6 New Year activities to get your adult learners chatting
New Year’s Eve is a powerful time for people around the world, but it carries challenges for language teachers in the classroom.
While some adult learners might feel motivated, inspired, and excited for the new year, many others could carry feelings of resentment, sadness, or even depressive thoughts at this time of the year, depending on what they have experienced. How can teachers make sure everybody has a good time and takes something out of the lesson?
The trick is to focus on very specific language skills that can be used in other contexts as well, all while removing pressure from the occasion and making it feel more practical. Here is a list of New Year’s Eve-related activities for all adult learners to enjoy!
The major plus? Most of these activities require little or no preparation!
1. Brainstorming common resolutions (5 minutes)
A great way to start your lesson is to introduce the topic of the New Year and say this is a time when people wish to start fresh and change some things. Why do people love having resolutions? What are some common resolutions students have heard about? Let groups work together to brainstorm and list common resolutions. After that, take the opportunity to show your own list of resolutions, talking about what you would like to change about your own life. Be very specific, as this will help teach new vocabulary.
2. Rate the resolution (10-15 minutes)
Create a long list of goals and resolutions. Try to include common resolutions (stop smoking, lose weight, save money) alongside original ones (like swimming with sharks, learning to play an instrument, scuba diving or traveling to a French-speaking country; the website Bucketlist can give ideas). Now, give students a moment to look through the list individually and highlight the resolutions they think are most interesting. Then, in groups, they can share which of these resolutions they identify with, and which are completely out of the question! There is only one rule: they must stick to the target language and justify their opinions to their classmates.
3. Agree / disagree / it depends (15-20 minutes)
Give students a handout with some quotes. The task is simple: they must say if they agree or disagree with each sentence…and of course explain why! You can also include the option “unsure / it depends”, as it always fosters interesting dialogue when backed up with further comment. Here are some examples of sentences you can include in your handout:
Big changes are made of little steps.
The best way to quit something is to go cold turkey.
New Year’s resolutions are useless.
The quickest way to change a habit is to do it with a friend.
4. Practicing giving advice (10-15 minutes)
My students used to love this type of exercise because they felt it was useful beyond the topic of New Year. Give students cards (alternatively, you can use slides) with pictures of different characters who have completely different resolutions. They must brainstorm and list the pieces of advice they would give these people.
5. Imagine the resolution (5-10 minutes)
Select 5-7 celebrities and show their pictures to the whole class. Try to include musicians, artists, writers, scientists—and preferably avoid controversial figures. Now, ask students to brainstorm a couple of resolutions they think these celebrities might have for the new year! If you prefer to avoid celebrities and want to make this exercise more useful, you can also just use random characters or jobs (a teacher, a dancer, a manager, a chef, etc).
6. Plan your own crazy New Year’s event (20 minutes)
This exercise never fails to entertain. In my experience, it works best as the lesson’s last exercise, as it is creative and requires less focus. Students should be put into groups and plan their own mindblowing New Year’s Eve party! To make it productive, provide these guidelines on what students must decide for their event:
Name of the event
The event theme, concept, and dress code
Entry price (if any)
Food and beverages
Music and decor
Entertainment (pool, fashion show, dancers, board games, etc)
Allow some time at the end for students to pitch their events to their classmates.