Wednesday, January 8, 2014



How many times have you heard friends and family members say they're going to make New Year's resolutions, but never follow through? Many times it's something they've talked about, like losing weight or other personal goals, but honestly, it's not always easy to stick to what we vow to do.

For many years, I've had my students write their resolutions, a typical lesson they've done in previous years, so I decided to change my approach and make it a little more challenging and interesting.

I thought about the year 2013, with all that's happened. Has there ever been a year of more distressing news with natural disasters, world events, war, famine, politicking? 

Those thoughts, then, became the basis of my new New Year's Day Resolution lesson. Keep in mind I'm a 
Socratic type of teacher. Raising questions to challenge my students has always been one of my main methods of teaching.  

I started off by asking my students if they've ever set goals for themselves. 

I asked ... "Are goals basically the same thing as resolutions?" 

I hear some "hmmm's", one fiddled with his shoelace, and others stared at me, quizzically.

One of my deep thinkers speaks up... "Mrs. S, isn't a resolution the same thing as a revolution?" 

I explain that a revolution is when you rise up against something you're determined to resolve, change or fix, like a problem. A revolution can be positive or negative. 

I then ask if they all think a resolution, is a revolution. 

I see some nodding their heads, others tapping their pencils on their desks and one who's passing a note to a friend. 

I whisper..... "I sure hope that note is about your New Year's resolution, which is not to pass notes in class during a lesson, Joe." 

He slides down in his chair so quickly, I think he's sinking in a swirling pool of quicksand. His friend, sitting next to him, begins to giggle, then covers his mouth when I slowly turn my gaze to him and wink. 

Dan sheepishly raises his hand. "Doesn't a revolution cause a resolution, something like cause and effect?" He lowers his hand slowly. 

I'm speechless. This boy is connecting all the dots and it's wonderful, incredible, AWESOME (as the kids would say)!! 

I praise him for his answer, have everyone applaud and then continue.

I point to the goal poster on the wall and ask volunteers to describe some of their goals and whether they've attained them. The majority of them admit they never follow through. 

I ask ... "Why is it difficult to reach your goals? Is it you or something else that causes you not to reach them?"

I ask for a volunteer to describe a goal and if it was achieved. 

Beth raises her hand and describes her goal. She wants to read for an hour at home, but she describes the many distractions like younger siblings running around the house, usual home distractions like television, texting and other things, that keep her from reading for an hour.

A couple of students eagerly chimed in. They offered suggestions about how she could make her life more manageable and lessen the number of distractions. They told her they had the same thing happening at home and how they "fixed" it.

I always love these types of brainstorming sessions. Kids reaching out to help their peers, offering many great alternatives and solutions! 

After a few minutes, they concluded that if Beth found just fifteen minutes of quiet time when she could read, it would be a great accomplishment.

I ask... "Did Beth reach her goal? Her goal was to read for an hour a night. Everyone just said that reading for fifteen minutes was really good. But did she actually reach her goal?" 

Robert raises his hand slowly, so slowly, I figure his response might not be 'on the mark'. 

"It's the effort that counts," he whispers. 

 What?  Did he REALLY say THAT?

I ask him to repeat his statement in a BIGGER voice.

I then call for applause from everyone. 

I ask... "Okay, effort is needed to achieve a goal. What's another word that means great effort to follow through to complete or attain a goal?"

After a few minutes of mulling it over, Rosie, leaps out of her seat and blurts out, "I know. I know what the word is ! It's determination. It's on the goal poster." She points to it. The room is so still you can hear a pin drop. I ask both Robert and Rosie to come to the front of the room and take a bow.  Everyone applauds again. :)

Next, I explain their assignment will be to write resolutions for themselves, the school, the town, the country and the world. They looked at me as if I was an alien from Planet X. 

Joey raises his hand and says, "I'm not sure how to write a resolution for our school, the town, country or world. They're not people." 

Love this kid! 

I told them to think of the school as if it was a person. 

I ask .. "What are some problems our school would like to fix or improve if it was a person?" 

Hands shot up! It was one of those "gotcha" moments.. :) I let them take the ball and run with it and as they discussed their ideas, I wrote them all over the board. 

I  stop the conversation for a minute and say, "Well it's really obvious I have a class of problem solvers and geniuses."
They look up and grin! I grin back!

It's amazing how the quiet kids, who usually never contribute to class discussions, are actually voicing their opinions and coming up with excellent ideas. I'm mesmerized as I listen ...

I ask ... "What kind of goal might you write for our town?" Again, ideas covered the board as they brainstormed. 

Fill the pot holes in the roads, build a skateboard park, provide more lighting at the town baseball field. The list went on and on and on.. I pictured them as adults at town meetings, voicing their opinions and collaborating to fix problems around town. 

The very same thing happened when I mentioned the country and world. It absolutely amazes me how fifth graders can solve problems so smoothly and logically, by brainstorming, drawing conclusions, and compromising. I tell them they should all run for office and work with others to solve our country's problems. 

They grin! I grin! We all grin!

I began handing out the New Year's Day worksheets and tell them, they're problem solvers who have collaborated,  brainstormed and brought all their ideas together in a thoughtful, peaceful and brilliant way. 

They grin. I grin. In fact, I grinned the rest of the day and night. Life is good when you have a grinning day!

Here is the packet I created for New Year's resolutions. Enjoy!

photo of New Year's Resolutions Mine My Town/City My Country the World, New Years, ELA, Writing Ruth S.