For some of us, getting our one, two, three (or more) children on task and operating efficiently can be a challenge. So how do teachers do it? They have approximately twenty children to teach on any given day, and as many personalities and learning styles to work with.
No, they don’t have magic wands, but they do have some techniques that can prove useful from the youngest tots to even adults themselves. Here, we explore one way to create order out of your chaos: mini goals.
“A mini goal is basically breaking down tasks into smaller manageable parts,” says Sheralyn Friesen, grade four teacher at Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary & Middle Schools (WMEMS), adding “mini goals are sometimes referred to in education as chunking.”
“This technique is especially helpful for young children or those with short attention spans” agrees grade five WMEMS teacher Marlene Wagner, “but setting smaller goals can work for anyone.”
So what is a mini goal?
In a school setting, a teacher may use a mini goal to make a large project seem less daunting. So if a large project is due at the end of the month, a teacher may suggest setting mini goals for each class, like:
“Let’s see if we can complete our outline in this hour”
“See how far you can get through writing the first chapter”
“Last class, you were able to finish XYZ, which is great. Let’s try to do even more this time!”
How can I use mini goals at home?
In the same way we described students facing a large project at school, try to see where your children may become overwhelmed at home.
If your challenge is having your children get dressed themselves, then rather than simply asking them to “go get dressed”. Try something like, “I’d like you to get dressed, so why don’t we start by getting our socks on.” Once the socks are on, we move on to pants, shirt etc.
“It seems simple, but sometimes we have to work with our kids to help them realize what’s working and what’s not” says Friesen. She suggests helping the child identify what’s getting in the way of reaching their goals.
In the example of getting dressed, we might say “Why do you think we took so long to get dressed today?” Friesen says often the child’s answer is something like, “maybe if I didn’t flip my sock in the air a bunch of times before I put it on, then it would be faster.”
Even though sock flipping sounds silly, it’s a valid reason, and it highlights an opportunity to implement a mini goal: Tomorrow, we will get dressed without any sock flipping and see if it makes our getting dressed time any faster.
Wagner suggests setting a timer for tasks that tend to be challenging, saying “Sometimes a good motivator for children is to beat their own time, and see how much faster they can get”. This turns out to be a double-win for parents and kids, as the kids begin to be invested in what they’re doing and have an internal motivator, not just a parent telling them to do something.
Did you know?
The idea behind our Smart Parent Program was designed around the concept of goal setting. For many, we set out on our course as parents with the goal that our children will choose the right path in life, or that they will ‘turn out right’.
As with any goal, it’s more achievable if you make it a SMART goal:
Specific — Measurable — Attainable — Relevant — Time sensitive
To help you set and achieve your parenting goals, we’ve launched our Smart Parent Program. Geared toward giving you – the parent – some specific information, tools and ideas that can help make your parenting goals easier to achieve. Our schools are here to teach our students, but also to assist our school families and community members succeed in any way we can.
Help us grow our community supportive parents! Share your great parenting ideas using the hashtag #SmartParentTip online.
Please visit our events page to find and register for a Smart Parent Session or to find out about our Kindergarten Information Evenings November 17 & 19.