I don’t know about you, but for me January is perhaps the gloomiest month of the year. The holiday magic has ended and you are back to work with restless students with no break in sight for months to come. So what do you do!? Somehow you have to find a way to engage your middles as you navigate a new year. And while the new year can seem dreary after all the holidays, there are so many possibilities! The New Year signals a new start not only for you but for your students as well! I’ve got 5 amazing ideas to help re-energize you and get your students engaged and ready for the rest of the school year.
Ideas for Engaging Students
1. Letter to Self
One of the best things to have students do at the beginning of the year is to have them write a letter to themselves. These letters should include hopes, dreams, and goals for the year, but allow your middles to really make it their own. This letter would make a great keepsake for students to open at the end of 2022 and reflect on their year. You could even keep them and have students open them at the end of the school year. Regardless of how you choose to do it, a letter is a perfect way for students to really think about their vision for the year ahead. It’s also a great opportunity to teach or review proper letter writing.
When I do this with my students I let them know that these are their personal letters and that I won’t be reading them. This allows them to write more freely and I just check to make sure they’ve written one for a participation grade. I also suggest writing a letter yourself! I love reading my letter at the end of the year and reflecting on my growth as a person and all the wonderful and surprising things the year had to offer!
2. New Years One Word
This is perhaps one of my favorite things to do with my students when we come back from break! New Years is a time for goals and resolutions, but we often overwhelm ourselves with too many! Then we quickly feel overwhelmed and give up. But imagine choosing just one precise word that you want to define your year. This is exactly what you will have your students do! They will have the opportunity to think about what is most important to them this coming year and how they put that into one word. Then you can have your middles think about actions they can take to help make that word a reality in their lives. This is such a great opportunity to teach precision of language as well as the importance of having fewer and more specific goals for yourself. After my students have all come up with their one word I love to post them all on a bulletin board to help us see and encourage each other with our goals for the year! If you love this idea, I’ve got an awesome resource that is ready to print and go so you can easily incorporate New Years one word into your class! Just click here to check it out.
3. Vision Boards
Having students create vision boards is a powerful way to help our middles make their dreams and goals a reality this year. This is an activity my students always love and I generally give them several days to work on. Have your students think about 3-5 goals or dreams that they have for the year or even more long term goals. Then have them think about what action steps they can take this year to help them achieve or move closer to each of those visions. Give them time to look up images or to bring pictures from home to decorate their vision boards so they can have a daily visual reminder of what they are working towards this year.
I like to encourage my students to use decorative words, color, pictures, drawings, images, and short statements to help their boards be more personal and visually appealing. This is a great time to incorporate some art into your classroom. I also generally provide my students with a small to medium sized poster board and then laminate their boards for them. This helps them feel like their vision board is important and they are more likely to be put up rather than getting crumpled in a backpack. If you currently subscribe to my email list, the poster board below has been added to my resource library for you to grab and will be in your inbox the first week of January!
Another fun way to get students ready for a new year is by having them reflect on the last year. It’s always fun and a learning experience to look back at an entire year. It can also help your middles think about what they want to accomplish for this year. I love looking back at my year and looking forward to the year to come. There are lots of ways to have students reflect and look forward but one of my favorites is to have them create an Instagram post! What middle doesn’t love Instagram right!? In my free download HERE you can grab this fun activity where students draw or write reflections for the past year and their goals and hopes for the new year. It’s also really fun to have students share in partners or groups when they finish!
FREE! Reflecting back on 2021 and looking ahead to 2022!
5. Growth Mindset Bell Ringers
We all know that getting students back into the swing of procedures is just part of coming back from holiday break. Bell Ringers are a perfect way to start the day and get back into routine. If you haven’t already incorporated bell ringers into your daily schedule check out my post HERE where I give you lots of great and easy ideas for getting them set up in your classroom! I also think that with a new year it’s the perfect time to focus on Growth Mindset. New Years is the perfect time to look back on our mindset and try to improve our positive mindset for our students.
Growth Mindset allows our middles to learn and grow from mistakes without becoming frustrated or defeated. It’s perhaps one of the most important social skills that I try to teach in my classroom and I love having my students focus on it first thing each morning! This sets them up for success and gives me a place to jump back to each day when I notice a student or my whole class struggling. I have an amazing set of bell ringers focused on Growth Mindset for you all ready to go! Check them out HERE!
Start the Year Great!
No matter what you choose to do with your students, start the year off great! Give them, and yourself, a chance to reflect and set goals. The month of January can seem dreary, but you can help to make it exciting for your middles and yourself as you engage them right from the start! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and here’s to an amazing new year full of adventure whatever it may bring! Thanks for joining me as we embark together in a year of teaching in 2022!