Activities & Lessons

12 Classroom New Year's Activities for Students

12 Min Read
New Years Activities Hero

Fireworks light up the sky. Bells ring. Horns blare. Revelers sing "Auld Lang Syne." It must be midnight on the first day of the New Year.

Many people see the New Year as an opportunity for a fresh start. They make resolutions to break bad habits, try new things, accomplish goals, and become better versions of themselves. Our New Year's activities for students allow them to have some fun and do a little self-reflecting while learning about the holiday. Which class activity will your students try?

New Year's Classroom Activities

Ring in the New Year with language arts, science, math, and social studies hands-on projects your students will love. Short on time? No problem! Just print one of our "New Year's activities for students" pdfs and pass them out. Be sure to check out our New Year's bulletin board ideas, our Chinese New Year activities, and our winter holiday games and crafts, too!

1. Roll a New Year’s Story

Challenge students to write a holiday tale using our “Roll a New Year’s Story” activity sheet. Three rolls of a die determine the story's main character, setting, and problem. Will the story be about an angry chauffeur in Times Square just as time starts moving backward at 11:59? Or will it be about a partygoer who escapes to an apartment rooftop after a confetti machine glitch threatens to cover the whole city in colorful strips of paper? There are so many silly story lines! Consider writing the story together as a class if you teach younger grades. Older students can partner up and take turns writing each line of the story. Finally, give students the choice of how they want to share their creations, whether it's by:

  • Reading the story aloud to the class
  • Acting out the story
  • Putting on a puppet show (To make the puppets, they could simply draw the characters, cut them out, and glue a popsicle stick to the backs.)
  • Creating a comic strip

2. This Year, I Will...

Tell students that people have been making New Year’s resolutions for thousands of years. The ancient Babylonians are said to be the first to make New Year’s resolutions. Some 4,000 years ago, they would promise the gods to pay off their debts and return borrowed farm equipment. Today, our resolutions are often rooted in self-improvement. We vow to get healthy, save more money, break bad habits, learn a new skill, and the like. Get students thinking about the resolutions they would like to make with our "New Year's Goals" printable, which asks kids to reflect on:

  • One thing they would like to try
  • One thing they want to become better at
  • One bad habit they would like to break
  • One way that they could be kinder

After students complete the organizer, ask: which resolution do you think will be hardest to keep? Why? What steps can you take to ensure you stick to your goals?

3. Wealth, Good Luck, and Long Life

How do people around the world ring in the New Year? Have your students do some research to find out. They can follow these steps:

  1. Choose at least five countries and research their New Year's Eve traditions.
  2. Take notes on how people in each country celebrate New Year’s Eve. Do they eat a particular food? (People in Spain eat 12 grapes at midnight to ensure 12 lucky months ahead). Do they follow a ritual or take certain actions? ( In the Philippines, some bang pots and pans to scare away evil spirits).
  3. Explain the meaning behind the foods they eat or the actions they take. Are they hoping for wealth, good luck, a long life, or a fresh start?

Invite students to report their findings to the class. Keep track of the countries students learned about by placing a push pin on each one on a world map. You can do this on a digital map, too. Finally, have students write a paragraph comparing and contrasting New Year’s traditions in two countries. Or, have them compare their family's traditions with those of kids in another country.

4. Drop the Ball!

On nearly every New Year's Eve since 1907, crowds have gathered in Times Square to watch the ball drop at midnight. Back in the day, it took six men to lower the 700-pound ball made of iron and wood down a flagpole, using a pulley. Today, the crystal-covered ball weighs nearly 12,000 pounds and a computer system controls the drop.

Challenge students to design their own pulley to stage a ball drop. Tell students that a pulley is made of at least one wheel and some rope. This simple machine makes it easier to lift a heavy object. Have students watch a video to learn more about the science behind how pulleys work. Ask: Can you think of some everyday pulleys? (elevators, blinds, theater curtains, flag poles)

Construct a Pulley

Materials: Styrofoam ball, paint, glue, tape, strips of colorful fabric or paper, pipe cleaners, long piece of ribbon, empty ribbon spool, small dowel or a chopstick

  1. Decorate the ball. Paint it, cover it with pipe cleaners, or glue fabric or colorful strips of paper all over the outside. Have more creative ways to decorate the ball? Go for it!
  2. Glue or tape one end of the long ribbon to the top of the ball. You can also use a push pin to secure it in place.
  3. Tape the other end of the long ribbon to the empty ribbon spool, then wrap the ribbon around the spool.
  4. Slide the ribbon spool onto the dowel or chopstick.
  5. Find a place to operate the pulley. A chair with slats could work, or have classmates hold either end of the dowel as you turn the spool.

For more science fun, try our 90-second experiments using common household ingredients. The experiments "Static Disco" (it's like a spooky dance party) and "Milk Soap Rainbow" (it's reminiscent of fireworks) seem particularly in keeping with New Year celebrations.

New Years Ball Pulley

5. Craft Your Own Glasses

Tell students that glasses in the numerical shape of the coming year were patented by Richard Sclafani and Peter Cicero in 1990. You know, the ones that look like this 2👀1. Who needs to buy novelty glasses for the New Year when students can design their own? Challenge students to create festive spectacles using colorful pipe cleaners, glue, and an old pair of glasses or a cheap plastic pair, with the lenses popped out.

Design New Year's Glasses

  1. Have an adult pop the lenses out of an old or cheap pair of glasses.
  2. Take a pipe cleaner and wind it around the frames to cover them. The pipe cleaners will stay in place without any glue.
  3. Keep using pipe cleaners to wind around the frames until every inch of the frames is covered.
  4. Put your own style on the glasses. You might want to wind a different color pipe cleaner around the sides, letting them stick out in bursts to approximate fireworks. See the photo below for an example. You could also use pipe cleaners to form the year—2022 for example—and glue them to the top of the frames. Get creative.
  5. Now you've got snazzy glasses to wear as you ring in the New Year!

6. Make Some Noise!

You've just got to make some noise on New Year's Eve. It's a tradition. Depending on where you live, you might hear church bells ring, fireworks crackle across the sky, dishes smash, pots bang, and noisemakers toot. Get your students in on the fun by having them create their own noisemakers.

If you're teaching younger students, you might want to have them predict which noisemaker would be the loudest based on the materials used. Then have them put their predictions to the test.

Create a Noisemaker

Materials: Clean plastic bottle (about 17 ounces) with top, acrylic paint, glitter, ribbons, scissors, rice, dried beans, popcorn kernels, pebbles, pennies

  1. Squirt about 3 tablespoons of paint into a 17-ounce plastic bottle. Put on the cap, then shake and turn the bottle to coat the inside.
  2. Remove the cap, place the bottle on its side, and let it dry overnight.
  3. Fill the bottle about one-third of the way with rice, dried beans, popcorn kernels, pebbles, pennies, or a mix of two or more items.
  4. Put the cap on the bottle tightly.
  5. Tie colorful ribbons around the neck of the bottle.
  6. Make some noise!

7. Make a Wish

Tell students that among the tons of confetti falling on Times Square on New Year's Eve are handwritten and digitally printed wishes from people around the world. Your students' wishes could be included, too. Have them write a sentence describing a personal goal, what the New Year means to them, or a wish for their loved ones or for the world. Here's how to get their wish printed on the confetti that will rain down on Times Square:

  • Go in person to a mobile Wishing Wall in New York City
  • Fill out the online Wishing Wall form
  • Post the wish on Twitter or Instagram using #ConfettiWish

For some in-class fun, have students cut up colorful pieces of paper and write out New Year's wishes for their classmates. Hold a countdown, toss the confetti, and let students gather up the wishes.

Hold a discussion. Ask: Of the wishes you collected, which do you most hope will come true? Why? Which do you think a classmate, friend, caregiver, or family member would appreciate? Share it with them when you get the chance.

8. The Year in Numbers

Invite students to explore the upcoming year as a number. Is the new year odd or even? What number do you get if you add 100 to the year? What if you subtract 100? How many thousands, hundreds, tens, and ones make up the new year? Provide students a copy of the printable “New Year's Math” to complete these and other activities. Review their work as a class and invite students to explain how they got their answers. Finally, challenge students to create a visual representation of the year using base-ten blocks, tallies, counters, a graph, number sentence, or drawings.

9. Countdown to Midnight

This activity is for younger students. Ask: When does the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve usually begin? (10 seconds to midnight) Set a timer for 10 seconds. If you can, display the timer so the whole class can see it. Tell students they are going to count down from 10 to 1 as the timer counts down. Try it a few times. Then, tell students to partner up and make a list of things they think can be done in 10 seconds. (i.e., write your name, draw a flower, line up, separate into groups) Invite students to share their ideas. Have students predict which activities can be completed in 10 seconds with a thumbs up, and which cannot be with a thumbs down. Test out students’ ideas using the timer.

Give students practice calculating elapsed time using a digital or analog clock. Set the clock to various times, and each time ask: How much longer until midnight? Be sure to give students the opportunity to calculate hours, minutes, and seconds.

10. Word Play

What do you get when you put sugar on your pillow on New Year’s Eve? Challenge students to unscramble the words in our "New Year's Word Scramble" to get the punch line. To extend the activity, have students use the words to play "Continue the Story." Separate students into groups of five or fewer. Tell them each group is going to construct a story using all 10 of the unscrambled words. The first student starts the story with word #1 (year), the second student continues the story using word #2 (ball), and the last student will end the story with word #10 (Times Square).

Students can also continue the word play by creating their own word scramble with a different theme for a friend to solve. They might choose a winter theme like winter sports, winter comfort foods, or winter celebrations around the world. If they'd like to try a holiday-themed word scramble, they can choose one from our "Monthly Calendar Themes" blog.

11. Create a New Year’s Playlist

Challenge your high school students to create a New Year’s playlist that captures a mood. The mood might be inspirational, reflective, hopeful, therapeutic, celebratory, or it might convey the hope for a fresh start.

Tell students the list must include at least 10 songs. Have them write a paragraph explaining how the songs in the playlist reflect the mood. Remind students to give the playlist a title. Finally, invite students to share their playlists with classmates. Can their classmates identify the mood they were aiming for?

12. That's Debatable!

New Year's resolutions are easy to make but difficult to keep. Start a class discussion. Ask: What is a resolution? What resolution have you made? Did you keep it? Why or why not?

Tell students the question they are going to debate: Are New Year's resolutions worth making? Ask students who answer "yes" to stand on the left side of the classroom, and those who answer "no" on the right. "Undecided" students should stand in the middle. Invite students to explain their viewpoint. Students who are convinced by opposing arguments can change positions. Be sure to have them explain what convinced them.

If you're teaching online, pose the debate question using an online poll tool like Kahoot! As an extension, have students poll up to 20 people on the debate question and graph their results. Finally, challenge students to write an article with one of the following titles: "5 Reasons New Year's Resolutions Are Worth Making" or "5 Reasons You Should Stop Making New Year's Resolutions."

More New Year's Fun

How does your class say goodbye to the old year and hello to the new one? We'd love to hear from you! Tell us about your New Year's classroom activities and lesson plans, or if you tried any of our activities, let us know how they worked out. Connect with us on Twitter (@HMHCo) or email us at Shaped@hmhco.com.

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