New Year Resolutions Classroom Activities

So we’re back at it, educators! The snow has lost its luster, the Figgie pudding is back in the freezer for next year, the gift wrap paper is stored away again, and the gifts have been return – yes, we are now getting back into work mode.

I sit and look through my window, just before planning for my dreaded return to work and a new grading period, “What do I teach?” “Where did we leave off?” “Did I return all me emails?” “What New Year Resolutions can I come up with for me and my students?” “what new year class activities can I use?”

So many questions, so little time left in my holiday break.

With that said, during this new year return to work, I think of the things I need my students to know, along with the content I’m supposed to cover. We only have a short time left (with testing and events) that we interact with our students.

This time of year is weird, as I teach seniors of different levels and one sophomore class. I know I have to cover the timeline of literature like the Romantics and Victorians all the way through Modernism, but I also have to cover a whole lot of real-life tasks like writing college essays, writing research papers, completing applications, writing and sending letters (including emails), getting students to remember how to write journals, etc.

So I start the year off with students revisiting their goal-setting that they did in the beginning of the year, and we work towards students completing these goals. We revisit what success looks like and how they can make sure that for the rest of the year and beyond, they are successful.

As my students work through these soft skills, we work on some content and some real-life tasks that enable them to survive beyond high school. As I mentioned before, I teach Seniors (for the most part), and high school will end real soon.

Here are some of the things I use with my students at the beginning of their new year:

I mix and match and get students to feel like they have something to do (because they do), but it also gives them a fun way to share their academics with their excitement for the last part of the year.

Try some of these out and let me know.

What do you do in the beginning of a new calendar year with your students?



So I’m sure you all have had a classroom mixture of the talkers, the class clowns, the quiet ones (usually in the back), the shy ones, the ones who always have the correct answers, the ones who always answer but are rarely correct. 😁

Shocked panic teacher holding hands on head and screaming in despair and frustration.

I’ve had those problems all my 20+ years of teaching. That eclectic mix of students that teachers expect, but it drives us crazy! I’m not even talking about differentiation of content. Because even in the same class, with most students on the same academic level, you will have a unique mix of excitable, charismatic talkers, and still the ones who barely, if ever speak – on stuff THEY KNOW.

Class of attentive students who are content NOT speaking

So it is in this frame of mind that I had to developed a new way to have students discuss content and texts in class. That was about 10+ years ago, that I developed this simple change to my class discussions.

Nevermore was this more needed for me to revisit and bring these back this year.

Teaching after Pandemic year slapped us all in the face.

Success! You're on the list.

My 5th period Advanced Placement English Literature class was packed with wonderful, intellectual students; they were truly great individuals, but were cliquish and or staunch individuals. Getting them to discuss works as a group or class was distressing.

It was exhausting! T.C. would speak, Mariann was add her two cents, then crickets. Then, I’d have to play dentist and pull teeth to get others to speak. “Kevin, what did you think?” “Chloe, do you agree that the character was malicious?” It became daunting to expect these seniors to talk about our reading every class.

Some days, I would get to the car, open, sit down, and just not move. I was so tired from “playing dentist” to try to get anything out of these students. They knew the information, but just didn’t gel with each other or didn’t want to share it with me. 😁

Exhausted teacher rubs nose, takes off spectacles, suffers from eye strain and headache, has problems trying to get students to participate in classroom discussions.

So I revisited some of my past lessons and noticed I hadn’t tried my “Standing Discussion Parties” in a while. I’ve gotten so used to students talking when I put them in groups or in class discussions, I’ve forgotten that some of these eclectic mixes exist.

I was pumped! I will resume this cool activity that I hadn’t used in years.

Excited teacher having brilliant idea, finding inspiration or solution to problem

Fast forward, months after my epiphany, I have started to use this technique, which is literally just a variation on having classroom discussions, almost like going to a gallery or museum exhibit. Check out the video of how well it went with one of our readings.

One of my Standing Discussion Parties

So whenever you swing by my classroom or pick up one of my LESSON ACTIVITIES products on when you see students moving around with their questions sheets or you see Standing Discussion Party” in one of my products that’s what’s going on. 😁

Success! You're on the list.

Are You Sitting Under the Shade of a Tree?

Learning from other’s hard work is key! Walking in the footprints of those who have paved the way for us is something that we need to do.

Let’s go ahead and enjoy what’s already been done for us in the past.

We have to be grateful for what we have, for how much less we have to do to be successful because someone else did all the research, the work, and left a legacy for you to follow.

It’s amazing how much we can soar when we allow ourselves to learning from the mistakes and/or lessons that we learn from being under someone’s “shade of a tree.”


My Students understand the standards

In every classroom there is an expectation that teachers have to cover specific standards and a specific number in a certain amount of time. It is also common knowledge that teachers are evaluated on their students’ comprehension and application of these standards, especially when students are mandated to take standardized exams. Yes, teachers stress out about getting student buy-in when it comes to standards, but it is not difficult. Guess what?! Students will understand the standards, recognize, and amaze you with their knowledge of concepts when using the standards. Check out these 3 Tips for getting your students to UNDERSTAND THE STANDARDS.

1. Have Students Personalize the Standards

If students believe this information is not for them, it will not be internalized. Students will think that this is just more teacher jargon (mumbo-jumbo, if you will) that they don’t need to know and can tune out. Here’s how we can change this way of thinking in our students: have them make it their own version of the standards.

Get students to paraphrase the standards. Putting these in their own words will get it committed to memory in their brains and hearts. Some states, districts, schools, and teachers have provided ‘student-friendly’ versions of these standards, but this works better coming from them. Make them come up with the wording!

Have them chant mantras about the standard: “Today’s objective/standard is…,” “I will earn to…,” and so on and so forth.

Create mini-games (matching, jig saws) so they’ll associate fun and activity with particular standards. To get my AP English Literature students to internalize STEPS to understanding their standards, I’ve had them remove a shoe, traced their foot on paper, and made “steps” to understanding texts (they wrote the standards in the footprint they made). Get it? They made ‘steps.’

2. Provide Students a Copy of the Standards

Instead of just posting the standards in some arbitrary area of your classroom for the adults who walk in or being the only person in the room to have access to these standards, provide copies for students. They need to be able to access these and see and use these as frequently as they need to.

I’ve had a co-worker who had students write the standards and objectives down on their assignments each time they cover a new one. You may also post it in the room as well (since most of us are mandated to do it anyway); have no fear – this will only help our cause.

As students are working and you are moving around the room and interacting with them, reference the posted standard/objective. “Which part of the standard is being used here, Johnny?” “Do we see how the standards is applied here?” In my classes, students keep a smaller copy of the standards in their classroom folders, binders or affixed to their desk, as do I. If I don’t assign an actual question based on the standard for them to answer, I have them talk to me. “Which standard is this, Peter?” or I would shout out: “Hey, Lashay, how many parts of the standard did we use today?” Randomly asking these questions keep them on their toes, paying attention!

3. Have Students Reflect on the Standards

After the lesson or before the exam, you want to know your students have arrived at comprehension and the ability of application of the standards. How do we evaluate this? Ask ’em!

As EXIT TICKETS, on formal exams, in discussions, get your students involved in their application of the required standards. The more they know you’ll be asking them to identify and use these seemingly arbitrary numbers and phrases on the classroom board or wall, the more they’d pay attention and become more involved in committing them to memory.

Having students write a final response to their standard/lesson, gets them to personalize their day. Reflect on their learning. Have them ask themselves: “Did I learn today?” “What did I learn today?” “Do I now know how to do X?” They can also pair up and talk about it. “No, that’s not what we did, we learned…” “Cool! You were paying attention, Johnny!”

You’ll start seeing an improvement in their comprehension and application on skills and standards in your classrooms.

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