New Year, Fresh Starts: How to Welcome 2018 into Your ESL Classes


Welcome 2018! A new year. The first week back to school after Christmas break can be a blue one, for teachers and students. We spend a lot of time celebrating Christmas in the classroom, but we often overlook New Year. Rather than immediately jumping into coursework, what about incorporating the new year and its endless possibilities into your classroom? Rejuvenate your teaching and bring some positivity to class by applying some of these ideas to get your new year started off right for you and your ESL students.

Give Your Teaching Methodology a Boost

The start of a new trimester (or semester) is also the ideal time to introduce new teaching methodologies and styles into your classroom. Surprise your students with new activities, games, and projects that tap into their multiple intelligences and higher order thinking skills. For those students in the Instituto Franklin-UAH Teach & Learn program, the skills and techniques learned in class are ideal for putting into practice at your school. Don’t be afraid to give methods such as project-based learning and total physical response a try. Your students will positively respond to innovative changes that challenge and inspire them.

Reflect to Make Improvements

Before moving forward, why not have a look back? For teachers and students, it’s essential to review successes and failures, triumphs and difficulties from the previous year in order to learn from mistakes and move ahead and improve. Reflection is a tried-and-true technique that helps to develop a growth mindset and metacognition, an executive function skill. Students can first write out their observations in a journal, free writing task, or worksheet. Give them two or three reflective prompts such as “One thing I learned in 2017…”, “The funniest moment from 2017…”, and “A difficult lesson I learned in 2017…”. If they feel comfortable, students can share what they learned one-on-one with you or with the whole class. Not only will your students contemplate the past year and their progress but they will also practice using their past simple tense in English.

Focus on the Future

To motivate yourself and your students, talk about the future. Keep your focus on the year 2018 and have a class discussion about the hopes and dreams as well as class goals for you and your students. These objectives can be related to school, extracurricular activities, life experiences, and more. Ask them one or two brainstorming questions such as, “What fun activity do you want to do this year?” and “What do you want to achieve?”. You will keep your students more motivated to achieve these goals if you allow them to create a worksheet or craft and hang it up in the classroom. That way they’ll be reminded of their goals on a daily basis and continue working towards reaching them.

Redecorate to Revitalize Your Classroom

Are your Halloween or Christmas decorations still up? Do you have the same student artwork from September hanging on your walls? Bring new life and new art into your classroom by redecorating! Pick a theme or a set of colors that will energize you and your students. An even better tactic is to enlist their help in sprucing up their space. Ask the students to make a craft or design something for the walls. They’ll love seeing their own art on the walls and appreciate that you asked for their input. You can even make it a class project that at the start of every new trimester (or semester) the students redecorate the classroom. Just watch how excited they will be to get to work and personalize their space.

Make It a Cultural Topic

The role of culture can’t be forgotten in the classroom, and New Year is another opportunity to share your experiences and learn about Spanish culture. If you’re from the US, explain New Year’s resolutions (and how most people break them). There are a variety of New Year’s traditions from around the world to be shared. Even the seemingly unimportant details can be interesting for your students. Ask your students about how they celebrate New Year’s. You’ll be entertained by their impersonations of stuffing 12 grapes into their mouths as they count down to the new year in Spain. Use this opportunity to expand their vocabulary and storytelling abilities about their culture.

It’s easy to skip New Year and directly hit the books when returning from Christmas break. Instead, think about using this often overlooked holiday to reenergize your students, your classroom, and yourself. New Year is an opportunity for reflection on life and learning and for thinking about the future. You can also use this fresh start to incorporate dynamic teaching methodologies, activities, and projects to start your new year off with excitement. Last but not least, help to improve your students’ speaking by talking about how their culture celebrates New Year.

Alexandra Hartline , MA in Bilingual & Multicultural Education 2017-2018


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