Look Back, Looking Ahead: January Letters

45 min.

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In this lesson, we will examine the history of New Year's Resolutions, the god Janus, and the idea of reflecting upon one's past in order to look positively ahead to one's future in order to write their own January Letters to themselves. Then, next year at this time, they can open the letters to see what they accomplished.

Big Idea

Students will research and discuss the history of New Year's Resolutions.

Students will write reflective letters to themselves.

To begin, all students and teachers should take a few minutes to respond in writing to the following questions:

  • Why do people make New Year's resolutions?
  • What types of New Year's resolutions do people make?
  • How did the tradition of New Year's resolutions get started? (If you don't know, make your best guess)

Then, the teacher should model by sharing one of his/her answers to one of the questions. The teacher can then choose several students to share their answers, so that a general sense of the prior knowledge of the class can be take. These impressions can be recorded for reference throughout the process if that's useful (like on chart paper or the board).

First, show the video attached to the wonder to get the students engaged in new thinking.

Next, students should explore the wonder individually or in pairs, to discover new information about New Year's Resolutions. Wonder of the Day #90. If technology allows (or using printed copies), also ask students to expand their research by accessing one of the links to sources on the Wonder of the Day.

While exploring, students should record their new discoveries on sticky notes (one thing per note), and add it to one central place in the classroom. If they see someone has already placed this piece of knowledge on the central space, they should not duplicate it. In this way, only ONE of each sticky with a new discovery on it should be in the central space. It might look something like the brainstorming web below. In this way, the discovery process becomes visual. For purposes of tracking/assessment, it might be a good idea to give each group a different color sticky note.

In order to gauge understanding, the teacher can review the sticky notes to see that students have gleaned information needed to demonstrate new knowledge of New Year's resolutions.

To extend, students will then write their own resolutions in the form of a January letter to themselves. The assignment is attached to this.