something like spinning a wheel is that students often figure out which topic they really want to focus on most simply by waiting for the results.
It is like the old trick of flipping a coin to make a decision. It isn’t about what side the coin lands on, it is really about which side you WANTED the coin to land on. This spinner activity can produce the same result.
If your students come to you after spinning and say that they really want to pick one of their other topics, let them. Even though it goes against the rules of the game, we all know the main goal was just to get your students to pick a topic, and with this result, we all win!
#5 | Bingo Cards
Remember, when picking activities for goal setting with middle school students, goals can be based on a lot of different topics. I like using BINGO cards for working on behavior or healthy habits and activities.
As a class, come up with 25 healthy habits or activities (or good behaviors). Put them into a BINGO card generator like this one, and give each student a BINGO card.
The students’ goals can then be based around the number of habits they want to incorporate into their lives or how many of these tasks they want to accomplish. The goal could also be based on the number of Bingo lines the student is able to create.
#6 | Tree of Dreams
Sometimes students need to see how accomplishing a goal can lead to changes long-term.
As a class, create a Tree of Dreams. A Tree of Dreams starts with a solid base. A single goal that is accomplished this year. Then brainstorm the different ways accomplishing that goal can affect other areas of the students’ lives or inspire other goals.
- If a student’s goal is to learn how to knit a scarf over the course of the next month.
- Their next goal with that skill may be to knit a throw blanket.
- Next, they may knit a pair of gloves and hat with a matching pattern.
- Then, they may aim to learn another knitting pattern and make another scarf.
- Then, they may create a pattern of their own.
- After creating a pattern, they may host a workshop at the school to teach other people how to knit their pattern… and so on and so on.
Ask them to make a tree showing how accomplishing this one goal and rolling those skills into other goals could turn into a much bigger accomplishment. Just like a tree only has one starting point from the ground, it continues to grow and spread and become bigger and bigger.
#7 | Goldilocks’ Way
This activity is all about finding a way to accomplish your goals that is ‘just right.’
Just as Goldilocks had to sit in several chairs before finding the one that was just right for her, many of your students are not going to know how to accomplish their goals or make a plan that is right for them.
In this activity, students will establish a general goal.
Example: I will read 5 pages in my book every day for the next 10 days.
Then, they will explore several ways to accomplish this task by considering the following question.
- What is the fastest way to accomplish this goal?
- What is the worst way to accomplish this goal?
- What is the slowest way to accomplish this goal?
- What is the happiest way to accomplish this goal?
- What is the oddest way to accomplish this goal?
- What is the most helpful way to accomplish this goal?
- How would your parent/guardian accomplish this goal?
- How would your best friend accomplish this goal?
- How would a child accomplish this goal?
- What is the right/best way for YOU to accomplish this goal?
It is fun for students to explore all the ways a goal can be accomplished and arrive at what is best for them. This reinforces that there are many different ways to plan for and accomplish a goal even if it is exactly the same as someone else’s.
Once your students have their topics figured out, start working through the SMART goal process. To learn more about SMART goals, you can read this blog post. We also have a SMART Goals Template!
For many students, simply coming up with an idea to set a goal around will be a challenge. These activities for setting goals with middle school students are designed to get the brainstorming started!
Some of these activities will help students settle on a topic for their goal, and others will help them with the implementation plan. They will all encourage your students to have some fun while they work their way through the process.
Happy Goal Setting!