3 Teaching Ideas for the New Year

It’s almost 2021!

Here are three easy ideas for class activities to start off the new year:

The Year in Photos

This is more of an idea to reflect and look back on the previous year, but it can also help your students to think about and make predictions for the upcoming year. Like every year, CNN has their “Year in Photos” article with some of the most impactful photos from 2020. There are a lot of photos, so you’ll probably want to look through it and find just a few of the best photos to look at and discuss with your students (also keeping in mind the fact that some of the photos could elicit a strong emotional reaction, so think about what is appropriate for your students). After looking at the pictures, you could ask students to vote on which photo they think best represents 2020.


Yes, resolutions—the topic we all love thinking about at the beginning of the year (or maybe not)! Even if you’re not one to make resolutions, I think it can be helpful for us (and our students) to reflect on the past year and think about our hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. I wrote a list of questions to help my students reflect on 2020 and look ahead to 2021. I plan to have my students write the answers to their questions individually and then discuss their answers with a partner or small group.

Click here to download the questions. The document is in Microsoft Word, so you can edit it to fit the level of your students or your particular teaching context.

You can also discuss your students’ opinions about the idea of making New Year’s resolutions and talk to them about whether it’s common to make resolutions in their home countries. I found this infographic about New Year’s resolutions in the United States, which could prompt some discussion:

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Before showing your students the infographic, you could ask them to make some guesses. They could brainstorm what they think the top 10 most common resolutions are, what percentage of Americans usually make a resolution, and what percentage of people keep their resolutions after one year. Then you can reveal the correct answers.

New Laws

There are often new laws that go into effect at the beginning of each year. If you do a Google search for “new laws in 2021 in [city/state/country],” you can probably find a list for your area. Last year, I found a long list of about 50 new laws in my state of Illinois. Of course, most of them are tiny, obscure laws that most people won’t care about. But I found three or four new laws on the list that I thought might be interesting to my students, and I made a handout explaining those new laws with some space after each one for my students to write their own opinion about if it was a good law or not. Then we discussed their opinions as a class. Even some of the laws that seem like something small can lead to a good discussion. Last year, the state of Illinois made a new law that all public restrooms, including men’s rooms, must have a diaper changing table. It led to an interesting discussion in my classes about how gender roles and expectations change over time and what my students think about men changing their babies’ diapers in public.

Plus, talking about new laws can be helpful for students so they can be aware of what laws they are supposed to follow or what laws their workplaces should be following. When possible, I try to at least mention to my students about changes in laws related to the minimum wage or other workplace-related laws since immigrants are disproportionately affected by wage theft or similar crimes. Knowing more about the laws could help them stand up for their rights.

Unfortunately, it looks like—at least in Illinois—there are only a few new laws this year, since a lot of the legislative sessions were canceled due to the pandemic. But it might be worth looking into your own area to see if there are any new laws to discuss with your students.

Happy New Year! Let’s hope that 2021 brings lots of good changes for all of us!

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