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Teaching Planning to Elementary Students: Strategies and Activities

Teaching elementary students the skill of planning can profoundly influence their academic achievements and personal development. As educators, we play a pivotal role in guiding learners through setting goals, breaking down tasks, scheduling, and conducting self-assessments. All this enables students to manage their time efficiently, reduces anxiety over large projects or exams, and instills the value of setting and achieving goals. Let’s dive into effective strategies and steps for teaching planning skills, enhanced by a simple, no-prep interactive activity.

Strategies to Teach Planning

Setting Goals

Start by teaching students the importance of setting clear, achievable goals. Here’s how:

  • Introduce the Concept of SMART Goals: Explain Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound goals with simple examples relevant to their age. For example, a SMART goal for elementary students could be, “I will write a one-page essay about my favorite animal by the end of the week, using at least five adjectives to describe it”, which is specific, measurable (one page), achievable, relevant to their learning, and time-bound (by the end of the week).
  • Create a Goal-Setting Workshop: Organize a class activity where students set their personal and academic goals using the SMART criteria. Encourage them to write down these goals and decorate them in creative ways.

Breaking Down Tasks

Breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable parts is a critical step in the planning process. You can teach this by:

  • Using Analogies: Start by explaining that tackling a big project is like eating a piece of cake – you do it one bite at a time. This helps students understand that any large task can be made more manageable by dividing it into smaller steps.
  • Practicing with Examples: Discuss the process of getting ready for school as a series of steps, each one important for successfully starting the day. Together, break it down into smaller tasks like choosing clothes, packing the school bag, eating breakfast, leaving on time, etc.

Making a Schedule

Time management is a vital part of planning. Teach your elementary students how to create effective schedules by:

  • Introducing Calendars and Planners: Show students how to use calendars or planners. Explain the concept of prioritizing tasks and allotting specific times for each activity.
  • Daily Planning Sessions: Start each day with a short planning session. Allow students to outline what they aim to accomplish that day, incorporating both schoolwork and personal activities.

Check-ins and Adjustments

Teach students the importance of regular self-assessment and adjustments when planning by:

  • Weekly Reflections: Allocate time each week for students to reflect on what they accomplished, what challenges they faced, and how they can improve their planning strategies.
  • Encouraging Flexibility: Help students understand that it’s okay if everything doesn’t go as planned. The key is to adjust the plan and continue moving forward.

Lesson Plan with Interactive Activity

Lesson Objective

Students will learn the basics of planning: setting goals, breaking down tasks, making a schedule, and conducting self-check-ins.

Materials Needed


This lesson plan is designed to reinforce the planning skills discussed in the earlier sections of this blog. It comprises two main parts: a discussion and an interactive worksheet activity. This structured approach aims to engage students in both theoretical understanding and practical application of planning skills.

  1. Review of Planning Strategies: Begin with a brief recap of the four key planning strategies discussed: setting SMART goals, breaking down tasks, making schedules, and conducting regular self-assessments. Use simple examples to illustrate each point.
  2. Interactive Worksheet Activity “How to Make a Plan”: Apply the planning strategies through a matching activity that connects goal-setting steps with various scenarios.
  3. Group Discussion: After completing the worksheet, facilitate a discussion where students share their matches and explain their reasoning. This is a valuable opportunity for peers to learn from each other’s insights and for the teacher to clarify any misconceptions.
  4. Personal Reflection: Encourage students to reflect on a personal goal they might have and to think about how they could use the steps outlined in the worksheet to achieve it. Prompt them to consider creating a simple plan for a goal they’re comfortable sharing.
  5. Sharing and Feedback: Invite students to share their personal goal and proposed plan with a partner or the class. This fosters a supportive learning environment and encourages students to practice articulating their planning process.
Interactive Worksheet "How to Make a Plan". This worksheet features two columns "Making a Plan Steps" and "Scenarios". The steps include setting a goal, breaking it down, making a schedule, and checking in with oneself. The scenarios provide real-life contexts where these planning steps could be applied, such as practicing a skill or improving in a subject area.

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Teaching elementary students how to plan is a gift that will serve them for life. By embedding these strategies into your teaching practices and using engaging, hands-on activities, you’ll help your students develop crucial time management and organizational skills. Remember, the goal is to make planning a natural and enjoyable part of their daily routine. With dedication and consistency, you’ll see your students become more independent and confident in managing their tasks and time.

Sample Video

Students learn best from watching real students their own age model skills. Try out this sample video lesson below from our fifth-grade SEL curriculum. We offer our entire Social-Emotional Learning platform free for 14 days here!

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