Tips for Setting Wellness Goals in Health Class

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Witnessing students make positive changes that benefit their health is one of the greatest joys a health teacher can experience. We can foster this behavior by asking students to set personal wellness goals that they will work toward throughout the school year. In doing so, students fulfill National Health Education Standards while also enhancing their own health.

At my school, eighth grade students are responsible for a project in which they spend six to eight weeks working toward a personal wellness goal. The idea for the project comes from heath education professional Mary Connolly’s book Skills Based Health Education.

The following guidelines should be kept in mind when asking students to work toward a wellness goal throughout a trimester or semester:

1. Begin by having students assess their personal health practices. These Wellness Wheel handouts from Northwest Missouri State University explain the concept of a wellness wheel and contain an individual wellness inventory for students to complete. They then choose a dimension of wellness to focus on based on the results of their inventory. Note: This is also the time to cover the concept of wellness with your students.

2. Teach students how to set SMART goals. A goal that is SMART is Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely. Many SMART goal resources exist online, like this YouTube video, which offers a brief explanation, and this one, which emphasizes why students need to break their goals down into steps.

3. Hold students accountable for data collection (i.e. Documenting their progress as they work toward their goals). Provide your class with calendar templates, and students will then record their information in a chart or graph that summarizes their progress.

4. Students should also present their goal to their peers. We have our students present their goals to the class, explaining how they fit the SMART criteria and showing their progress along the way.

5. It’s okay if students don’t achieve their goal. The point of this project is not to successfully accomplish a wellness goal, but rather to work toward it and make changes as necessary while reflecting on the experience of health improvement.