How to help students achieve their New Year’s resolutions

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Setting New Year's Resolutions

2021 is here. As we step into the new year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on our recent challenges and achievements. It’s also a good moment to think about the future with optimism and plan our goals. Our students, too, are thinking about their New Year’s resolutions.  

As a teacher, you can help them consider how learning English will help them now and in the future. On top of this, you can guide them as they plan their goals and give them useful advice on how to achieve them 

Extended mind mapping

You probably already know how useful mind mapping can be when it comes to being creative or thinking about goals. This 30-minute activity will help your students think about how learning English will help them in the future and also consider what is most important to them.  

You won’t need to prepare anything ahead of time, but you will need to supply each student with a large piece of paper (e.g., A3 size). If they are working online, they will need to have something to write on. Google’s Jamboards are a good simple and free alternative if you want to be paper free. 

1. Write “How learning English can help me” on the board and have students copy it out in the center of the paper. Younger students can be more creative and also draw a picture of themselves, if you think it will be more engaging for them. 

2. Ask your students to call out ways English can help them now and in the future. Write them on the board in a spider diagram as they do so. Encourage them to expand on their ideas and speak in full sentences. For example:  

“English can help me understand things on the internet.” 

  • I can watch English-language movies; 
  • I can read forums in English; 
  • I can play online games in English. 

Once students have understood the activity, put them in pairs or small groups and have them think of as many ways that English can help them as they can.   

Encourage older learners to think about how English might help them with studying at university, living abroad and their future careers. Younger learners might be more focused on things that can help them in the immediate future. If you are working online, put them in breakout rooms to do so. Allow about ten to fifteen minutes for this.  

3. Have each group share their ideas with the rest of the class. Students should add anything new or interesting to their own mind maps. 

 4. Next, students should individually rank which five ideas are most important to them. These will form the basis of their own personal language learning goals.  

 5. Then have students write out their five top language learning goals. Depending on the age and ability of the group, you may need to supply the structure. For example: 

  • By the end of the year, I want to watch a movie in English. 
  • By the end of the year, I want to be able to play online games in English. 
  • By the end of the year, I want to pass my language exam.

Finally, once students have completed their own personal goals, set homework. They should consider what steps they need to take to achieve their goals. Also, encourage them to think about the following questions: 

  • What can they do on their own?  
  • What can you (the teacher) do to help them? 

In the next class, reflect on their ideas and help students put a plan into action.  

Tracking progress

Tell students to display their New Year’s resolutions in a prominent place. If you’re working in a classroom, you can put them on the wall. If you are working online you can have students print them and display them above their desks at home, or you could attach them to your virtual learning platform. You should review their goals at different times throughout the year and quiz students on their progress. This will hold them accountable and keep them focused on what they want to achieve.  

We wish you the best of luck with your classes, whether they are face-to-face, online or hybrid and a very happy and healthy 2021.

What are your New Year’s resolutions for 2021? Let us know in the comments.  

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