You don’t need an advanced degree to know that we can benefit from practicing gratitude.
As a teacher, you are in a unique and powerful position to help your students consider, think about, and practice gratitude.
What are some good ways to do that?
Let’s dive in!
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The benefits of developing gratitude (for all of us):
- improved relationships
- better health
- better sleep
- less stress
- improve empathy & reduce aggression
Ways to help students practice gratitude:
The good news is that encouraging students to develop a practice of gratitude doesn’t take a tremendous amount of time. Here are some ideas:
- be a role model — illustrate gratitude through your own actions. Thank students and initiate conversations of gratitude. Share what you are grateful for.
- an extension of that is how you interact with your colleges. Be sure to thank other teachers and staff members as well.
- encourage students to thank one another — for holding the door, sharing supplies, etc. Of course, we want that “Thank you” to be sincere. What a good opportunity to talk about tone!
- take a few minutes at the start of class for students to share something they are grateful for
- use a daily journal for students to record three things they are grateful for.
- encourage your students to expand their gratitude. They usually start with the obvious, but by encouraging students to write and reflect over an extended period of time, they will dig deeper. “I’m grateful for food” can turn into “I’m grateful to those who work in the fields to grow and harvest the food I eat.”
- students who continue to write just a simple, “I’m grateful for food” will benefit from a follow up question. After students have had time to write their gratitude statements, ask them to write a one-sentence response to the question “Why?”
- challenge students to define the abstract quality of gratitude. This can be extended into a creative writing exercise.
- provide students with a gratitude quote of the day to record and reflect upon in their journals
- consider having a “I’m Thankful for…” poster or piece of butcher paper that students can write on. This helps students see examples of what others are thankful for and helps them expand their own thoughts.
- write thank you notes — students can design cards and practice thanking others by way of a note. Perhaps you’d like your students to thank a school custodian, secretary, cafeteria worker, or another teacher.
- share stories of those who have been transformed by gratitude. You may want to share John Kralik’s inspirational book 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.
- share the challenge. Let parents and colleagues know what you’re doing in the classroom. Suggest that this is something that families and other teachers can apply.
- participate in these activities with your students. Sit down with your students and keep your own gratitude journal.
- Don’t stop! Continue challenging your students to develop gratitude — like adults, sometimes just a reminder to find something to be grateful for helps improve our point of view and attitude.
The biggest problem that comes with this is maintaining interest.
Students will often get bored with the same prompt, or they’ll feel that they’ve run out of things to be grateful for. We know our brains respond to novelty, so it is understandable that students can find this repetitive.
Here are some ways to combat this:
>> Spread the prompts out. Intersperse them with your “regular” prompts. This has the added benefit of keeping a practice of gratitude alive and practiced throughout the world.
>> Use graphic organizers like the one in this gratitude journal. Give students the opportunity to brainstorm ideas. They can use their brainstorm to help them respond to the prompt.
>> Allow for sharing. Again, this is something you won’t want to do every day, but giving your students a chance to turn and talk to a classmate about what they are grateful for can help build a classroom community. Additionally, students can get ideas from classmates for something they may not have considered.
>> Be sure students understand the value of this practice. People who practice gratitude are happier, healthier, and are better equipped to deal with stress.
Reasons I love this:
- everyone wins!
- great life-lesson that will have far-reaching benefits
- perfect school/home connection
- works as an all-school activity, all-staff activity, or just an all-classroom activity
- we all benefit from practicing gratitude!
Looking for more?
Want a ready-to-go gratitude journal for your students? You can find a print and digital gratitude journal in my shop.
This gratitude journal can help your students build a lifelong habit of thankfulness and positive thinking.
32 prompts — can be used all year long.
So, what do you think? How can you help your students practice gratitude? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
With gratitude 😉