Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. ~Japanese Proverb

Part of any language curriculum should involve students taking charge of their learning through goal-setting and reflecting. This process helps students find out how they learn best and what motivates them. It also helps them take control of their own learning. January is a great time to get your students to reflect on their learning journey. When students actively reflect on where they were at the beginning of your class and what they have achieved, it gives them an idea of what they need to do to get to where they want to be at the end of the semester. I have tried many different approaches to get my students to ponder their language learning goals and create plans to achieve them. These are a few ideas that have been successful.

Have Them Map Out Their Goals

Students should write out their learning goals on either a journal, blog, website, mobile device, or paper. They need to be able to keep a copy to refer to later. Concept maps are also useful. Students can list English language goals as the main concept then have branches listing specific goals.

Goals Should be Specific and Individualized

Encourage your students to create personal goals that relate to their interests or needs. Also, encourage them to be specific. For example, your student might write, “I want to be able to read a novel in English or understand the lyrics to my favorite English song.” Another student might need to learn English in order to pass a test.

Create Action Plans

After writing these statements, you can have your students pair up and come up with action plans to achieve these goals. For example, students might decide the best way to read a novel in English is to read so many pages each week and join an online discussion about the book. This type of activity spurs discussion among your students as they discover a little about each other. You can even pair them up according to those who have similar goals. Encourage students to also determine problems they may have along the way to completing their goals and write out solutions.

Goals Should be Posted and Shared

My students post their short goal statements to a Wallwisher (an online sticky board) on our class wiki page. This way they are committed to accomplishing the goal and have a constant reminder of their goals each time they visit the wiki.

Reflect on Their Goals

Along the way, have your students go through previous assignments and tasks to see where they began and see how much they have progressed. Have them write down or discuss how they feel about their progress and think about what they need to do to achieve more.

Motivating Students to Reach Their Goals

Your students may need some motivation to accomplish their language learning goals. The following ideas may help:

  • A wall of inspiration- Put butcher paper over one wall and have students daily write out quotes, sayings, or thoughts that inspire them. They can also add pictures of them doing tasks to reach their goals. Students love writing on walls.
  • A goal collage- have students create collages with pictures that relate to their goals. Students can create multimedia collages online with these free webtools- Glogster, Muzy, Magnoto, and Webdoc.

More Resources

For more tips for achieving goals with language learners, visit these resources:

How do you motivate your students to accomplish their learning goals?

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, instructional designer, and author. She has been recognized by various entities, such as the ELTon Awards, The New York Times, and Microsoft’s Heroes for Education as a leader, innovator, and visionary in the movement of teacher driven professional development, education technology, elearning, and mobile learning. She is the co-founder of #Edchat, the Reform Symposium Web Conference, and The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators. She has trained teachers and taught learners in 100+ countries and has consulted with organizations such as UNESCO Bangkok, The European Union aPLaNet Project, Cultura Iglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, and the British Council in South East Asia. She is the host of American TESOL’s Free Friday Webinars and shares regularly via, Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and She’s the author of Learning To Go, Byte-sized Potential, and The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers published by Routledge. Recently, she was named Woman of the Year 2014 by the National Association of Professional Women and awarded a Bammy Award for #Edchat.   Website:   Twitter: @ShellTerrell