3 Writing Activities Using New Year Resolutions for ELLs

As the end of the year is rapidly approaching, a lot of us start thinking about our New Year resolutions: things we want to change, goals we want to reach, personal qualities we want to develop, places we want to visit, books we want to read, etc. This list can go on and on. New Year resolutions can be a great teaching tool in your writing class, too. Whether you are teaching a beginning writing class or an advanced composition course in college, you can create lots of engaging activities incorporating the concept of New Year resolutions to help your students develop their writing skills. In what follows, I share some activities, and I hope they can help you generate further ideas for your own classes.

Practicing Categorizing
The purpose of this activity is to help students practice categorizing items. When I was teaching an intermediate writing class a few years ago, a classification essay was one of the course writing assignments. I realized that many students had a difficult time grasping the concept of principle of organization. This activity, I think, can be a very good exercise for students to understand how different items (e.g., objects, concepts, ideas, phenomena) can be organized based on a common feature they share.

The idea behind this activity is simple: The students need to organize the given New Year resolutions into several categories. You can design this activity in multiple ways.

  1. You can divide the students into small teams and give them the pieces of paper with the New Year resolutions written on them. As a team, the students have to organize them into the categories, which you can either write on the board or put on a worksheet for each team.
  2. Another way of doing this activity is to write the categories on the board and give each student one or two New Year resolutions (depends on how many you prepare). Each student will come up to the board and put their resolution(s) under the corresponding category.
  3. You can prepare several groups of New Year resolutions with several resolutions in each group, including one resolution that doesn’t fit into the group. The students will need to find a resolution that doesn’t belong to the given category.

Examples of New Year resolutions

Health and Fitness Resolutions

To lose 5 pounds
To run three times a week
To learn a new meditation technique

Education and Training Resolutions

To learn a new language
To learn to play the piano
To learn 5 English words every day

Relationship Resolutions

To spend more time with the family
To write a thank-you notes to my friends
To smile to people more often

Recreation Resolutions

To visit Disneyland
To spend more time outdoors
To learn how to fish

Practicing Reported Speech
The purpose of this activity to help students use signal phrases and reporting verbs used for incorporating the reported speech and quotations in their essays.

Divide the students into small groups or pairs and have them interview each other about their New Year resolutions. Encourage the students to obtain as much information as possible about a particular resolution, as opposed to getting a list of things that their classmate wants to do. For example, the students can describe to each other why they think a particular goal seems to be valuable at the present moment of their life, how they are going to achieve it, some necessary changes they need to make in order to achieve this goal, etc. After the students are done with their interviews, they will write a short paragraph reporting the results that they obtained from their classmate. Encourage them to use the reporting verbs and signal phrases as they compose their report.

The examples of the signal phrases and the reporting verbs:

According to A, __________.
In A’s opinion, ___________.
In A’s (his/her) words, ____________.
In A’s view, _____________.
Point out

New Year Resolutions: Improving English Skills
The purpose of this activity is to help students think about the variety of ways they can improve their English.

As a class, brainstorm with the students and write on the board the different things they will do in the coming year to develop English skills. The examples can include:

Reading an English book
Listening to the radio in English
Watching a movie in English with English subtitles
Using an English-English dictionary
Doing online chat in English
Doing an Internet search in English
Writing e-mails in English
Playing language learning computer games
Recording myself speaking English
Learning English idioms

Ask the students to write a paragraph or a short essay on the most effective way(s) of developing their English skills. You can also adjust this activity to the beginning level by simply asking the students to list on the piece of paper their goals of improving their English skills in the coming year. The students then can share their ideas with the class.

All these activities can be adjusted to fit the particular goals and objectives of your class as well as meet the individual needs of your learners. In addition, they can also be adapted to other English classes (e.g., grammar, reading, speaking). I hope that you find them useful.

What New Year resolution activities do you do with your English language learners?

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.
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3 Responses to 3 Writing Activities Using New Year Resolutions for ELLs

  1. sasha says:

    I find that my students tend to nominate quite general goals/resolutions regarding their English e.g. “improve my English” or “speak better” etc.
    I like to give them small pieces of paper to write their English goals on them. Then I ask them to be more specific e.g. “improve my academic reading”, “increase my vocabulary”.
    Finally, I ask them to describe how and when they will achieve their goal e.g. “read a newspaper article each day and note down the interesting vocal”.

  2. Nancy Ricker says:

    Thank you for the ideas. I plan to use several. I hope you have a wonderful new year.

  3. Ardayatmo Mitroatmodjo says:

    These activities are useful even for the new English learner who has a plan to be an English teacher later.

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