New Year, New Resolutions, New Goals for My Students

It's been a tough start to the year for my students and I have never seen so many kids struggle with time management and school stress.  I am hopeful that the Winter Break will give them a chance to recharge and refocus in the new year.  However, I know they will need a helping hand once we get back to school in January.
1.  Start off the year with a fun goal-setting activity.  I know the first day back after a break is hectic and busy - my students want to visit and chat with friends they have not seen and share their highs and lows of their time off.  I always spend some time talking about what we all did over the break and sharing some laughs.  And I always spend some time with an easy and engaging activity.  Grab a FREE copy here of the goal setting worksheet I use with my students.  I like to allow them time to work on it on their own and then give them time to share with each other.  Finally, I ask everyone in the class to share one or two of their goals - they can pick which ones and how many.  I always share one or two with them too!
2.  When we start back in January, we have 6 months left of school in my district. It's a long slog to Spring Break in mid-March and then another long slog to the end of June.  So I like to lay out my plan for the remainder of the year.  I give my students a calendar for January / February printed on colourful paper - there are lots of free ones available online - and we fill it out together.  I let them write in our holidays, professional days and other important school dates (report cards, parent-teacher, etc).  I also outline what units we're going to tackle and when we're going to get to them.  I keep the calendars posted in my classroom as a reminder of what's coming up.  Click HERE to grab a fun printable calendar or HERE for a more standard calendar.

3. I teach several senior classes and mixed in with the fun and excitement of graduation and prom is the stress of applying to colleges and other post-secondary programs.  I make time every week to check in with my classes to talk about where they're at with scholarship applications, who has heard from what college and what they all need to do to get it all done by the end of the year.  I let them know about big deadlines and have a section of my classroom dedicated to posting deadlines for their applications.  I like to review this in January so that they know I'm here to help with their final school year. (And I love to see pictures of their prom dress purchases!!)

4. If you have not done so already, the new year is also a great time to change up your seating plan.  Depending on my students, I have assigned seating that I change up every so often... and the new year is one of those times.  If I can, I even change up my desk arrangement in my class.  It's a fresh start, a new perspective, a new neighbor to chat with and a different view of the room.  I also change out some of my posters and try to make my room look fresh and new.  It's amazing what a little refresh does for everyone's mood!

5.  Reflect on what you have already done together as a class or last year!  Not only do I like to look forward, but it's fun to look back and come up with the highlights of the previous year.  There are a ton of Top Lists for each year - why not show a few related to your subject of study and see if students agree.  Here are a few -Top Teen Books, Science Stories, Sportsperson of the Year,  and there are many, many, more! Have your students create their own Top 10 Lists - here's a link an activity I use in my classroom every year and my students always enjoy it!  

6.  Lastly, I like to start off the new year with an honest conversation about work habits, study skills and the importance of staying organized.  "It's easier to keep up than catch up" is written on my whiteboard and it seems many of my students need a reminder! I know the importance of reviewing study techniques, organizational skills and handing out a new assignment log (see my blog post HERE on The Secondary English Teacher Blog about helping students stay organized).  I ask students to set a homework plan for themselves and remind them that the calendars I pass out, their planners and their phone apps can help them manage their time.

I'd love to know what you do to set your students on a good path when you get back from a long break!

Happy New Year!

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