Ringing in the New Year with One Little Word


The words “New Year’s Resolution” make me cringe. They evoke images of crowded gyms in January (at least in pre-covid times) that empty out by the end of February. They inspire some to give up sugar, lose weight, accomplish more in a day and the list goes on. Like the phrase, “New Year, New You'' resolutions suggest that one’s' life needs fixing. They are self or “I” focused and center on the ego. And they are binary in nature; one either does or does not do something.

After many failed attempts at keeping New Year’s Resolutions, I abandoned the idea in favor of selecting One Little Word. The idea, first coined by Ali Edwards, represents an intention that one hopes to manifest during the coming year. During her special New Year’s Day yoga class, my amazing yoga teacher and friend, Dr. Ann Saffi Biasseti explained that unlike resolutions, intentions are holistic and collectively focused. Bringing them into our lives serves our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.

Selecting My One Little Word for 2021

My One Little Words of the past, resilience (2019), and create (2020) have served as mantras that empowered me to stay grounded in my truth especially when life became chaotic and uncertain. In the weeks leading up to the new year, I didn’t feel quite ready to let go of “create”. Then Ann said something that resonated. As she explained, while it is tempting to cast off our 2020 intentions, we may be better served by moving towards the lessons we’ve learned this year.

I reflected on the ways that “create” shaped my year. I grew as a writer, I advocated for a teaching position that I love and I challenge my fixed mindset about DIY projects by creating beautiful spaces in my home. As I continued to reflect on the year, the word, “become” came to me. So, in 2021, I will strive to move more deeply into my identities as a writer, a compassionate teacher, a loving and supportive mother and partner, while staying open to whatever other opportunities arise this year. A few are pictured below.


Helping my Students Select their One Little Words

This morning, I greeted my fifth graders with a boisterous “Happy New Year” followed by 20 minutes of writing time during which I encouraged them to explore where they find joy in their lives. At the conclusion of writing time, students reread their entries and considered what they wanted to bring into their lives this year. We brainstormed some words that represent their wishes and students created brilliant representations of their word for the year.

One students represenation of her word.
Another student's one little word.

Do you have a word for this year? Have you tried helping your students find their words? If so, please share! I’d love to hear about it!

4 thoughts on “Ringing in the New Year with One Little Word”

  1. My OLW is trust. Yesterday, our first day back, my 6th graders chose their words. Even though we’ve only met online, I was excited to share the process and see the words they chose.

  2. Wonderful! That’s a great word choice, and I love seeing what your students came up with. I have been having my eighth graders choose their OLW for several years now. This year, I am having all my students (sixth, seventh, and eighth) do it. We are going to share them, along with posters illustrating them, in our Zoom meeting on Friday. I have had some interesting choices over the year. My favorite was the kid who chose Non Sequitur – it had been a vocabulary word from something we’d read. Probably pretty accurate for some middle schoolers’ inner lives! 🙂 Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

  3. I can relate to what you said about not wanting to let go of last year’s word. To me, that’s a sign that the word really became a part of who I am. I’ve internalized it, experienced the ways my life has been richer over the past year for having focused on it. It’s not something I could ever stop going forward. (My word last year was dare.) Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. My third graders had a word for the first semester and when we go back next week will have the chance to keep or change it. We have three way conferences so that will be a good talking point with the parents.

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