Writing Assignment New Year Resolution List

As the end of the year is rapidly approaching, a lot of us start thinking about our New Year resolutions: things we want to change, goals we want to reach, personal qualities we want to develop, places we want to visit, books we want to read, etc. This list can go on and on. New Year resolutions can be a great teaching tool in your writing class, too. Whether you are teaching a beginning writing class or an advanced composition course in college, you can create lots of engaging activities incorporating the concept of New Year resolutions to help your students develop their writing skills. In what follows, I share some activities, and I hope they can help you generate further ideas for your own classes.

Practicing Categorizing
The purpose of this activity is to help students practice categorizing items. When I was teaching an intermediate writing class a few years ago, a classification essay was one of the course writing assignments. I realized that many students had a difficult time grasping the concept of principle of organization. This activity, I think, can be a very good exercise for students to understand how different items (e.g., objects, concepts, ideas, phenomena) can be organized based on a common feature they share.

The idea behind this activity is simple: The students need to organize the given New Year resolutions into several categories. You can design this activity in multiple ways.

  1. You can divide the students into small teams and give them the pieces of paper with the New Year resolutions written on them. As a team, the students have to organize them into the categories, which you can either write on the board or put on a worksheet for each team.
  2. Another way of doing this activity is to write the categories on the board and give each student one or two New Year resolutions (depends on how many you prepare). Each student will come up to the board and put their resolution(s) under the corresponding category.
  3. You can prepare several groups of New Year resolutions with several resolutions in each group, including one resolution that doesn’t fit into the group. The students will need to find a resolution that doesn’t belong to the given category.

Examples of New Year resolutions

Health and Fitness Resolutions

To lose 5 pounds
To run three times a week
To learn a new meditation technique

Education and Training Resolutions

To learn a new language
To learn to play the piano
To learn 5 English words every day

Relationship Resolutions

To spend more time with the family
To write a thank-you notes to my friends
To smile to people more often

Recreation Resolutions

To visit Disneyland
To spend more time outdoors
To learn how to fish

Practicing Reported Speech
The purpose of this activity to help students use signal phrases and reporting verbs used for incorporating the reported speech and quotations in their essays.

Divide the students into small groups or pairs and have them interview each other about their New Year resolutions. Encourage the students to obtain as much information as possible about a particular resolution, as opposed to getting a list of things that their classmate wants to do. For example, the students can describe to each other why they think a particular goal seems to be valuable at the present moment of their life, how they are going to achieve it, some necessary changes they need to make in order to achieve this goal, etc. After the students are done with their interviews, they will write a short paragraph reporting the results that they obtained from their classmate. Encourage them to use the reporting verbs and signal phrases as they compose their report.

The examples of the signal phrases and the reporting verbs:

According to A, __________.
In A’s opinion, ___________.
In A’s (his/her) words, ____________.
In A’s view, _____________.
Point out

New Year Resolutions: Improving English Skills
The purpose of this activity is to help students think about the variety of ways they can improve their English.

As a class, brainstorm with the students and write on the board the different things they will do in the coming year to develop English skills. The examples can include:

Reading an English book
Listening to the radio in English
Watching a movie in English with English subtitles
Using an English-English dictionary
Doing online chat in English
Doing an Internet search in English
Writing e-mails in English
Playing language learning computer games
Recording myself speaking English
Learning English idioms

Ask the students to write a paragraph or a short essay on the most effective way(s) of developing their English skills. You can also adjust this activity to the beginning level by simply asking the students to list on the piece of paper their goals of improving their English skills in the coming year. The students then can share their ideas with the class.

All these activities can be adjusted to fit the particular goals and objectives of your class as well as meet the individual needs of your learners. In addition, they can also be adapted to other English classes (e.g., grammar, reading, speaking). I hope that you find them useful.

What New Year resolution activities do you do with your English language learners?

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.

View all posts by Elena Shvidko →

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With the start to any New Year comes a time for resolutions. Returning from Christmas break is the perfect time to use a classroom activity to teach your students how they can reflect upon the past year and prepare for a new, fresh start. Use this classroom activity involving writing to help your students make their New Year’s Resolutions this year.

Classroom Activity: Introduction

To begin, ask students if they have ever made a New Year’s resolution before, and if so, did they keep it? For the students who have never made a resolution for the New Year, talk about how the word resolution came from the word “resolve.” Talk about how a resolution is like a promise that you keep for yourself. Then, discuss how each year people make resolutions for themselves, but oftentimes they end up being too challenging to keep, so they give up on them. Explain that it’s important to make a positive resolution that they think they will be able to follow through with.

Once they understand the concept, model a few resolutions of your own (start exercising, read a book a week, watch less TV, etc.). Next, have students brainstorm a few together as a class. They may come up with resolutions like stop fighting with their siblings, or be more helpful at home. Make sure that you remind students to not choose something that is too outrageous, and remind them that their goal is to make a resolution that they know they can keep.


Once students have a list of the resolutions that they think they want to try, have them narrow that list down to three. They should make one resolution for their own personal improvement (resolve to eat healthy), one that has to do with their family or friends (resolve to not fight with their sister), and one that has to do with school (to learn all of their multiplication facts).

First Draft

Now that students have their three resolutions (or promises to themselves) that they know they will be able to keep, it’s time for them to write a five-paragraph essay about these New Year’s resolutions.  Included in this essay should be the following:

  • First paragraph is to introduce the topic to their audience.
  • Second paragraph is talk about the personal improvement promise that they made to themselves.
  • Third paragraph is discuss the resolution that has to do with their family or friends.
  • Fourth paragraph is where they will describe the promise that they made to themselves about school.
  • The fifth, and final, paragraph will restate the topic and sum up the whole essay about resolutions.


This is the most critical stage in the writing process and oftentimes the hardest for students. Students need to read and re-read their essay, and ask themselves “Does it sound good?” and “Does it make sense?” Here are a few guidelines to help students during this crucial stage.

  • Look at the first paragraph and ask yourself if the topic sentence is interesting. If not, how can you make it more interesting to the reader?
  • Look at the meat of your essay which is the three middle paragraphs. Does each paragraph explain to the reader what your resolution is and why you are making it?
  • Look at your ending paragraph, did you restate and sum up your essay?
  • Take a look at all of the sentences, is everything spelled correctly? Are all of the sentences complete?

Final Copy

Once students have made of their revisions, they can now type their final project on the computer and print it out. Post these New Year’s resolution essays on the bulletin board in the classroom as a daily reminder of their promises to themselves for the New Year.

Make sure that you take a few moments of your day with your students to look back on the year that just passed. Talk about the learning goals that they have achieved since the start of the year, and talk about what they are going to achieve by the end of this New Year.

Do you have in New Year’s resolutions in your classroom? If so, what kinds of lessons and activities do you do? Please take a moment and share with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Happy New Year!

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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