Five, four, three, two, one!
Happy New Year!
Doesn’t it feel like the New Year’s Day always seems to sneak up on you?
How is it possible that another year has come and gone already?
Seems like it was just yesterday we were enjoying the summer, and now it’s already time to bring in another year!
Like most people, at this time of year I like to reflect back and ask myself a few questions:
- Did I accomplish everything I wanted to?
- What could I have done differently?
- What could I have done better?
After a short moment of introspection, I look forward, coming up with my goals for the new year. Like most people, I come up with a list of New Year’s resolutions and try my best to stick to them—for as long as I can, at least.
I’ve always loved this part of the new year, because resolutions give me something to work towards. It motivates me to do better. So, why not use the same strategy with ESL students?
Want to learn how to motivate your students to work harder for the new year? Then stay tuned, because I’m going to show you how to build an exciting New Year’s lesson for your ESL students.
Celebrate New Beginnings with This New Year’s Resolutions Lesson Plan
Like any good teacher, I love to encourage my students to set goals for themselves! As such, I always include a New Year’s resolutions plan in my syllabus, every year without fail. Not only does it teach them how the English-speaking world celebrates New Year’s Day, it also gets them thinking about their studies, personal goals and even their dreams.
A good New Year’s resolution lesson plan has a few components. It should cover:
- The importance of setting goals.
- How to set plans and stick to them.
- Any holiday-related vocabulary students may not understand.
And you’re in luck, because this lesson plan has all three of those elements, and you can do it as a stand-alone lesson or spread it out over a couple of class periods. You can even modify this lesson depending on the skill level and age of your learners, so that everyone can benefit from setting goals and starting the new year off on the right foot.
Let’s get started!
The Planning Phase: Your Teaching Objectives
Ideally, this lesson will teach your students how to create New Year’s resolutions related to their studies, their social lives and anything else about themselves. Students should be encouraged to think critically about what they want to accomplish over the next 365 days, then consider what steps they’ll take in order to reach those goals.
Throughout the lesson, your students will practice reading comprehension, speaking and writing, as well as any important English idioms that will help them hold conversations about New Year’s resolutions with their friends.
The Warm-up Activity
To begin the lesson, start off with a quick discussion about New Year’s resolutions. You can do this by telling students some of your own resolutions and how you plan to achieve them. Then, get students to consider the following questions:
- What is a New Year’s resolution? Ideally, your introduction should help students understand that resolutions are similar to personal goals. But if they’re still unfamiliar with the concept, take time to explain that a New Year’s resolution is a goal one sets for the new year—something they want to accomplish.
- Why do we make them? Possible answers may include “to set goals” or “to make our lives better.” There is a plethora of reasonable answers, and you’ll probably find that every student has a different one.
Your warm-up is also a great time to introduce some new year-related idioms, like:
- To ring in the new year.
- To get the ball rolling.
- To turn over a new leaf.
- Out with the old, in with the new.
Pick one or more of these idioms, provide students with a few sample sentences, and then have them use the idioms on their own.
After helping students get familiar with the concept of New Year’s resolutions, get them to practice their English with a couple of discussion topics. I like to ask my students the following question:
Why do people break their resolutions?
I like this question because it encourages students to think about why we don’t always reach the goals we set for ourselves. The answers will vary, but one widespread cause is the idea of “biting off more than one can chew.”
Afterwards, ask your students if they’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution (or similar goal) of their own. If so, have them talk about what happened. Did they achieve the goal? If so, get them to talk about what they did to succeed. If they didn’t meet their goals, get students to identify some things that hindered their progress.
See where the conversation takes you and have fun!
Tip: You can extend the discussion with additional questions related to New Year’s Day.
After your discussion, do an in-class reading with your students. Harper’s Bazaar has a short article on some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions entitled “These Are 2017’s Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions.” Don’t worry that it’s out of date, it’s a great, real-world article that intermediate students will enjoy and find easy to read.
Depending on the level and age of your class, you may want to highlight some of the key vocabulary words in the reading, such as:
- To attempt
- To acquire
You can read the article as a whole class or divide the class into small reading groups. Make sure everyone takes turns reading out loud so they have a chance to practice their pronunciation.
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Writing Follow-up Activity
By this point, your students should have a strong understanding of New Year’s resolutions. Now, it’s time to have them create their own lists of resolutions, as well as action plans to help them to achieve their goals. For this activity, I recommend having students work on their own.
First, ask the class to create a list of resolutions. This can be done in a number of ways based on the level and age of your learners. For example, with younger students, you can ask them to think of one thing they accomplished last year and one thing they want to do this year. For older or more advanced students, have them come up with one resolution for each of the following categories: school/studies, social life, personal and family.
Then, ask them to take one of their resolutions and list three concrete actions that they can do to help them achieve their goal. For example:
My New Year’s resolution: Improve my English
What I need to do:
- I need to study English 30 minutes a day.
- I will speak at least twice in every English lesson.
- I want to learn 20 new English words each week.
Students break down their resolution into several steps. And best of all, by laying out an actionable plan, their goals become more attainable.
Once finished, divide the class into pairs or ask them to find a partner. Each student should explain their New Year’s resolution to their classmate and outline their plan for achieving it. Then, the partner should report back to the whole class what they learned about their friend. When they share with the whole class, encourage them to use at least one of the idioms from the beginning of the lesson.
“My partner, Molly, would like to turn over a new leaf in 2019. She wants to get better at the violin. First, she will practice every day. She will also try to be in more competitions. Finally, she will audition for the local youth orchestra.”
Of course, this part can be adapted to suit the needs of any type of student. In this case, the exercise is good for practicing using the future tense. You can also give students various other vocabulary words or grammar structures to use in this activity if they need to practice a specific aspect of English.
Finally, encourage your students to keep their list of resolutions or, alternatively, you can display the resolutions around the classroom to serve as a reminder throughout the rest of the school year. Make it even more actionable by having bi-weekly or monthly progress reports, where students have to either write or talk about their progress and how they’re working to meet their goals.
As you can see, resolutions are a great way to get students to think about their futures. Use this lesson any time during the month of January to help students settle into the New Year. Have fun, get creative and don’t hesitate to put your own spin on this general New Year’s Resolutions lesson plan!
Happy New Year!