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Transforming Resolutions into Habits: How to Teach Your Students to Build Lasting Change in the New Year

I am sure you have already seen a large amount of new year, new me posts through social media. We know it happens every year, and we also know that by February or March, the majority of people have already given up. This is not due to the fact that people don't want to succeed in completing their resolutions. Simply put, it is because it is a goal based on motivation to complete. What happens when motivation is no longer the driving force? Consistency plummets. So instead, let's teach our students how to build habits.


Habits are not something that we are hard-wired to build. Sometimes, we create habits unknowingly, and other times, we feel like we try to develop habits to no avail, and we are adults. I often have to remind myself that my ability to do things now as an adult is not the same as my ability to do that exact same thing when I was in sixth grade. Many of us did not learn how to build effective habits until we were adults, and heck, we still struggle with it. Most of our students have never explicitly been taught how to build habits or in the reverse, eliminate ineffective ones. To put this in perspective, we can all remember our parents teaching us how to brush our teeth. They put us in front of the mirror and showed us how to properly brush our teeth because brushing our teeth is important, so why wouldn't we teach them how to build habits?

To put this in perspective, we can all remember our parents teaching us how to brush our teeth. They put us in front of the mirror and showed us how to properly brush our teeth because brushing our teeth is important, so why wouldn't we teach them how to build habits?

How can we do that? Maybe you have never thought about it, and that is okay. I honestly didn't until half-way through last year when I was at a loss for why my students struggled to turn work in on time, stay organized, and manage their time. It was about this time that my brother introduced me to the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, and I realized I had never thought about how you actually, intentionally form a habit. In this book, he breaks down habit formation into four laws cue, craving, response, and reward. Noting steps for each law that leads to building effective habits, but also eliminating ineffective ones. If you have never read this book, I would suggest you get it in whatever format paper, digital or audiobook. Realistically, have we all developed habits without a step-by-step tutorial....obviously. That doesn't mean that we couldn't benefit from a more efficient way.


When we came back from the new year, I decided that I would explicitly teach my students how to develop and build effective habits centered around being a good learner. Our focus was on outside of the classroom because I already have systems in place inside the classroom.


The Lesson:

My students and I talked about what habits were, habits of good learners, and identified habits that we currently have through a habit scorecard seen below.


The idea of this is to point and call the habits that they already have and identify if they are positive, negative, or neutral.


After, we discussed the four steps of building effective habits. This is where students wrote their habit contract identifying what they were going to implement to practice math each day. (The goal was for the time to stay roughly between 10-15 min)


We start habit tracking Monday, and as a way to motivate my students I am using an in-class habit tracker. To do this I am cutting out the word ATOMIC on posterboard, and each day they complete their habit they get to put a stamp on the letter. We will start with A, and when it fills up, we will have a class reward. (I am trying to keep them free!)


You can find the full activity below!



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