Verbs for Writing Goals
Some of the resources from the last post list only topics: fractions, Civil War, nouns. Others say a little bit about what the child might do with the topic: write fractions, read about the Civil War, identify nouns. I’ve found most useful goals are written from the child’s perspective and begin with a strong verb that describes what the child will do. Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist, developed a list of verbs in the 1950’s to describe cognitive skills. Below you will find my adaptation of that list which you can draw on as you write your goals. Notice that these progress from relatively simple thinking skills to more complex ones.
Try to avoid verbs such as “know”, “learn”, and “understand”. It’s often hard to tell if you’ve accomplished your goals with these verbs. Instead, try to use verbs such as those below, which describe different ways a learner might be thinking when accomplishing a goal.
Remembering Verbs have to do with memorizing and recalling information.
Understanding Verbs describe situations in which the learner explains ideas or concepts.
Applying Verbs ask the learner to use information in a new situation.
Compare and contrast
Analyzing Verbs ask the learner to show likenesses and differences in two or more areas.
Evaluating Verbs are used when the learner must justify a decision or make a stand.
Creating Verbs are used when the learner is developing a new product or point of view.
Adapted from Bloom’s Taxonomy. This website is a good place to start to learn more:
Setting Goals: Writing Goals
The time has come to write some ideas down. When you are finished, you will have four to ten statements that describe the big ideas of what you and your child hope to accomplish in the next year.
A goal is basically an action and a concept. Begin each goal with a verb-- that’s the action taking place in your child’s head. Don’t be limited by the list I’ve provided, but do consider where the verb you have chosen falls in regards to the six areas listed above. Follow the verb with the topic area, skill, tools, or whatever else you need to add that describes the concept. Make the goals broad but not too vague. Writing goals is kind of like writing haiku: you don’t use too many words, but the ones you do use pack a punch. Here are some examples from our three years of homeschooling. I’ve also described some of the information gathering that led to these particular goals.
Cooperate with other children to complete creative and practical tasks and solve problems. (There are a number of independent study programs and homeschool classes in my area. This goal was written because I wanted to remind myself that my reserved son also needed some experiences working with groups and I had some specific ideas of what I was looking for in a group. This also related to learning cooperation with younger siblings at home.)
Express ideas creatively through art, music, storytelling, bookmaking, performance, movement, etc. (Developing creativity is a very important reason I homeschool. This goal crosses subject area boundaries and helps me keep that reason in mind.)
Explore the natural world and other cultures. (This is a goal from our first year in homeschooling when I wanted something very general to acknowledge our child-led explorations of science and social studies topics.)
Create and describe mathematical patterns and use manipulatives to solve problems. (This is another early goal that emphasized my belief that young children learn best when they have a firm foundation of hands-on experiences in math. It also reflects my son’s early interest in math concepts and how I hoped to direct that interest.)
Use upper and lowercase letters and numbers using proper stroke and grip. (My son had developed a fist grip on his pencil and only used capital letters. It was obviously slowing him down in his writing and he was frustrated. This is one of the most specific goals I’ve written for him.)
Here are some additional examples of goals set by other families.
Use present and past tense verbs in Spanish. (This is from a family who are working to become bilingual. The child has a large vocabulary already and the family is planning another trip to Mexico.)
Participate in a local children’s triathlon event. (A local race has a entry category for children and the whole family used this as a goal to work towards during the year in regards to physical health.)
Write in a variety of genres and publish selected pieces. (The child seemed to be “stuck” in one style of writing, and the parent felt she was ready to expand her horizons. The parent felt finding a variety of places to see her writing in print such as the editorial page would be ample motivation to try new styles.)
Practice piano regularly using a timer and participate in recitals. (A goal written due to a child’s interest in music but difficulty in practicing. The parent planned to work with the child on determining the definition of “regularly” and the selection and use of a timer.)
Conduct experiments in earth science and compare the results to her reading. (This parent wanted to use a lot of hands on experiments but also wanted to know her child could connect the experiments to the reading she planned to do as well.)
Once a year our homeschool parent support group sits down to write goals together. We share our ideas, borrow each other’s wording when it strikes a chord, and suggest resources we know that might help. We sometimes bring our goals to a midyear meeting to evaluate our progress and adjust or rewrite as needed. Many of us use our goals to decide which enrichment activities we will try to participate in. The goals are our “essentials,” but we encourage each other to drop goals that aren’t working for us or our children without guilt.
In the next post, I'll talk about how to use your goals to plan your pacing for the year.