The excitement, much like the snow in the winter wonderland areas of the world, is swirling in the air as the holiday season inches closer and closer! Students are surely itching for their break so they can celebrate with family and friends. Classrooms have such diversity when it comes to celebrating winter holidays—Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other cultural festivities are everywhere. But come December 31st, people all over the world will be ringing in the New Year. There are plenty of ways to ring in 2017 in the classroom, too!
New Year’s resolutions are one of the most common practices, and the students can get involved as well! Resolutions are a great lesson in self-determination, self-esteem, and responsibility. As teachers, we can instill the importance of setting goals that are challenging but attainable, and emphasize the difference motivation can make when working towards a personal objective. Resolutions allow students time to reflect on what they have done the past year and what they would like to achieve in 2017. Have students brainstorm different goals they would like to set, and work with each student individually to create a New Year’s resolution that is realistic, manageable, and even fun to try and achieve! Encourage students to write goals using the S.M.A.R.T acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely).
Once the students have written it down, they can even post them on a bulletin board or a wall so that they proudly reflect back on their goals when January comes, and so that they are held accountable!
Here is a resource that will allow students to create an interactive clock craft where they can write in their goals for the New Year! This resource also comes with a SMART goal setting poster and banners to make the perfect New Year's 2017 bulletin board!
As a whole class, students can work together to also list their accomplishments in 2016. It is important for students to be able to reflect back on what they have done and what they have achieved. Let students focus not on what they feel did not go well, but what made them feel accomplished! Focus on the academics—did the students feel they made big gains in long division? Did the students suddenly start spelling more complicated words correctly that used to trouble them? Did the students finally get the time they wanted on their mile-run in physical education? All accomplishments are good accomplishments!
Another fun activity that also celebrates diversity is to learn how different countries ring in the New Year! Research the traditions in other countries such as Great Britain, France, Japan, and Australia. Show the students how New Year’s Eve happens in each country—the parties, the celebrations, the fireworks! It may also be a good time to throw in a quick discussion on the Chinese New Year and how it is different from the New Year that most countries celebrate!
In true New Year’s Eve tradition, it is always fun to have a mock New Year’s Eve party! Send home notes about the party and have students come to school on that chosen day dressed nicely and ready to celebrate. Students can bring in snacks and games! Play games like Charades, pin the tail on the donkey, and other simple games in which students can engage. Set a countdown, and when there is one minute left, show a video of the ball dropping in Times Square and have students countdown from sixty! Once the “New Year” arrives, celebrate with hugs and the classic “Auld Lang Syne,” and perhaps some noisemakers and confetti if you don’t mind the noise and mess!
The New Year is an opportunity for students to reflect back on everything they have done in the past year. Learning how to form goals and take on personal responsibilities is an important practice as they grow into young adults, and encouraging reflection and growth in the classroom environment is even more important! Create an environment where students are hopeful for a safe and prosperous New Year!