11 Ideas for Cultivating Gratitude in the K-8 Classroom

In our work with teachers and counselors around the United States, we are in a unique position to see what trends and common issues face schools.

yc_gratOne particularly strong trend is an emphasis on social and emotional learning (SEL) to help students to succeed in a complex and rapidly changing world. This is no surprise to teachers. They know that the time spent in building classroom community and social/emotional skills pays handsomely in positive attitudes and greater classroom productivity.

A growing body of research validates these teachers’ years of experience, demonstrating that developing students’ social and emotional competence is essential for both academic and life success. It’s shown that SEL positively affects the process of teaching and learning, addresses issues like bullying and discipline, improves school climate, and makes a positive difference in the lives of children and youth.

“So, how do we fit SEL lessons into a packed curriculum?” educators often ask.

A year ago, Lynea and another experienced counselor, Caroline Jones, used CASEL’s research to review and distill their most effective SEL activities from their combined 60+ years of counseling experience into our newest course, Thrive! Social/Emotional Learning for Academic and Life Success.

I Can Be Grateful

An important part of the Thrive! curriculum is developing gratitude. Studies show that doing so can help maintain a more positive mood, contribute to greater emotional well-being, relieve stress and increase academic performance.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, here are 11 quick and easy ways to help nurture a sense of gratitude to nourish them long after “gratitude season” is over. Give one or more a whirl – and be sure to let us know how it goes by sharing your class’ experience in the comments!

  1. Grate-full-ness Moments
    Have students share things for which they are grateful or something specific a classmate has done that was helpful, kind, thoughtful, etc. Sprinkle these moments throughout the day.
  2. Gratitude Journals
    Have one available for the whole class or individual ones for the students.
  3. Gratitude Wall
    Devote bulletin board or wall space for students to write their comments of gratitude.
  4. Gratitude Placemats
    Have students decorate their own paper placemats for a class party with things like quotes, synonyms, quality values, gratitude statements and pictures.
  5. Gratitude Notes
    Have students write notes of appreciation to others in class and around the school, including bus drivers, school board members, support staff, teachers, subs, other students, etc.
  6. “Diamond” Words
    Taking after Robert Bender’s Toads and Diamonds – a retelling of the the French fairy tale “The Fairies” – have students make individual mail pockets to receive gratitude notes from each other.
  7. Gratitude Garland
    Write thank you sentences on strips of construction paper and staple into a garland. Some schools start the garland at the office and wrap throughout the whole building. Others might do it in their building’s wings or just classrooms.
  8. Gratitude Quotes
    Have students find quotes about being grateful or write their own. You can also supply some quotes.
  9. Gratitude Doodling
    Have students draw something or someone for whom they are grateful. They can also use free-form doodling and share what their doodle means at a class meeting.
  10. Gratitude Ribbon Game
    Get a large spool of ribbon and give it to a student in the first row who keeps hold of the ribbon but passes the spool to the next person. This should continue until every student is holding onto a piece of the ribbon. Then use an object with a hole in it and give it to the student with the first piece of ribbon. As you play music, the students should pass the object along. When the music stops, whoever is holding the object has to give a compliment to the person sitting to their left. If time, continue playing until every student has been the recipient of a compliment.
  11. Gratitude Dance
    Show the “Gratitude Dance” on YouTube and have the students dance along. If they get excited about this, they can video themselves at various places around the school doing the gratitude dance. This video can be shared at class meetings or an assembly.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!