5 Ways to Help Students Learn Gratitude
Nov. 2, 2022 ◊ By Debbie Bagley
November is a great time to start gratitude-filled activities students will love, and that promote gratitude all year round.
Here are 5 key ways to help instill feelings of gratitude in your students:
1. Sing about gratitude
Music is powerful and an incredible way to teach. Because it can be catchy, fun, and full of actions, this joyful way can reach all children.
Here are some songs on Gratitude to try with your students
Attitude of Gratitude, by the Swinging Belles
Gratitude Attitude, by Sherry Stahl
Thankful, by the Juicebox Jukebox
If You’re Thankful and You Know It
Gratitude Attitude, by Janeen Brady
2. Read stories about gratitude
Children love seeing themselves in stories. They also enjoy making connections and learning through hearing stories. Look for wonderful children’s books about gratitude and being thankful to read to the whole group. You can use these to lead some great class discussions.
Here are just a few of the many books out there about gratitude and thankfulness. You can click the link for a read-aloud video version for centers or small groups:
Students can also write their own books and stories about gratitude and share them with the class. These can be displayed and available to read in the classroom library.
3. Teach about thankfulness
Gratitude leads to so many other good character traits … friendship, kindness, being helpful, being thoughtful, making choices that help others, sharing, including everyone – the possibilities just keep growing! An attitude of gratitude can become a classroom theme and a way of solving problems with positive energy.
This is also a great opportunity to have good manners come into play also. For example, we can share how grateful we are for those classmates who show good manners and kindness to us.
One idea you can try:
- Make a Gratitude Circle (label it something like “what goes around comes around” or ”The Golden Rule”…)
- Place it somewhere on the wall or bulletin board.
- Each day have “gratitude moments” where students can share what they are grateful for, then write it down on a pretty paper with the child’s name on it and place it in the Gratitude circle.
- Read them daily and add new cards.
Larissa Chase, Senior Curriculum Specialist at Studies Weekly, shares some wonderful ideas to teach about gratitude:
Modeling is always a powerful teaching tool. A teacher who models gratitude will see a higher percentage of student behavior that incorporates gratitude. Here are some modeling ideas:
- Establish gratitude routines and baseline expectations
- Educate kids on the health and benefits of gratitude
- Utilize movement and 5 senses to form powerful emotional connections
- Encourage “Random Acts of Kindness” (Help kids give one another a chance to feel gratitude)
- Chalk the Block and watch people enter the building reading the positive messages
- Use a gratitude journal as a powerful tool to shape attitude and thinking to be more positive
- Dedicate 2 minutes at the start of each school day for students to think about as many things as possible that they are grateful for, and observe the tone this sets for each day
- Keep thank you notes handy
- Thank your students for specific behaviors and effort. Be sincere!
Use these two videos with older students to encourage thankfulness:
Gratitude as a Learning Strategy
Kid President’s 25 Reasons to be Thankful
4. Practice gratitude
According to the Brain Balance Center, scientific research shows that gratitude actually helps raise the dopamine levels in your brain, but we all need practice incorporating an attitude of gratitude.
Have students help role play scenarios about gratitude. You can provide a simple script or divide students into small groups and let them create their own. Each group can perform their gratitude example for the class. Younger students may prefer to use puppets for their role play.
You can integrate gratitude into your Dramatic Play Center rotation, where students can dress up or use dolls, puppets, or other items to practice different scenarios expressing gratitude, such as: thanking a waitress serving you food at a restaurant, or thanking someone for help cleaning their room, or thanking a teacher for teaching them.
Another idea to help a class practice is to invite all students to watch for those who are helping to keep your classroom safe and clean. Because we are grateful for a safe learning environment, teachers can have little cards out that the students could use to write a kind thought or gratitude letter to someone they saw doing something good to help your class.
Students can also practice gratitude in their family. They can draw pictures of what Mom/Dad, siblings, grandparents do to help them and thank them. Have them always looking for ways to be grateful for helpful people and other positive things in their lives.
5. Act on your thankfulness
“The power of showing gratitude is far reaching. When a person feels and shares gratitude, they feel and share positive emotions, share good experiences and improve their own health. The effects of feeling and showing gratitude also help individuals deal with adversity and build healthy relationships.” – Harvard Health Publishing, 2021
Sandy Reed, a veteran first grade teacher shared her experience with this.
“We talked about community helpers,” she said. “We learned to be observant. And look to see who was helping, in the classroom, in the halls, in the school. One thing we did was to think about all the people in the school that helped us have good days … lunch ladies, custodians, secretaries, and art and music teachers.”
After reading books about helpers, Sandy and her class made a classroom ‘Thank you’ card, traced around the students’ hands, cut them out, and wrote everyone’s names on them. Sandy used bulletin board paper and cut it in the shape of a heart and glued all the signed hands on it. Another idea she used was to connect the hands into a paper garland. Sandy then added a fun note like, ‘Thank you for your helping hands,’ or ‘We are grateful for your helping hands.’
“Then we walked down to where they worked and sang a little ditty: ‘We thank you very much, Lunch Ladies. We thank you very much, Lunch Ladies. We thank you very much for making us our lunch. We thank you very much, Lunch Ladies!’ We presented them with the card we had made. They loved it!” Sandy said.
This is such a positive boost in the classroom atmosphere. The more we choose to think positive thoughts of gratitude, the happier we feel! There are so many ways to incorporate GRATITUDE, and encourage this attitude all year long. Watch your students thrive when they look for good!!!