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4 Ways to Ring in the New Year in the Classroom

The New Year presents a great opportunity for self-reflection. What worked for me this past year? What would I like to change during the next one? You might have already done some of this work yourself. However, I always like to use this time of the year to help students take advantage of this new beginning as well. Here are 4 ways you can ring in New Year’s Day in your classroom.

1. Reflect on the Year

The first classroom New Year’s activity involves engaging students in self-reflection. To make it more interesting, they do this reflection with the help of a Folded Fortune Teller. I’m sure you’re no stranger to what you might also know as “Cootie Catchers” (pictured below).

Before the activity can begin, your students will need to make the actual fortune-tellers. I always hand out instructions for this. I also prepare reflection-based questions ahead of time that will help students get to know their partners and look forward to the next year. “What challenges did you face this year?” and “What is something you learned this year?” are examples you can use with your class.

How the activity works: 

  1. Students will find a partner and will ask him or her to pick one of the words on the top of the fortune teller. They will work the fortune teller back and forth, spelling out the letters in the word (i.e. P.A.R.T.Y).
  2. Then, they will ask their partner to pick one of the numbers inside the paper fortune teller. They will work the fortune teller back and forth again as you count up to the number (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4).
  3. Finally, they will ask their partner to pick a final number. They will then raise up the corresponding flap and reveal the question. The partner answers it, then it is their turn to have the fortune teller. After both partners have had a turn, I get them to find a new partner and repeat the process.

New Years Cootie Catcher

2. Set Goals and Resolutions

Just as the New Year is a time for reflection, it also is a time to set new goals and resolutions. This is exactly what your students will do with the New Year’s resolutions classroom activity. Of course, as we all know too well, New Year’s resolutions are often abandoned just as soon as they’re created…

To inspire students to choose New Year’s resolutions that last, I start this activity with a class lesson where I go over things like the meaning and purpose of New Year’s resolutions. I draw on celebrity quotes about setting goals, and I list the top ten most common New Year’s resolutions. This serves as a helpful starting point for productive class discussion.

In fact, I usually like to pause the lesson at this point and get students to use this top ten list with journal prompts like “Which of the top 10 resolutions would you most likely have?” Once they’ve had the chance to write and reflect, I talk about the success rates and the importance of creating SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) resolutions for themselves, so they actually set themselves up for success.

This leads us to the central part of the activity where students will create their own SMART resolutions. For this activity, I hand out a graphic organizer with space for them to write out things like what their resolution is, what their long-term and short-term goals are, and what strategies they will use to succeed.

New Years Resolutions in the Classroom

3. New Year’s Traditions Around the World

Did you know that onions are a central part of New Year’s celebrations in Romania? The next New Year’s activity I suggest implementing in your classroom will get you and your students learning about New Year’s traditions around the world.

For this activity, your students will read nonfiction articles that explain the New Year’s traditions, practices, and customs of different countries around the world. Then, they will answer related questions to solidify and demonstrate their understanding. I use Scotland, Romania, Spain, and China—I find the traditions in these countries to be extremely fascinating!

This activity can be done independently, with partners, or in small groups. It also lends itself especially well to the jigsaw method! In groups of 4, each student can be designated to one of these 4 country’s New Year’s traditions. Then, as a group, they can piece together their knowledge—like a jigsaw puzzle—to get a bigger picture of the different traditions around the world.

New Years Activities Bundle Shop This Post

4. Challenge them to Make Positive Changes

At the heart of any good New Year’s resolution is the desire to make some kind of positive change in our lives, whatever that may be. But such a positive mindset shouldn’t just be limited to the days surrounding this annual holiday. With the Happy Student Challenge, you can inspire your students to continue this mindset long after the celebrations are over.

The Happy Student Challenge is a FREE activity that comprises 30 challenges that will help your students connect with each other, build relationships, organize their school life, stay healthy, and focus on the positive!

For this activity, students are given a challenge to complete on each day of the month. Here are a few examples:

  • 13th day of the month: Write and deliver a thank you note to someone who you appreciate.
  • 22nd day of the month: Try to spend less time using technology today (cellphone, computer, video game, TV).
  • 25th day of the month: Secretly slip a kind and encouraging note into someone’s book bag or notebook.


Get your students to complete the Happy Student Challenge this January. You can even have prizes for those who stick to it! Want to get in on this month of happiness? Grab this FREE Happy Teacher’s Challenge (shown below) and complete it at the same time!

Happy Teacher Challenge

Best of luck implementing these New Year’s activities in your classroom! Looking for more teaching tips and resources? Click here.

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