How to set up hopes and dreams in the elementary classroom

Hopes and Dreams in the elementary classroom

What are your hopes and dreams for the school year? Do you dream of your students being happy? Safe? Optimistic? I dream that my students will come every day to class ready to learn, and to create a warm and safe environment to learn in. Not only teachers have hopes and dreams for the school year- students do as well!

What are hopes & dreams?

Hopes & dreams is another way of saying a goal. So creating hopes & dreams is really just goal-setting for the year. My school follows Responsive Classroom, so student brainstorming & creating their hopes & dreams is expected in the first week of school (other components of Responsive Classroom including Morning MeetingClosing Circle, and Quiet Time. Some of the benefits of creating hopes & dreams the first week of school include:
  • A student connection to the school and other students ("you want to improve at your math facts? Me too!")
  • The student gets excited about all the fabulous things that they will conquer this school year
  • Helps students look forward to learning
  • Gives students a sense of belonging and significance

Hopes and Dreams lesson

Engage with a read-aloud

hopes and dreams responsive classroom dex the heart of a hero
I love to engage students and make connections using a read aloud. I start off by reading "Dex: The Heart of a Hero." This is an adorable book about a cute, little weiner dog that is made fun of. He wants to be a superhero, but other animals are constantly putting down his dreams. He works hard, and finally becomes a superhero. The book finally comes full circle with him saving the animals that used to make fun of him. The kids are a big fan! (Glitter in Third is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising feeds by advertising and linking to Amazon.).
hopes and dreams responsive classroom dex the heart of a hero

The kids love the little dog and the comparison between their own hopes and dreams and Diego's hopes and dreams. We talk about the difference between short-term and long-term dreams. The kids easily come up with long-term, but find short-term a little more difficult. I try to zone in on the question: "What are your hopes and dreams for this school year?"

Create a hopes and dreams anchor chart

Next, we create an anchor chart together for our hopes & dreams. A lot of the kids have a very tough time communicating their hopes and dreams, and often freeze up when prompted. The anchor chart helps them come up with various options. You can see in the anchor chart below that we divided the hopes and dreams into academic possibilities, and social/emotional possibilities. Some academic hopes/dreams include showing work/thinking during math, paying attention when editing, reading different genres, and finishing books. You can see in the chart below that some hopes and dreams straddle both academic and social/emotional (such as taking care of materials & showing self-control with ones body). 
Responsive Classroom hopes and dreams

Picking a student's hope and dream

After our discussion and anchor chart, the kids start brainstorming what their hope & dream will be for the year. It is really fun to see what everyone comes up with! I always check the hopes & dreams before they pick their "final" one. Sometimes kids will not be too specific, "I want to be good in math." Or, they will pick something that although is important, maybe isn't the number one thing they want to focus on for the year, like "I want to have better handwriting." Students often want to pick something in sports outside of school. I always say that this is a school hope & dream. They can have hundreds of hopes & dreams, and I hope that they do! However, the one that they pick in school should be something that they complete in school. 

Creating their hope and dream

Responsive Classroom hopes and dreams
After they pick their main hope & dream for the year, I give them a paper cloud. Students write their hopes & dreams on the cloud and cut it out. You can download the paper Hopes and Dreams clouds for FREE if you are a VIP member of my Freebie Library. Subscribe here!

Displaying hopes and dreams

Responsive Classroom hopes and dreams
We display these all year long on our classroom bulletin board. We often come back to the hopes & dreams throughout the year, discussing if we have yet achieved our hope & dream. If a student has already achieved their hope and dream (such as mastering their multiplication facts), I always say that they can pick a new one to work on.

Why do you teach hopes & dreams?

How are you feeling about the new school year? I love doing hopes & dreams because it gives the students a responsibility over their learning. It helps them understand that they are in charge of their future, school is what they make of it. Displaying their hopes & dreams year-round reminds them how important that their goals of, and serve as a fabulous reference point throughout the year. Did we accomplish our goals? Surpass our goal? Change our goal? I create one as well! It's important for students to see that teachers have their own hopes and dreams for the year as well.

What other activities are great for back to school?

Make sure to check out my blog posts on back to school read alouds and back to school activities!


What are your hopes and dreams for this school year? Do you use Responsive Classroom at your school?

Pin for later?

Hopes and dreams, used in Responsive Classroom, is a great way to improve character education and classroom community. Learn more about how to set up activities to create these in the beginning of the year to further social and emotional learning!