Set writing goals

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.
– Tony Robbins

Description of the principle

To maintain children’s self-efficacy, commitment and motivation during a class writing project, teachers should ensure that children know the distant goal for the project, that is to say the future audience and purpose for the writing. The class, as a community, should have a say in setting the product goals for the project. This is what will they have to do to ensure their writing is successful and meaningful. Setting shorter-term process goals (e.g. generating an idea/planning/drafting/revising/editing/publishing) benefits learners in terms of cognitive load, focus, motivation and achievement; for example, ‘You have two days left to complete your draft’. However, once experienced enough, children should be able to use their own writing process and only need the final deadline for completing the project; for example ‘You have eight more writing sessions before these need to be ready for publication’.

What Writing For Pleasure teachers do

  • To maintain children’s commitment and motivation during a class writing project, teachers ensure that their classes understand the ‘distant goal’ for the project, that is to say, its audience and purpose.
  • The class, as a community, also have a say in setting the ‘product goals’ for their project. This takes place in the form of discussions as to what they will have to do, and what it is writers do, to ensure their writing is successful and meaningful in the context of the project’s aims.
  • The teachers often share a piece of their own writing, in keeping with the project, to initiate a discussion about writing decisions. The children then use the outcomes of these discussions as an aid to setting product goals for their own writing. The product goals are similar to success criteria, but importantly they also include more overarching goals linked directly to purpose and audience.
  • Product goals are put on display and are repeatedly referred to by the children and the teachers throughout the class writing project.
  • Teachers set loose ‘process goals’ for writing time to help the class generally stay on track, without forcing children to keep to a certain pace or a specific writing process.

Reviewing your practice: questions to consider

  • Do you see writing as mastery through repeated practice rather than performance-oriented and therefore provide children with space and opportunity to develop their writing over time?
  • Do you set a class process-oriented writing goal for the lesson(s)?
  • Do you ensure that whole-class writing goals relate to purpose and audience and link directly to the class’ learning needs?
  • Do you ensure the class’ writing goals are well known and/or on display?
  • Do you involve the children in setting whole class learning goal(s)?
  • Do you work with children to set their own individual writing goals?
  • Do you allow children to choose their own social and writing goals for their personal writing projects?
  • Ensure children know what the class’ writing goals are, how they can achieve them and what resources or strategies are available to help them.

Examples from the classroom

Let’s make a ‘Guess Who?’ book! Writing character descriptions in Year Two

Supporting documents

Suggested further reading

  • Ames, C., & Archer, J. (1988). Achievement goals in the classroom: Students’ learning strategies and motivation processes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(3), 260–267.
  • Andrade, H., Du, Y., Wang, X., (2008) Putting rubrics to the test: The effect of a model, criteria generation, and rubric-referenced self-assessment on elementary school students’ writing Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 27,(2), 3-13
  • Covington, M. V. (2000). Goal theory, motivation, and school achievement: An integrative review. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 171–200.
  • Garrett, L., Moltzen, R., (2011) Writing because I want to, not because I have to: Young gifted writers’ perspectives on the factors that “matter” in developing expertise In English Teaching: Practice and Critique pp.165-180
  • Hmelo-Silver, C., Duncan, R., & Chinn, C. (2007). Scaffolding and achievement in problem-based and inquiry learning: A response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 99–107.
  • Latham, G. P., & Locke, E. A. (1991). Self-regulation through goal setting. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 212–247
  • Reutzel, D. R. (2007). Organizing effective literacy instruction: Differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all children. In L. B. Gambrell, L. M. Morrow, & M. Pressley (Eds.), Best practices in literacy instruction (pp. 313–434). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
  • Schunk, D. H. (1990). Goal setting and self-efficacy during self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 25, 71-86
  • Schunk, D. H. (1996). Goal and self-evaluative influences during children’s cognitive skill learning. American Educational Research Journal, 33(2), 359–382.
  • Schunk, D. H., & Swartz, C. W. (1993). Goals and progress feedback: Effects on self-efficacy and writing achievement. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 18(3), 337–354.
  • Seijts, G. H., Latham, G. P., Tasa, K., & Latham, B. W. (2004). Goal setting and goal orientation: An integration of two different yet related literatures. Academy of Management Journal, 47(2), 227–239.
  • Timperley, H. & Parr, J., (2009) What is this lesson about? Instructional processes and student understandings in writing classrooms In The Curriculum Journal, 20:1, 43-60
  • Vanderburg, R., (2006) Reviewing Research on Teaching Writing Based on Vygotsky’s Theories: What We Can Learn In Reading & Writing Quarterly, 22:4, 375-393
  • Wray, D., Beard, R., Raban, B., Hall, N., Bloom, W., Robinson, A., Potter, F., Sands, H., Yates, I., (1988) Developing Children’s Writing Leamington Spa: Scholastic

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