For ‘Promise to Self’ activity you/your students will need a piece of paper to make an outline of their hand. You can also bring a template for them to work on. I’d recommend trying this activity out for yourself first, as you will be able to see what needs to be adapted/changed for the learners you are teaching.
If this activity starts a lesson, you can spend 3-5 minutes discussing the importance of keeping promises in the culture you are in: is it important to keep your word? Do you sometimes need to renegotiate a promise given to someone? How do people feel if they break a promise? How often to people make a promise to themselves, and keep it?
The answers (and therefore, length of this discussion) would depend on the students and their readiness to share any of the personal examples. Having tried this activity in South Korea and Ukraine, I can say that in both cultures there is a tendency to make sure that the promise to others is fully delivered, whereas a promise to ourselves may be broken. Another popular example here may be New Year Resolutions that often fail to be achieved.
You can now invite students to think about the things they intend/plan to do for themselves and often don’t. I would limit them to any particular topic (e.g., self care, learning English, professional development, etc.) but this of course depends on where in the course you are using the activity. Sometimes narrowing a topic down may be easier and save time. Having brainstormed that list and comparing ideas with someone else, students may have some options to choose from.
You can now ask them to turn to the Hand template and note down 3-5 ideas of what they would like to promise themselves to be done (daily, weekly, by a specific date in the future, etc.) Treat this as a draft, and don’t insist on any large and serious promises to be recorded. If time* allows, I would even ask students to work with someone else (a pair or trio) and discuss how realistic the ideas are, and if there is something that may need to be ‘broken’ into smaller pieces. As we know, having small steps on a ladder makes it easier to get to the top, whereas having the flights too wide may result in a failure (or giving up the idea).
*It is also important to ensure that what is written is not too personal, and therefore, is share-able with a peer. A lot depends on the nature of those promises of course*.
Having talked about the plans/promises with someone else, students may be ready to create the actual set (the clean copy). If time allows, and if your students are into working on some crafts, you can let them cut out their hand outline, write the promises and let 1-2 peers sign them so that the promise is ‘official’. It is interesting how making it public (even if this is shared with a classmate) may change the attitude and result of this idea. A more ‘crafty’ version may work well if this activity is done on the last day of a course/term, and the promises are related to the skills practiced during the time with this group. Having a ‘signature’ from a group mate in this case is a way to say goodbye and keep a memory of a shared experience.
Another way to approach the ‘craft’ side is to create a ‘two-sided’ postcard, so that there was more writing space on the side, and more space to leave a personal note from a peer on the other. This, however, would also turn it into a longer activity, so we need to be mindful of how much time we are ready to spend on this in a lesson/session.
As a follow up, you can offer some statements to think/talk/write about, e.g. ‘There are times when making any future plans seems to be harder, or impossible’, or ‘Having plans for future helps us live through the harder times’, etc. Students may add more statements/questions about keeping promises.
Thank you for reading, and #StandWithUkraine!
P.S. We talked about adding some ‘crafts’ to a lesson, so I will share leave this link: Creatives for Ukraine
This platform was created to amass digital art and illustrations to draw attention to the war in Ukraine. I personally like browsing through the images there as they give a sense of what is happening and how people here are fighting. Like this one below: