by Charlotte Stace
Setting New Year’s resolutions is a popular tradition. They allow us to reflect on the previous year, and optimistically move into the year ahead. Perhaps your students didn’t meet their goals for 2020. But this January, we all have an opportunity to start afresh.
So, what New Year’s resolutions could your class set this year around? And how can you ensure students will be successful in meeting them? Let’s explore:
Focus on achieving academic outcomes
Last year was tough for both students and teachers. Social isolation and the move to online learning meant many students fell behind. Now, teachers everywhere are focused on helping students catch up. And a great way to do this is by encouraging them to set academic-focused New Year’s resolutions in class.
Students could decide to dedicate an extra hour each weekend to studying, to ask more questions in class if they don’t understand something or promise to hand work in on time. Whatever it is, students should come up with these resolutions on their own. But, do make sure you set aside time to listen to each students’ goals – and let them know you’re committed to helping them get there.
Encourage personal growth
Many people feel like 2020 took the wind out of their sails. Student morale is low, and some learners are lacking motivation. But to encourage students to start 2021 on a positive note, you can help them to set resolutions for personal growth. Here are some ideas:
- Joining a new club – encourage your students to join an extracurricular club at school or in their community. This could be a dance class, a chess club or a book club. Find out what’s on offer locally and present the ideas to students (or even better – have them research local clubs for homework and share with the rest of the class).
- Taking up a new hobby – have students brainstorm a range of hobbies and interests. Put these on the board and ask students if there are any they’d like to try this year – and why. These could include sports for students who’d like to be more active this year. Have them pick a sport they’d like to try. Whether it’s football, swimming or even ping-pong – it’s all a step in the right direction.
- Practising mindfulness – mindfulness is designed to reduce anxiety and stress however your students may not be familiar with mindful practices. A great way to introduce this topic is to try a mindful activity with your students. For example, have students sit calmly, quietly and with their eyes closed. Lead them through a meditation for five minutes with a focus on their breathing. Ask them to reflect on how they feel after. Elicit more mindful activities from students and ask them to choose one they’d like to set as a resolution for 2021.
Teach them about 21st century skills
Every teacher wants to prepare their students for life beyond the classroom. And teaching 21st century skills like critical thinking, creativity, innovation, problem solving, collaboration, and global citizenship is crucial. So how can you help students come up with New Year’s resolutions to build these skills?
- Have your students brainstorm a list of skills they think will be important to learn for the future. Make sure to elicit ideas by asking students to think about what they might need to be in the tech sector, for example, or what it takes to be a successful author or entrepreneur.
- Write their ideas on the board and organise them into two groups: hard skills and soft skills. Ensure that students know the difference between the two.
- Ask your students how they can develop these skills in 2021. For example, for teamwork they’ll need to practise working on group projects in class.
- Next, have students pick one or two skills they’d like to develop that year. Have them include them on their list of New Year’s resolutions – and write an action plan of how they’ll achieve them.
Make goals SMART
We often don’t stick to our New Year’s resolutions because we pick unrealistic goals and don’t plan for them properly. To help with this have students make
SMART goals. Smart goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. This will make students much more likely to achieve their resolutions.
Goal-setting helps students to learn important life skills, such as planning, organisation and time management. It also helps them boost their confidence and self-awareness – especially when they meet their goals.
A great way to introduce SMART goals to your class is by sharing some of your own resolutions for 2021. For instance:
My goal: I want to mark my students’ homework on time.
- Specific – I will make sure that every students’ homework is marked and given back each week
- Measurable – I have 30 students in my class and they all need their homework marking
- Achievable – I will set aside an extra hour per day to marking homework
- Relevant – It will help my students to learn from their mistakes and do better next time
- Timely – I have to do this weekly until the end of the year.
By sharing your own goals, it will not only set the precedent for students to develop their own, but it will also build a rapport with them.
Hold your students accountable!
As we know, most people don’t meet their New Year’s resolutions. But, that doesn’t mean your students won’t! We recommend teachers put a classroom system in place to check up on students’ SMART goals and ensure that they are accountable for their own progress. Here’s how you can do it:
- Plan meetings – set one-on-one meetings, each month or term, to see if students are on the right track. If you hold your students accountable, they’re more likely to meet their goals.
- Ask your students to support each other – pair students with a “goal partner” in class. This way, students will be able to support and motivate each other to stay on the right track.
- Open up communication – have an open-door policy to let your students know you’re open to chat. Be empathetic to students who’ve strayed from their goals, and come up with an action plan together to make sure they achieve them.
Ready for 2021?
Happy New Year!
Charlotte completed a Masters in Politics and Contemporary History before moving to Rome and later Barcelona. She began teaching English as a foreign language within various schools and academies. Whilst living abroad she became interested in writing and editing and now writes content for magazines, websites and businesses on a range of topics.