New Year Questions for ESL Students

Instructor: Sarah Mills

Sarah is an educational freelance writer and has taught English and ESL in grades k-12 and college. She has a master's degree in both Literacy and TESOL.

In this lesson, teachers will learn how to use discussion questions about New Year's Eve and New Year's Day with English as a Second Language (ESL) students. A list of sample discussion questions about students' background knowledge, experiences, opinions, and memories as they relate to New Year's will be included.

Discussing New Year's

Countries all over the world celebrate the start of a new year with festivals, celebrations, and events. ESL students who are new to the United States may benefit from direct instruction about American customs and traditions related to New Year's. Since this holiday is pretty universal, students can engage in discussions about the differences and similarities in how their cultures celebrate the beginning of a new year.

You can have students choose one of these questions and write a paragraph or essay response. For example, students could write a compare-and-contrast paragraph or essay about the similarities between Chinese New Year and New Year's Day in the United States.

Pairs of students could use these questions to interview their partners about their experiences with New Year's and report their findings to the rest of the class.

Small groups can use these questions to engage in authentic discussions comparing the New Year's holiday in the United States with their native countries.

Here are some examples of discussion questions to use with students about New Year's Eve and New Year's Day:

Questions About Students' Background Knowledge

  • Why do people celebrate New Year's?
  • How do people in the United States celebrate New Year's?
  • What is a New Year's resolution?
  • What are some common New Year's resolutions?
  • What do people do at midnight on New Year's Eve?
  • What does it mean to 'watch the ball drop?'
  • What are some common foods and beverages at a typical New Year's Eve party?

Questions About Students' Experiences

  • Have you ever celebrated New Year's? If so, what did you do?
  • How is New Year's celebrated in your native country?
  • Have you ever made a New Year's resolution? If so, what was it? Did you stick to it?
  • What is your favorite New Year's memory?
  • Do you celebrate New Year's with friends or family?
  • How do you plan to celebrate New Year's this year?
  • Do you have any special New Year's traditions?

Questions About Students' Attitudes and Opinions

  • Why do you think people make New Year's resolutions?
  • What do you think will be your New Year's resolution this year?
  • Why do you think so many people fail to stick to their New Year's resolutions?
  • What do you think is the best way to celebrate New Year's Eve?
  • What do you think is the best way to celebrate New Year's Day?
  • Do you prefer to travel or stay home on New Year's?

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