New Year’s is a time for people to reflect on the past year, celebrate good times, and plan ahead, too, for the year to come. And as it happens, the spiritual quests of this season fit right in with big curriculum goals in fourth grade: at this stage, kids are taking their earlier understanding of time and broadening it across decades and centuries. They're also learning how to plan and carry through projects over not just a day or two, but weeks and months. In other words, they're putting themselves in time context--and it's an intellectual foundation that they'll use for the rest of their lives. So here's a simple project that helps kids reflect on the past year and set specific, attainable goals to reach in the New Year. You can use it again and again--works for adults, too!
What You Do:
- For this activity, you will create a hanging banner which can be rolled up when not in use, and then rolled out periodically throughout the year. To start, you and your child will reflect on the year past and the year ahead, using a simple "T" chart. Your fourth grader can usually write for herself, but it's OK if you want to be secretary, too, for all or part of this activity!
- Whichever you choose, make sure you do this: Hold the banner paper vertically, and leave about 4" at the top, which will wrap around your dowel. Beneath that, have your child use markers to write "New Year's," and then write the date of the year to come. Then, below the title, have your child make a “T” chart. On the left side of the “T” write down: What I’ve Accomplished This Year. Then, number the column below it with 1-7. On the right side of the “T” write down: My Goals for This Year. Then, number the column below it 1-3.
- Tell your child that you would like her to write down at least seven things she’s accomplished this past year. To ensure variety, at least one example should be something she’s achieved in school; another will be something she’s achieved at home; the rest will be anything of her choice. Have your child begin each accomplishment statement with: I am proud that I…
- While your child is working, make a list of your own about her. Each statement will begin: "I am proud that you..." Don't hesitate to write extra here...you'll make your child's day!
- After your child has written her seven accomplishments, discuss each one of them with her--and share your list, too. Working together, put gold stars next to your child's Top Three Greatest Hits of the Year.
- Now have your child look at the right side of the “T” chart. Tell her that she will think about one goal that she wants to set for herself in these same three areas (school, home, optional). This time, she will begin each goal with: This year I want to…
- Again, when your child is finished, have her talk to you about each goal. Is it realistic? Is it concrete? Explain these concepts, and share your own goals as appropriate, too.
- In the area below the T-Chart, have your child make a twelve-box chart--three boxes across, four boxes down--and label the twelve months of the next year. As an added academic challenge, you may even want to send your child to a word processing program on your computer, and have her print out actual numbered months. Whichever you choose, however, leave enough space in each box for your child to do some writing. Pull out a calendar of the year to come, and have your child copy down key dates in the year: when school ends, for example; family birthdays; holidays. And where appropriate, use a different marker color to note steps that your child may take toward a particular goal.
- At this point, you have made a banner scroll about 24" long, and perhaps even a bit longer. Invite your child to have plenty of fun here, and decorate the borders. Then curl each end over a dowel and glue it securely. Screw your two round hooks into a free wall area in your child's room or in a study, about 12" apart. Place each end of the top dowel in a cup hook. Then, starting at the bottom, roll the scroll up. Pull it out during the year, and every time your child makes progress toward a goal, go for a gold star. Don't skimp on this--remember, this is a celebration of progress, not perfection.
This is a great activity to do every year with your child. As the years roll by, save old charts--and above all, be sure to savor the times they mark.
Sally Stanley is an experienced educator, with over 14 years of teaching experience. In addition to teaching, she has also created educational materials, including ancillary, textbook, and test items, for Grades K-8 for major educational publishers.