Fresh starts…don’t you love them? There’s something about a clean slate, whether it’s the first day of school, moving to a new city, or even just the Monday after a rough week. One can still have the hopeful feeling that THIS week will be better.
And then there’s the most universal fresh start of them all: January 1st. The new year encourages us to separate the “old us” from the “new us”–what we hope to become or accomplish.
Psychologists have even coined this as The Fresh Start Effect. Special circumstances or events that feel like a new beginning (such as New Year’s) help encourage us to improve ourselves and set goals.
Might as well lean into that effect at school, and use it to help benefit your class! While student goal setting activities can be done any time of the school year, January is definitely an opportune time for it.
TYPES OF STUDENT GOALS
As adults, some examples of New Year’s resolutions that might come to mind are things like eating healthy, saving money, exercising regularly—not necessarily the same exact goals that young kids would set for themselves.
Even though a seven-year-old might not be looking to run a half marathon or pay off a student loan, goals for kids could still fall into similar categories as they would for a grown up (swapping out school for work):
- Mental Health
- Physical Health
When participating in student goal setting activities, have the kids brainstorm personal goals that fall into each category. This will help focus their thinking, and encourage them to consider growth in all areas of their life!
PROVIDING GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT
Kids are obviously not as experienced in setting goals as adults are, and so a little guidance can go a long way.
You might start with a read aloud to get students in the goal-setting mindset. Here are just a few children’s books that make for a helpful introduction:
- Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller Helps explain what resolutions are
- Ambitious Ninja by Mary Nhin The main character learns how to set goals and follow through on the steps to reach them.
- Flight School by Lita Judge Gets kids thinking about the importance of setting realistic goals.
After using the read aloud(s) to open up discussion, have students think up goals that are both specific and achievable.
After all, digging up a T-Rex bone on the playground might not actually be an achievable goal.
You can ask students guiding questions like:
- Is this something I can do without extra money or equipment?
- What are the steps that it would take to reach my goal?
- How will I know when I have met my goal?
Even still, many students can have a hard time thinking up meaningful goals to set for themselves. Specific writing prompts and engaging activities are often helpful. And I’ve got you covered with 3 of them in the next section below!
STUDENT GOAL SETTING ACTIVITIES
Here are some of my favorite student goal setting activities to get the wheels turning in their heads:
New Year’s Balloon Writing Craft
These colorful balloons help make goal-setting something to celebrate! The balloon is divided up into four sections and each has as specific prompt such as:
- Goals I want to try to work on at school this year
- Something that I want to try to stop doing this year
- Adjectives to describe my best self this year
- New friends I want to make in my class this year
Not only is this a hands-on way for students to set New Year’s resolutions, but the extra writing practice never hurts!
And it makes an adorable bulletin board too. Triple-whammy! Here is an example of one from a past school year:
This is a resource that gets updated each new year, so that you can continue to use it in 2024, 2025, etc. So after purchasing one time, you can download the updated version every year after that for free!
Bright New Year Writing Craftivity
Life has looked a little different for all of us since the year 2020. Have your class kick off the coming new year with some positivity!
Students write down 2 new year’s resolutions on the lenses of the sunglasses, which they paste onto a picture of the face. Kids can paint or watercolor the face and hair, or color with crayons, colored pencils, markers, etc.
You could also choose to put an extra positive spin on it and have students write what they’re “looking” forward to in 2023.
This is another resource that will get updated annually, so that you can get continued use out of it with each new group of students year after year!
Hot Air Balloon Writing Craft
Get ready for the goal setting to soar sky-high with these hot air balloon crafts. This is one of those goal setting activities that can used around New Year’s time or any time of the year- back to school, springtime, etc.
It’s a writing activity will help them create goals, but also think through how they will achieve them.
And goal-setting aside…these always turn out so cute! Especially when including photos of your students “riding” in the balloons.
The four-sided hot air balloon has space for:
- My Goals for setting current goals
- How I’ll Get There for thinking through the steps of the process
- When I Grow Up to encourage long-term goal setting
- Blank space for an illustration, to help kiddos visualize themselves achieving the goals
Whenever I’ve hung these up in my own classrooms over the years, I’ve gotten so many compliments from EVERYONE. Administrators, parents, other teachers, and even students from other classes (they’d see them while walking by our windows).
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU!
Here’s hoping that the Fresh Start Effect will bring some positivity and motivation come January 1st, and continue to rejuvenate us all throughout 2023! Sending you my very best wishes to you and your students in all of your goal-getting adventures.
And if you might have found any of the ideas I’ve shared here to be helpful in some way…then MY goal has been achieved! 😉