System 44
Going for the Gold

In high school I set a gold medal goal of graduating as number one, #1, in my class. I almost reached that goal! Graduating number two, #2, was quite an accomplishment. It was not the intended gold, but a silver medal is nothing to complain about, right? However, what if I had not set such a high goal to get me into motion? Would I have reached my full potential? Maybe not! I doubt Olympian athletes set goals of achieving bronze or silver medals either. They reach their full potential by always “Going for the gold.” Athletes realize that silver and bronze may not even be attained without initially aiming for gold. This is why sports is a strong analogy for mindset and goal-setting and the way I plan to present goal setting with my students.

As we begin another school year, let’s not make the mistake of letting our System 44 students settle for bronze or silver medal goals. As teachers of the most challenged readers, we need to do everything we can to help them succeed. After self-reflecting and talking with my peers, I find that striving for success and wanting to motivate our students,  when it comes to setting goals, at times we are led to set less challenging goals to ensure success. However, is it possible at a minimum potential?

Setting goals and working to achieve them are new concepts to some of our students.  They’ve had very little experience with reaching goals that others have set for them. I’ve learned that students have to own their personal growth goals and be willing to set high goals for themselves. Getting students to do this takes gradual steps and students have to see their progress throughout the year. Dividing their goals into small achievable steps will help them see a lofty goal as possible and one that they want to work hard to achieve!

To reach their maximum potential in reading comprehension, our students first have to improve letter and word fluency.  The students have to understand that finishing each series in the System 44 software will get them closer to the ultimate goal of comprehension.

  • After completing the Phonics Inventory, allow students to chart their starting point on a growth chart that is easy to understand and manage. This gives them a visual image of their goal.
  • When a student finishes a series, let them move their name up the chart. Putting the names on magnets will make it easy to move names throughout the year.
  • Allow the rest of the class to acknowledge the accomplishment. Be creative with this! I play a short recording of the Olympics theme as students are moving their magnets. Other students stand up and act like they are putting a medal around their neck. 

It is a little more difficult to give students a visual image of the growth expected in the Lexile Growth Goals Report.  These goals always seem lofty for my intervention students.

  • After taking the first Reading Inventory assessment, encourage students to set mid-year goals that are reachable - bronze medal goals - the lowest expected growth as shown on the report. Use a bronze paint marker to write these goals in the front of their 44Book. As you teach lessons, remind them that their participation in each reading, writing, and vocabulary lesson will support them reach the goal. (Teacher Tip: Remember, the Lexile growth is the second way to progress monitor. Celebrate first the fluency development as seen on the PI.)
  • At mid-year, help them set new silver medal goals to reach the middle of their expected growth range and write these in silver in the student books. (For students that have maintained their Lexile level, repeat the first goal as silver, but add an additional layer such as number of words read, etc.)
  • At the beginning of the 4th quarter set gold medal goals – the top of their expected growth range. When you write these in their student books, they will see all three goals and be able to celebrate reaching one of them! (Manage as needed for those continue to strive in Lexile development. You’ll find that this growth aligns to Series completed on the software.)

At the 2018 Model Schools Conference in Orlando in June, I heard System 44 students referred to as striving readers for the first time. Like many educators, I’ve always called them struggling readers. Yet the word struggling seems to infer that you are having difficulty with something. I don’t want students to feel like they are struggling with their reading goals. I’d rather them know that they are striving every day to reach them. This was one of the learning moments that will continue to inspire my planning throughout the school year.

So, as we begin a new school year, lets help our striving students set those gold medal goals! We might be surprised just how many of them will reach higher than we ever expected and wear those gold medals with pride!  I look forward to going for the gold with every student and hearing about your successes as well. 

Please share some of your suggested goals in the comments. I would love to hear from you as well.


Going for the Gold!

Denise Giddens

2018 System 44 180 Educator Winner

LaGrange, GA

Ms. Giddens has made a career out of doing whatever it takes to help struggling readers overcome personal and academic obstacles. She has embraced System 44, and her classroom instructional practices are used to familiarize and train other teachers on the program’s implementation.