Every year around this time of year teachers help their students set goals. We can encourage our students look back at the past year and reflect on the challenges, their achievements and wonder what they could have done differently.
Although 2020 was challenging for us and we are looking forward to seeing some drastic changes for the better, we can help our learners find something good that happened to them. You can ask your students create a poster writing about the most important achievements, what they started doing this year, people they have met, what they’ve learnt and other good things and happy memories of the last year. You can prompt them with categories or let them create their own. This activity may well work well as an individual activity or learners might collaborate and create a group poster for the whole class presentation.
The functional language necessary for this activity is giving opinions, making suggestions and coming to an agreement, e.g. ‘What do you think of …?’, ‘Let’s …’, ‘ That sounds like a good idea’ etc.
Here is a good tool that can help you motivate your higher-level learners reflect and set goals for the new year.
Another way of creating an optimistic attitude and help your students set goals for the new year is brainstorming and exploiting New Year resolutions. First, students can work in small groups collaborating and listing some practical and typical ideas, e.g. ‘participate in active leisure pursuits like swimming or jogging’. Then ask them to add some funny ideas. They can come up with the most ridiculous things like ‘learn how to be cooler’ and ‘sleep during boring work meetings’. They will definitely have fun, especially if they let their imagination go wild. Give them plenty of time and, when they are ready, ask them put their ideas down on post-it notes or pieces of paper. If you give online lessons, you can use a collaborative whiteboard tool or a padlet board for sharing their ideas.
Swap their notes and let other group members categorise them by commenting on how practical or silly the ideas are. This will take some time and at the end of this stage you can arrange a pyramid discussion or lively debate about their choices and priorities. They will have to present their point of view and give reasons.
You can prompt your students with some useful language related to free-time activities such as ‘to take up yoga’ or ‘to cut down on watching series’. They may wish to express some regrets and criticise their habits by saying something like ‘I should have …’, ‘I don’t do enough …’ and ‘I tend to …’ . With higher-level students you can stick to English learning habits to promote self-reflection, develop better awareness of their needs and help them identify their immediate priorities. Low-level learners may also be prompted to add a few language-learning related ideas to their resolutions as this will increase learner autonomy and help them become more responsible for their learning.
At the end of the lesson, you can ask your learners to tell you why learning a language might be a good New Year resolution. They may work in pairs before an open class discussion. Give plenary feedback by eliciting the most interesting ideas from each pair and inviting others to comment on them. Ask the learners to negotiate and choose 5 top reasons. Now you can ask them to decide how they can achieve their goals and focus on short-term prospects. Let them choose what to do at home and how to continue their course of study.
As I have already said, the end of each year brings an opportunity to reflect on what the previous year was like and set goals for the upcoming year. Happy New Year! Whatever 2021 has in store, this is a new beginning and things will change. Cheers to health, happiness and prosperity in 2021!