A Vocabulary Lesson Plan or Unit on Goals

This vocabulary lesson plan on goals can stand alone. This vocabulary lesson plan on goals can stand alone. It can also be part of a unit on willpower and achieving goals.

You could also use parts of it during a unit on the future tense or conditionals.

It's designed for intermediate students but could be adapted for high beginners to advanced students.

(I have taught a similar lesson for mid-low beginners. It used pictures of soccer players scoring a goal, etc. You could use similar pictures to teach SMART goals even to beginners.)

The suggestions on this page would be too hard for beginners, though.

Vocabulary Lesson Plan on Goal-Setting

picture of a tageta target

Warm up: Ask students to write  one to three goals for the next year and share them with a partner. (Lower-level students could illustrate their goals instead of writing them.)

As an introduction, discuss SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-limited.) For ideas, see Learning English Online.)

For the teacher presentation, discuss or demonstrate the vocabulary students will need:

  • achievable, 
  • goals, 
  • (overcoming) obstacles, 
  • specific, 
  • and maybe the words below. 

If you’ll be using Practice with Words for Success, consider (depending on the words your students already know):

  • appropriate, 
  • attitude, 
  • capability, 
  • determination, 
  • energy, 
  • eventually, 
  • inevitable, 
  • motivation, 
  • priorities, 
  • security, 
  • succeed, and successful. 

(That practice page demonstrates the use of many of those words in its first paragraphs.)

Are you thinking of teaching more than one lesson on goals? Do your students already know most of the words above? Then consider one or both exercises on Vocabulary for Achievement and Goal-Setting. Add some of these words:

  • accomplish, 
  • achieve, 
  • attain (and/or any of those with –ment), 
  • budget, 
  • constraint, 
  • establish, 
  • financial, identify, 
  • incentive, 
  • objective, 
  • resolution, 
  • target.

Have your students watch a brief video on famous failures who went on to achieve greatness. (The link is on the Words for Success page above.) In more advanced-level classes, have students discuss it with partners. 

For the practice, have students read and complete the Words for Success gapfill pdf. (Lower-level students can do it with a partner.) Go over the answers as a class. 

Evaluation or homework for higher level students: Goals for Success Crossword. (Answers here.) A matching exercise like the one in Vocabulary for Achievement might be easier for lower-level students. The Odd One Out on that page is another possible homework or end-of-class activity.

A Unit on Achieving Goals

If you want to do a whole unit on achieving goals, consider this sequence instead:  

  1. Start with SMART Goals. Use Vocabulary for Achievement for additional vocabulary and practice;
  2. Use Words for Success for a second lesson: Failures as stepping stones to success. Have students read Learning from Failure.

(Possible vocabulary: attained, benefits, energy, failure, inevitable, rejected, security, successful.) Watch the video on famous failures on the Words for Success page, and use the Words for Success pdf to practice. Use the Success Vocabulary Quiz (pdf) as an evaluation.

Then you could do a lesson or two on willpower and establishing good habits. English Detective 10 has a 6-minute TED talk (Don’t Eat the Marshmallow!) and The New York Times article on willpower. (See Back Issues.) You can find a list of the Academic Word List vocabulary in each of them on the 2nd Academic Vocabulary List page

I would especially recommend the TED talk and the Scientific American article. It gives a very different perspective on the same experiment. (You may need to explain that marshmallows are a soft white candy.) 

Those might make one lesson. If you have time and high-intermediate students, the New York Times article might make another. It's more difficult and more goal-oriented.

It discusses how research on willpower can make it easier to establish healthy habits and stay on track to reach goals. You might want to discuss the research but NOT have lower-level students read the article.

I redesigned the quiz for newsletters 9-10 to cover important words in these three sources. If you use all three, you might finish the lessons with the Willpower Quiz. It's a gap-fill exercise with several paragraphs on the marshmallow experiments +. It tests: 

  • acknowledge, 
  • arbitrary, 
  • grade, 
  • implications, 
  • indicated, 
  • outcomes, 
  • participants & participation, 
  • predictions, 
  • principles, 
  • rational, 
  • research & researcher.


You might also want to check out the other vocabulary lesson plan and unit ideas in Vocabulary Lesson Plans.

Home> ESL Lesson Plans for Teachers> Vocabulary Lesson Plan on Goals.

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