New Year’s Resolutions:  Grammar, Resources, and Culture

Bill Bliss

Through the ages, people around the world have approached the start of a new year as a time to reflect and make promises to improve themselves, to do something better, or to do good deeds.  In our classrooms, the approaching celebration offers a great opportunity for students to share their plans, predictions, hopes, and resolutions for the year ahead.

New Year’s Grammar
Whatever your students’ English proficiency level may be, there’s a way to explore the New Year’s theme.  Here are some suggestions, with page references for “Side by Side” lessons that preview relevant grammar and vocabulary:

Going to:  Review the months of the year and the “Going to” form of the future tense, and have students tell about things that are going to happen to them or to family members in certain months of the new year.  For example:

I’m going to move to a new apartment in January.

My brother is going to get married in February.

(Side by Side 1:  pages 128-131, 136-137)

Adverbs:  Where would New Year’s resolutions be without adverbs?  They’re the made-to-order grammar structure for expressing how we aim to do things better next year.  Ask students to share how they plan to improve:  What will they do better? more carefully? faster? slower?  For example:

I’m going to work harder.

I’m going to do my homework more carefully.

(Side by Side 2:  pages 72-75)

Gerunds and Infinitives:  Stopping bad habits and starting good ones are some of the most common resolutions.  As students share about the choices they intend to make in the New Year, they also need to make choices about how to express them using gerunds or infinitives.  For example:

I’m going to start eating healthier food.  (Good for you!)

I’m going to start to eat healthier food.  (Excellent!)

I’m going to stop eating junk food.  (Very good!)

I’m going to stop to eat junk food.  (Very bad!)

Here are some other words for New Year’s resolutions that require one form or the other:

I’ve decided to (infinitive) next year.

I’m going to quit (gerund) next year.

I’m thinking about (gerund) next year.

I’m considering (gerund) next year.

(Side by Side 3:  pages 90-91)

Hopes:  What are your students’ hopes for the year ahead?  Do they hope to get a new job?  Do they hope to move to a different place?  What do they hope for in the lives of their family members and friends?  The grammar is tricky, and a good way to approach it is to practice hope-clauses and if-clauses together in this New Year’s hopes context.  For example:

I hope I get a raise next year.

If I get a raise, I’ll be able to move to a new apartment.

(Side by Side 4:  pages 68-71)

Resolution Resources:  Helpful Hints from U.S. Government Websites that Work!

Here are some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions and U.S. government websites with resources to help make these resolutions happen.  You can have each student identify a personal resolution, browse the web to develop an action plan to make the resolution happen, and then share as a class.

Eat Healthier Food: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate website has information and videos about nutrition, including sample menus and recipes.

Exercise: The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition has recommendations for being more active and physically fit.

Get a Better Job: The new American Job Center site has information for career exploration, information about education and training requirements and resources, and tools for resumes, cover letters, and preparing for an interview.

Protect the Environment: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle web page provides information about reducing waste, recycling materials, composting, and saving energy.

Cultural Explorations and New Year’s Celebrations

As students learn in one of our most popular “Side by Side Gazette” lessons, there are many different traditions and customs for making wishes around the world.  One of the customs featured in this lesson is what happens when the clock strikes twelve midnight on New Year’s Eve.  Hint:  It involves grapes.  Here’s the lesson.

Have students share about the different ways they celebrate the New Year in their cultures.  Are there special foods, customs, and traditions?  Do people make New Year’s resolutions?  Do people gather in special places to celebrate?  Are there national traditions (such as the ball dropping in New York’s Times Square)?

A "Happy New Year" Scene

Here’s a “Side by Side TV” segment on a New Year’s theme for practice with months of the year and Future: Going to. 

Happy New Year!

(Publisher’s Note:  The video segment is from the Side by Side TV video series and the Side by Side Interactive program --  multimedia accompaniments to the Side by Side and Side by Side Plus language learning programs.)