Reach for the Stars: Teaching 2nd Graders to Set Goals and Track Progress to Develop Lifelong Skills


Lindsey Speck



Columbian Elementary

Helping learners set and track attainable goals

Goal setting and progress monitoring

Classroom Practice


Lindsey Speck is a second grade teacher at Columbian Elementary using co-created data binders to help students take control of the course of their learning. In these binders, students demonstrate their progress over the semester and monitor this progress to set new goals. 

Lindsey meets monthly with each student to talk about current and future goals. She hopes these conversations will help her students acquire life skills necessary to help plan for and reach their future aspirations. 

Lindsey has created simple graphs that help show how students are making progress. Students get to color in their progress at each meeting and have a physical representation of how they’re doing. These charts reside in the students’ data binders.

Students also track progress on their own. Using a different chart, they can record progress on Istation quizzes and color code their progress.

Each student has an independent work plan with a list of different activities that they can work on, including several sections for student goals so that they can work on reaching their data goals.

Students wear lanyards that remind them what their goals are for the month during independent work time. This provides Lindsey with an easy way to remind students what they should be working on when she’s working with groups and not closely monitoring the whole class.

A student updates her data binder by adding a new assignment. In addition to discussing Istation data during one-on-ones, students may also discuss specific assignments that helped them work toward larger class goals. 

Lindsey shows a student her Istation data before they track it in her data binder.

  • Guide learners through the process of creating their binder
  • Create data tracking sheets to put in the binder
  • Set aside time each month for every learner to meet one-on-one 
  • Prepare data for one-on-one meetings
  • During one-on-ones:
    • Track data with the learner
    • Talk about whether they met their goal and what strategies they used
    • Guide the learner in identifying a strength and an area of growth
    • Help the learner set a goal for next month
    • Ask the learner about strategies for meeting that goal
  • Teach students how to read and interpret data tables
  • Set aside time each day for working towards learner goals
  • Create lanyards with each learner’s goals attached
  • Update lanyards each month with the students’ new goals and strategies 
  • Help create the data binders at the beginning of the semester
  • Update data binder with work 
  • Meet with the teacher to talk about data
  • Track progress on tests and quizzes in data binder
  • Set attainable goals for themselves each month
  • Determine strategies to use to meet goals
  • Follow determined strategies 
  • Focus on goal-related activities during independent work time
  • Follow along with their lanyards to work on goals

"This year my goal is that students are more prepared to independently problem solve, so they feel confident in identifying a problem and creating a plan to solve it." 

-Lindsey Speck


Lindsey has been working on helping students track their progress on tests and quizzes and set goals. She meets individually with students to talk about their goals and also sets aside time during class for students to work on their goals. The students are provided with lanyards with their goals attached to use as a reminder throughout work time.


Lindsey has worked with students to create data binders that contain assignments and data tracking sheets. Students helped to create the binders and are part of the process of updating them by physically adding their data by putting assignments into the binders and tracking their progress on charts.


Each month, Lindsey meets with every student individually to discuss their data. Using the data binder, she and her students track the student’s latest scores, talk about progress, identify strengths and weaknesses, and set an attainable goal for the next month.


Lindsey says her students have gotten better at setting goals and monitoring progress. So far they know the language required to discuss their data, but they are working on becoming more fluent in the processes. Lindsey wants to see her students learn these skills to prepare them for success in life. 


Teachers need to devote time to regular meetings with individual students. Teachers also need to carve time out during the day to allow students to work independently toward their goals. 

If you want to try this….


  • It takes time!
    • A lot of time and energy are necessary to do this! In the end, it will be worth the hard work.
  • Build the language first.
    • Teach learners the language they need to talk about setting goals and monitoring progress.
  • Make sure you’re not setting goals for the learners.
    • Guiding and readjusting goals may be necessary, but give learners autonomy in setting their own goals.


  • Make sure learners are setting attainable goals.
    • If learners set an unattainable goal, they may end up disappointed and frustrated. 
  • Break goals into manageable pieces.
    • Large goals can be overwhelming; try to break them up into smaller steps to start off.
  • Provide students with reminders.
    • Lindsey's strategy was to give students lanyards to remind them of their goals at all times.



Innovation Partner Elisa Bowers helped Lindsey work towards increasing learner agency by using data binders. So far she has noticed higher levels of student engagement and happiness, noting that students seem to enjoy being able to work with their friends and move around the classroom. Elisa notes that Lindsey is willing to try new things and is thoughtful about how she plans and implements new ideas. Elisa reflected that visiting the classroom of another teacher who is implementing personalized learning was very helpful for Lindsey, as this allowed her to ask questions and gain a clearer idea of strategies to use. From here, Elisa hopes to see Lindsey provide students with more autonomy by continuing to build structures that allow for this in the classroom. 


“At the beginning there has to be a certain amount of structure for kids to really understand what is being expected of them. Lindsey has done a great job of doing that and then thinking about the steps that her learners can take after that.” 

-Elisa Bowers




Special Thanks to...

Columbian Elementary teachers Lindsey Speck and Leonardo Andrade, principal Jeni Rouse, Imaginiarium staff Elisa Bowers, Amy Burns, Sophie Gullett, Signe Hawley and the 2nd graders who are reaching for the stars.

A huge thank you to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation whose Next Generation Systems Intiative (NGSI) grant has been instrumental in helping Denver Public Schools design, study and scale personalized learning.