By Teachers, For Teachers
Gratitude is a powerful practice that has received quite a lot of attention lately. There are some real benefits to being a person that cultivates gratitude. Some of the many benefits of gratitude that research has found include overall happiness, stronger relationships, higher self-esteem, a better outlook on school and life in general, just to name a few. Here are ten classroom activities to help you start practicing gratitude.
Have students keep their own gratitude journal. Challenge them to write down three things that they are grateful for each day. You can do this as part of your morning routine or as a quick activity for those fast finishers. If you want to make it a little more challenging for students, then ask them to expand upon what they are grateful for, and tell you why they are grateful. Allow students to share their thoughts whenever possible.
A gratitude jar is a great way for your shy students to be able to have a voice. As part of your morning routine, as soon as students walk into the door, have them write down one thing that they are grateful for that day. Then, when you have time, pass the jar around the classroom and have students take turns closing their eyes and picking random notes from the jar to read aloud.
This activity is a fun one -- the sky is the limit. There are all kinds of creative ways that students can artistically show their gratitude. The most popular way is to create a gratitude tree. This is where students trace their hands and write one thing they are grateful for on each finger of the hand they traced. Then, the hand is pinned to a fake tree called the “Gratitude Tree.” An alternative to this is to challenge students to think of one specific thing they are grateful for and draw a picture of it, then place it on the tree.
Research shows that people are more likely to value gratitude when they can see it firsthand. The best way to do this is to model it yourself. Let the students see you be grateful to others and they will know that it is a meaningful practice to you. Tell them stories about what you are grateful for, and make sure that they always hear (and see you say) thank you.
Gratitude groups are a great way for students to get to know one another on higher level. It helps build a strong classroom community, and students will find that the more they get to know one another, the more they will appreciate each other. Each week, change up the gratitude groups to include different students. When students are in the groups, encourage them to talk about what they are grateful for personally, as well as one thing they are grateful for, for each person in the group.
There are many people right in your school that do so much for others. Each week, have students choose one person that they are all collectively grateful for in the school. Then have them do something nice for that person, like write a thank-you note, bake them food (if allowed at your school), or draw them a picture. Showing gratitude in a meaningful way can really make a huge impact on the overall school community.
Sometimes just saying the words “Thank you” is enough to make someone’s day. However, if you want to really make an impact not only on the person you are grateful for, but for yourself, you can expand upon those words. For example, the next time a student does something nice for you, instead of just saying thank you, try saying, “Thank you, Jenny, for picking up the floor around your desk without being asked, that was really thoughtful of you.” By expanding your thank you into a reason why you were so grateful, it will make it that much more powerful.
Self-gratitude is often the hardest to practice, but most of us learn at young age to think of others before ourselves. While putting others first is a great quality to have, it can also hinder you from being self-aware. Teach your students self-gratitude by having them think of a few things about themselves that they are grateful for. If they feel so inclined, allow them to share their thoughts with their classmates.
Instruct students to sit down in a circle on the floor and invite each student to say one thing they are grateful for. Once each participant has had a turn, then invite them to say one thing they are grateful for about the person to their right, then their left. Each day, switch up where the students sit, so new students will get a chance to talk about each other.
At the end of your gratitude series of activities, plan a party to give thanks for all that you have accomplished. Invite all of the people that you showed gratitude towards in your school, as well as the students’ parents.
Teaching students about gratitude, as well as having them partake in daily gratitude practices, can and will change their lives.
Do you practice gratitude with your students? What types of classroom activities do you have students participate in? Please share your activities and ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you do in your classroom.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.