Well, it’s a new year, why not bring back my “Teaching Tuesday” posts. 😉
As I mentioned yesterday, I’m a sucker for New Year’s resolutions. I also find the first day(s) after winter break incredibly hard to engage students and get them to focus on our normal content. I think we all need to “ease in” a little. With that in mind, this year I put together a short New Year’s goal-setting and a 30-Day Challenge Extra Credit Assignment to use in my classes. This was a great way to get my kids talking and writing again as well as thinking about their long-term plans and tangible steps they can take to get there. The whole “lesson” took about 45 minutes – which was the perfect way to ease back in before reviewing grammar and distributing a new novel – and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
If you’re looking for something to do with your high school students to start the new year (or the beginning of the school year), here’s a quick activity you can adapt and use right away:
Link to Printable PDF: 30-Day Challenge Assignment
I started by polling the class to see who had made New Year’s resolutions this year. To be honest, I was shocked at how few students actually did. (Apparently this isn’t nearly the trend among teenagers that it is among 30 something mom-bloggers. Who knew? 😉 We talked about why people make resolutions at the beginning of the year, and what keeps people from following through with resolutions. I also had a few volunteers share about a time when they did make (and stick to / see a real change from) a resolution in the past.
Next, I asked students to write a letter to themselves to be read a year from now. I told them to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work in 2015 and to write out what they want the next year to look like. In addition, they were encouraged to claim two goals for the new year: one personal and one academic. A few volunteers shared. (I just had them write these in their journals since I will have [most of] them again next year and they will likely still be writing in the same composition book; but, if you wanted to go a step further you could collect them to return in June OR – even better – have students self-address them and mail them out next December.)
From there, I showed the 3 minute TED Talk from Matt Cutts titled: Try Something New for 30 Days. It is short and motivating. We talked about it for a minute, and then I asked students to look at the goals they wrote down in their journals and brainstorm one or two daily habits they could implement right away to get them closer to reaching those goals. (For example: if someone wanted to read five novels this year, he/she might set a goal to read for 20 minutes each day for 30 days.)
Finally, I handed out the above extra credit assignment and challenged the class to join me in spending 30 days committed to something. Interested students must turn in a 250 word “contract” outlining their goal and the logistics as well as its importance and relevance to their larger goals next class. Then, after completing the challenge successfully, they will submit a 500 word reflection essay at the conclusion of the challenge to earn 10 points extra credit on the next quarter.
Fun right? My students definitely got excited about it, and we had a lively discussion on how to set goals, what makes them measurable and attainable, and different ideas they had for themselves. There were definitely some old favorites like committing to take a photo, studying SAT vocabulary, running a mile, or writing in a journal every day, and some new ones like doing 100 push ups (ha) and trying a different make-up tutorial every day. I’m anxious to see how many students will officially commit on Wednesday. And, then, from there, only time (30 days to be exact) will tell how it goes… 🙂
Do you do anything special with your students to kick off the new year?!?
P.S. I’m committing to grading papers for 30 minutes every single day for 30 days. Stay tuned. 😉