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It's a New Year... How about a S.M.A.R.T start for your students?

Posted 3 years ago - by Chad Triolet

SMART GoalIt’s a New Year…How About a S.M.A.R.T. start for your students?

This is my inaugural blog so I thought I would focus on a timely topic as we begin 2014…New Year’s Resolutions.   We all know and understand the basic concept behind a New Year’s Resolution…come up with something that you can do, or stop doing to improve you in the New Year.  On principle, I really like the idea but the realities of the success of this “magical self-improvement effort” are tenuous.  This whole concept all boils down to goal setting.  For years, like many people, my quest to complete a New Year’s Resolution ended in failure. In 2001, I decided to try something different, can you say S.M.A.R.T. goal?  I wanted to exercise more and lose a few pounds so I decided to train for my first ever “road race”.  In early January I signed up for a local 8K (5 mile) race.  I did some research for this New Year’s Resolution and found an 8K training program that would get me ready in the 3 months I had to prepare.  I printed out a calendar and kept track of my progress until race day.   Over the 3-month span, I lost over ten pounds and felt the best I had in years.  I was hooked!  I continued to up the distances until I completed my first marathon in October.  For the first time, my New Year’s Resolution was a success because of the way I set my goal and kept track of my own progress.

After my own personal success, I started using the concept of the New Year’s Resolution to teach goal setting using the S.M.A.R.T. goal concept each January.  With primary age students, I keep the concepts simple.  We talk about things that their parents have mentioned (they are going to exercise more, stop smoking, stop drinking sodas, etc.).  We discuss how to turn those open-ended goals into S.M.A.R.T. goals (see the S.M.A.R.T goal sample).  We also discussed practical ways to set measurable goals to increase the chance of success.  Having students write down a personal goal (with help) and share it with parents is a great way to reinforce this important concept. 

With the older students (4th and 5th graders), we focused on fitness.  We pulled out the fall fitness test scores and talked to the students (once again) about the importance of fitness and living an active lifestyle.  Based on the fitness data, we decided to focus on improvement using the PACER test (FITNESSGRAM®).  Using a 4x6 index card, we created a simple form so that students could track their progress and set goals as they perform the Pacer test each month until they took the final test in May.  Each month, the students set a new goal and try to improve or maintain their previous score.

Goal setting is a critical concept to teach students.  Not only is it a foundational skill for improving personal fitness, it also is a great lifetime skill that can be used in many different areas.  Physical education teachers have many opportunities to teach concepts and skills (like goal setting) that will have a positive impact on student development. 

So, the question is…What is your New Year’s Resolution and how can you help your students learn about this important goal setting opportunity?

Effective goal setting starts by being S.M.A.R.T.

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable/Achievable
R – Realistic/Relevant
T – Timely


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