“Gratitude is an emotion that grounds us and is a great way to balance out the negative mindset that uncertainty engenders,” said Dr. Guy Winch, the author of the book, Emotional First Aid. When you express gratitude, your brain releases chemicals called dopamine and serotonin, which make you feel happier and relieve stress. Showing gratitude involves shifting your focus from the things you don’t have to the things you do have, and relies on the positive emotions surrounding those things.
- Ask students who some of their favorite people are (teachers, friends, relatives) and have them think about why those people are important to them. Create a list on the board from their responses. Model for the class some people you are grateful for and why.
- Have students choose 3-5 people and write down one reason they are grateful for each person.
- Have students read the article, “Gratitude Can Shape Your Perspective” (Well-Being, Week 28). Have students underline the word gratitude and come up with a definition for the word with a partner. Discuss each pair’s definition as a class and write down your final definition on the board.
- Give each student the graphic organizer Alphabet of Gratitude, and explain they will have five minutes to write as many things that they are grateful for as they can that start with each letter of the alphabet. The goal is to think of things they are grateful for that other people might not have on their lists.
- Split the class into smaller groups and have a volunteer from each group read their list. While one person is reading their list, everyone else needs to be looking at their own list. If something on their list is said, they need to put a check by it.
- Have the class discuss the following questions:
- Can you be grateful for the same things as others? (Yes)
- Can you be grateful for different things than others? (Yes)
- How does gratitude make you feel? (Answers will vary)
- How does experience affect what you’re grateful for? (Answers will vary)
- What did you learn from this activity? (Answers could include: there are so many things to be grateful for; I can find things to be grateful for everywhere; other people are grateful too, etc.)
- Invite students to think of someone at the school who might need to hear that people are grateful for them. Examples might include: janitors, lunch workers, volunteers, librarians, recess aides, or front office staff. Have students write letters of gratitude to these people and deliver their letters at the end of class.
- Invite students to use the last five pages of their interactive notebooks as a gratitude journal. As a self-start or in transition times, have students write down one thing they are grateful for. Repeat this exercise for several days in a month.
- Ask students to write three things they are grateful for each day for the next week or two and then analyze how their thoughts have shifted.
Compare and contrast your feelings when expressing gratitude with your feelings when you are stressed or anxious. Is there something you are more grateful for now than in the past?
Write a note of gratitude to someone you care about today.
- Graphic organizer Alphabet of Gratitude
- Interactive Notebooks