Every teacher knows all too well these past few years that acting grateful and thankful in the classroom can seem like a daunting learned skill some days. Especially when the holiday jitters rolled in during the month of November, it can be difficult to ground excited students.
Intentionally incorporating gratitude in the classroom goes hand-in-hand with the Thanksgiving season, and doing so can easily become part of your daily routine even after the holidays.
Here are five of my favorite ways to incorporate gratitude and a culture of kindness into the classroom:
1. Gratitude Chain: Let’s start out this idea list with a freebie! There’s something about making paper chains at any age that ups the engagement and buy-in from students. Start a daily habit of having your students write down one thing that they are grateful/thankful for in their lives and add it to a class chain. See how long it gets by a certain date (like Thanksgiving,) and display it in your classroom and a constant reminder of gratitude. Click here to get the resource for free!
2. Star Student Bags: This simple activity is perfect for a class that needs extra practice showing gratitude for each other. All this takes is a pack of paper bags and strips of paper. You could make this a weekly practice or do it every day in a month or so span leading up to the holidays or an occasion. Before starting the routine, the students have the opportunity to decorate their bags and individualize them with their names.
Now, randomly select a student to be the Star Student of the day. Every student (including the chosen one) writes one compliment about that student. (And teaching third grade, I told them it couldn’t be about looks or something they owned.) Students place the strip of paper in the Star Student’s bag to take home and use as a pick-me-up whenever they need it!
3. Gratitude Journal: This may be my favorite activity on the list. It allows students to reflect on their own lives and practice writing skills while answering journal entries about individual gratitude. You can do this with a daily prompt you create with an old-fashioned notebook, or you can take it digital. I loved using these once a day as a writing center. You can get eight prompts for free here, or you can download the full pack of fifty prompts here. It’s a great bell ringer idea for older students, too!
4. Letter Writing Center: I am all for letting students have some choices during literacy time, and inserting a letter writing option into that time is as easy as putting out a stack of lined paper. Encourage students to write letters to others in the school–teachers, staff members, or friends–and deliver it! Students can write “thank you” notes to others or simply write a letter and include a reason they are grateful for them. I usually offered to put the letters in teachers’ mailboxes to streamline the process a bit.
5. Tell Me Something Good: Okay, I take back my previous statement–this is my favorite idea on the list. Why? It uses no physical materials and takes a minute to insert into your daily classroom routine. Every morning meeting, my students would respond to the prompt “Tell me something good.” Sometimes I had them turn and talk to a partner, and sometimes they shared it with the entire class. Students had to respond to this prompt with something good that has happened to them or something they’re excited about. “Nothing” was never an option. After awhile, it became second nature for students to acknowledge that they were grateful for the weather, what they were having for lunch, or something a friend had said to them recently. It’s the perfect example that practicing gratitude is mindfulness.
These are just five of the countless simple ways that you can incorporate gratitude into your classroom. What is your favorite that isn’t on this list? Which can you see fitting into your classroom routine?