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What do you do in your first lesson with a class, or with an individual tutoring student to make the rest of the semester easy on yourself?

Set goals, of course!  I’ve been in love with my goal-setting process since I started it almost ten years ago, and wow does it ever work! So, I thought I’d share it with you in this post, and get your students goal-setting ready, too.

People often ask: but how do you do this?

That’s what we’re going to learn to deal with today. How can you set goals with your students in a way that makes lesson planning more efficient for you, keeps your students happy, and sets them on a successful path?


3 Reasons To Make SMART Goal Setting Your First Lesson

So, I really do this:5 Goal Setting Facts small

We goal set on the first day of every class I have, every year.  What would you like to accomplish this year? Why?

The usual response: blank stares.

Then, I try this: What is important to you?

Of course, most adults aren’t used to officially setting and writing down goals, let alone teens or children. So don’t be surprised when your students give you a blank stare as a response! If they are aiming for a particular exam (like the TOEFL, IELTS, or another Cambridge exam), they may have a deadline in mind, but otherwise, I find students seem to have vague goals, such as “improve my English”.  You want to make these goals more specific.

Here are three reasons you want to do this:

1.  Keep Your Students Motivated

Yes, it’s true! When students can visualize their end goal actually happening, they will be more excited to learn. Trust me, I’ve seen students go from de-motivated to excited after the goal-setting process. Many people swear it improves focus, too!

2.  Ease Lesson Planning Stress

Now, most teachers will do just about anything to lower the stresses that come with teaching, including lesson planning stress. Setting goals with your students allows you to know exactly where they want to go, and how they can get there. This means your semester-long lesson planning becomes less stressful, because you’ve planned each lesson to align with your students’ goals 🙂 Easy, right?

3.  Make Progress Tracking Easy 

Similar to my point above, tracking progress also becomes much easier when you know where you’re headed and when. Goals and plans can be altered as necessary at key points, like the end of a semester or the beginning of a new one.



How To Set Smart Goals With Your Students

Okay, that sounds great you say, but how do you actually go through this process?  You have access to my free printables library, right? You can grab all the Goal Setting Templates you need there for free, and get started with your students.

Here are the three steps I use:

Step 1

First, define  SMART:

  • Strategic –  Goals that are a strategic fit to your lifestyle and your objectives, with a plan in place are crucial.


  • Measurable – What good is a goal if you can’t track if you’re achieving it? Sometimes people are afraid to measure their progress because they’re afraid to feel “behind”. Remind your students that slow progress is still progress!


  • Achievable – Achievable goals are ones that allow students to go step by step on their journey to success. This means that you of course, need a plan in place, not simply a list of goals.


  • Realistic – Realistic goals fit into your lifestyle and allow you to complete your goals at your own pace. Don’t let your students set goals that are too difficult for them to actually achieve in the timeframe they’ve set (see next point)


  • Timely –  “Timely” can have a few meanings, but the most relevant here is that students can reach a deadline for their goal, if necessary. For example, setting smart goals may be useful when students are planning to take a specific exam to prove their English skills for university or work. Even if they don’t have a timeline in mind, make sure you help them think this way.  It’ll keep them on track!


Step 2

Then, have students brainstorm or mind-map their idea of a future.  This visualization process is SO helpful!  Take a huge whiteboard, large sheet of paper, or even posterboard and have students draw the future. They can use magazine photos, drawings, words, or whatever they like to create a visualization of where they will be when they achieve their goals.  This can be a fun first homework project!

Step 3

Next, have students write down their SMART goals, and a plan to achieve them.  Once students have taken the time to visualize the future, help them plan their goals to reach that objective.  Have them write goal statements that encompass all  5 of the smart goal ideas.  Be sure they can answer the question  How are you going to achieve this goal?

Remember, my free printables library has a template you can download and use, for free, so take advantage of that!

Free Printables Library


3 More Tips for First Lessons

6 Simple Ways To Organize

Actually, I get this question a lot:  What is the best way to set-up a first lesson? 

Well, here are three helpful tips:

1.  Start With A Game

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog, you also know that I love games!  I find speaking games, language board games, story cube games and other games that make students speak are the  key to making sure your students have fun while learning.

2. Have Students Set Goals and A Plan to Meet Them

Like I mentioned in the section above, your students need goals and a plan to meet them.Help them outline this in their  Google Calendar, combined with your classes or tutoring sessions. You’ll be surprised how quickly the plan shapes itself when you do this!

3. Keep The Content Light

Remember, you’re going to be making a customized semester-long lesson plan for your tutoring students (and your class as a whole if you’re a classroom teacher, too!). So, the first class should be light-hearted and fun, but also allow you to gather the information you need to do your best.Profitable Organized English Teacher

Also, if you haven’t checked it out already, I have a whole course dedicated to becoming a profitable, organized English teacher with no stress. It’s full of video lessons to help you out, an exclusive Facebook group for personalized help, and homework to keep you on track.

You can even get 50% off my profitable English teacher course in 2018 when you join The Teaching Cove community (for free) and sign up for access to my free printables.

Well, I hope these first-lesson and goal-setting tips were useful!

What are you goal setting tips? Tips for first lessons to share? I love hearing from all of you, so please leave a comment below.

Happy Teaching!


P.S. Photo fans, the photo for today’s main image is one I took right here in Barcelona (Park Guell).

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