By Jeni Gearhart

2018. Here we are, on the cusp of a brand-new year. As a teacher, I tend to think of a new year with the school calendar rather than the one that begins in January. However, January is just as good of a time to make classroom changes as is September. With a new semester, it can also be a clean slate for our students—and for us.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been good about maintaining New Year’s Resolutions. Those January resolutions (to meal prep more proactively, or to go to the gym more often, or not to get behind in grading) don’t tend to happen once February rolls around. U.S. News found that 80% of new year’s resolutions fail within a month. So, if you ask me about my resolution in February, I’ll probably be eating frozen pizza. At least I’m honest!

Instead of making a vague resolution that I won’t keep, my students and I will be making one word resolutions for the semester. Unlike your typical New Year’s Resolutions, choosing one word focuses on attitude. We will focus on making small changes in how we think or act.

Last year, my One Word was Perspective:

This simple word guided the rest of my curriculum last year. In my classroom, 2017 focused on understanding perspective. We listened intentionally, and we sought to find stories that differed from ours.

We start this activity by talking about the word “Resolve” and “Resolution” After defining these in their own words, we look at dictionaries for definitions of the words. I love looking at definitions because they talk about the word origins. defines resolution as “being firmly determined about something” and notes that resolution comes from the Latin Resolvere, “to untie, to loosen, undo, settle”. I think this is so interesting. A resolution means that we are undoing or loosening something—like a poor habit.

After talking about these words, my students do a quickwrite:

  • In what ways do I want to be different this year?
  • What do I want to accomplish this year?
  • What do I want to change about myself or the world this year?


#OneWord or #OneWord2018 can be found trending on Twitter. I will usually pull up some of these and show them to my students in addition to my OneWord example. Informally, we talk about the connotations of the words chosen. We discuss why those particular words may be impactful. Students then generate a list of 5 words that demonstrate a change that they want to make in their academic or personal life.

Finally, we do my favorite part of this activity—a visual definition poster. Students define and illustrate one of their words on half sheets of computer paper. On the back, they explain why they chose their word and how this demonstrates a change or goal that they have for 2018.

Here are a few of my students’ projects from last year:


These mini posters are then hung on a wall in my classroom for the rest of the school year. My students and I are constantly reminded to keep trying to make positive change in our own lives and in the world (even on the days when we’d rather eat frozen pizza).


After all, in the Words of Kid President “The world is changed by you, it is one person filled with love . . . the world is changed by ordinary people, ordinary people filled with big love”



WVCTE is wondering . . .

  • What is your #OneWord2018?
  • What new year’s activities do you do in your classroom to start the new semester?

Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!

1 Comment

Harley Smith · January 3, 2018 at 1:52 am

I am going to do this with my classes this week! I am so excited to see what words they come up with.

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