Expressing appreciation is a great way to boost morale in the classroom. Try different lessons, tools, and strategies to encourage thankfulness among students and help them extend it past the classroom. Teaching gratitude is simple, and we can show you how!
Simple and Effective Ways to Teach Gratitude in the Classroom
Did you know gratitude is directly linked to a more positive attitude about school? According to a study from Berkeley, gratitude increases happiness, creates stronger relationships, and improves physical health!
Think about it! When you express gratitude or receive appreciation from someone, it makes your heart soar! Young children thrive on positive affirmations, and gratitude is one more way to make someone feel good. Instead of neglecting to tell someone we appreciate what they did, make it part of everyday practice.
In this post, you’ll learn why gratitude is so important in the lives of students, which challenges face young children, and how to overcome those challenges. You will gain information on how to implement gratitude in the classroom and how it can be translated into everyday life. You will also gain helpful resources to make implementing these strategies simple!
Table of Contents
- Simple and Effective Ways to Teach Gratitude in the Classroom
- Tips to Encourage Gratitude in the Classroom
- Gratitude Beyond the Classroom
- Gratitude With a Purpose
- Resources to Help with Teaching Gratitude
- More Gratitude Ideas for the Classroom
Why Gratitude Matters for K-2 Students
Incorporating gratitude exercises into your daily classroom routine and curriculum can help students build a strong foundation for social and emotional development. You can introduce age-appropriate activities and have discussions about gratitude to nurture these important skills and values in young learners.
It encourages them to express positive emotions like appreciation, kindness, and empathy, which are essential for building healthy relationships with peers and adults.
Fostering gratitude instills a positive attitude in children. When they learn to focus on what they are thankful for, they are more likely to have a cheerful and optimistic outlook, even in the face of challenges. Additionally, it is linked to improved mental well-being, which will help kids learn to manage and cope with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions in the future.
Also, gratitude can boost self-esteem by helping children feel appreciated. When they receive acknowledgment and gratitude from others, it strengthens their self-image.
Gratitude encourages empathy by making children aware of the actions and kindness of others. This leads kids to think of the feelings and needs of their peers, which will help them build friendships. Kids who learn to be grateful are more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors like sharing, helping, and showing kindness to others.
Gratitude can also have academic benefits. When children have a positive attitude and feel appreciated, they may be more motivated to engage in learning activities, participate in class, and take pride in their achievements.
So when students do something that you appreciate, give them words of thanks. Through this modeling, children will learn from your actions and begin doing the same. The simple words of gratitude boost their confidence and make them want to spread kindness.
Challenges and Solutions
Gratitude doesn’t come easily to everyone; it takes patience, practice, and time. One challenge is that kids don’t know how to express it or simply don’t want to. They aren’t in the habit of saying thank you or going out of their way to show gratefulness to adults or peers, or perhaps, the act of it feels uncomfortable.
Another challenge is time! We already cram so much into our classroom schedule that adding one more task or to-do isn’t always feasible. Finding time to weave gratitude practice into our day can lead to positive results making this a worthwhile endeavour.
Make it a daily part of your routine to share one thing students are thankful for. Have them think of something simple that happened to them within the last week or even that day, and share that with the class!
The wonderful thing about both of these challenges is that through practice, gratitude can begin to come naturally.
Tips to Encourage Gratitude in the Classroom
Create a Gratitude Journal
A gratitude journal is a fabulous way for kids to quickly write down things they are grateful for. All you need is a composition notebook or some loose paper stapled together. Place the gratitude journals in a place students will see every day and invite them to write down 2 or 3 things they are grateful for each day.
Simple prompts to help them:
- What are three things you are grateful for today?
- What is your favorite thing about your school?
- Name a friend and describe what makes them special.
- Write down 5 things you love eating.
- What accomplishment are you proud of?
- Describe a time someone was kind to you.
- What is your favorite time of day?
Be sure to grab the FREE Gratitude Journal to use with your students. This is a simple way to record things kids are grateful for each day in a cute way.
Click the image below to grab a copy.
Incorporate Gratitude into the Morning Routine
During your Circle Time or morning meetings, set aside time to share bits of gratitude. Take ten minutes to go around the room and share what each child is thankful for. If you don’t have time to do this every day, pick one day a week to do it. Once students get into the practice of sharing, it goes pretty quickly.
Sharing what they are grateful for in a group setting allows them to see what others are thankful for. They realize everyone has bits and pieces of their day that make them smile. This further reinforces the idea that we should be kind to everyone.
If you can’t share verbally, you could have each child write or draw what they are thankful for. This allows them to jot it down, and you can even read them out quickly at some point during the day. They can also be anonymous!
Storytelling with Gratitude
Books and stories are always great ways to show students how to act in social settings. The books listed below can easily be added to your daily lessons.
Teaching gratitude doesn’t have to be modeling and stating the facts; it can be fun with sweet stories and examples from characters. You’ll also be able to use the stories as a reference in the future!
- 100 Ways to Be Thankful by Lisa M. Gerry – This book by National Geographic is packed with ideas for gratefulness and fun prompts kids can use in their writing. Challenge the class to brainstorm their own list of 100!
- Thankful by Eileen Spinelli – This sweet story will show kids how important it is to be thankful for everyday blessings. Some are as simple as waking up each day!
- The Thankful Book by Todd Parr – Not only is this a wonderful book for Thanksgiving but for everyday life! The pictures are eye-catching as well.
Kids learn by what they see. If they see teachers and adults expressing their gratitude toward one another, they are more than likely going to copy that behavior over time. Any time someone holds the door for you or brings you a treat, be sure to say thank you. As your class witnesses this, they will add it to their daily actions, too!
Simple ways for you to model gratitude each day:
- Write “Thank You!” notes.
- Thank teachers and students when they hold the door or do something helpful.
- Share appreciation for things students and teachers have done in front of the class.
- Verbally thank students for listening to instructions or following the rules.
Use Transition Times to Express Gratitude
There are times in the day when kids are waiting in line or sitting in their seats, getting ready for the next activity. Instead of sitting or standing in silence, use a class routine to share gratitude around the room.
Offer up the room to anyone who wants to share, and more than likely, more kids will begin participating over time. This is the perfect solution for anyone who says there isn’t enough time in the day.
Ways to encourage gratitude during transitions:
- While standing in line to walk down the hall, have students share a one-word response to a one-word question about what they are grateful for. For example, you say, “Food,” and they respond with “Pizza.”
- At the end of a work period, have students express something that went well or they enjoyed. This practice will help them self-reflect and make positive choices in the future.
- Use the end of the day or extra time to share something that made students feel appreciated that day. Maybe someone loaned them a crayon without being asked or thanked them for playing with them at recess.
Themed Days or Weeks
Assign certain days of the week or weeks of the month to be gratitude-themed. Remind students of these days and go above and beyond with gratitude on those designated days. Make it fun with posters, books, and plenty of kind words. Make sure to communicate these ideas home to families and let them get in on the fun!
Try these ideas:
- Written Appreciation Day – Invite students to write letters or notes to peers or loved ones to show appreciation.
- Vocal Gratitude Day – Students can practice verbalizing their appreciation for others in the classroom and at home.
- Gratitude Story Day – Have kids share an event from their lives they are grateful for. Allow them to bring a picture to help tell the story. Use these to decorate the walls or bulletin boards.
- Songs about Gratitude – Kids can come to school with a song or two they find that shows appreciation or one they are thankful for. Share with the class during a whole group lesson.
- Gratitude Treats – Ask kids to bring a treat or small token for someone they are thankful for.
Make gratitude a challenge. It can be difficult to remember sometimes, so make it fun! Kids love a challenge, and many are pretty competitive. Using challenges will make it more likely they will add these practices to their everyday lives over time.
These challenges are sure to encourage thankfulness!
- Write down three things you are thankful for from the past week.
- Tell three people how much you appreciate them today.
- Write a thank you note to a friend and deliver it personally.
- Help your classmates set up a gratitude station for the room.
- Create a token of appreciation for someone in your life.
Be sure to download the FREE calendar at the end of this post to try it out. The kids will enjoy having a fun challenge in the classroom that also boosts morale!
Gratitude Beyond the Classroom
Fostering gratitude in and out of the classroom builds relationships and the community in which we live. When the people around us show appreciation for what we do, and we express gratitude as well, there’s a positive give and take. That positivity adds to a meaningful relationship among peers, coworkers, families, friends, and every other interaction!
As much as you can, encourage families and coworkers to express gratitude alongside the kids. As the kindness spreads throughout the community, you will see a noticeable change in the demeanor of the students, staff, and parents!
Gratitude With a Purpose
Teaching gratitude to young students in kindergarten through second grade is a great way to set them up with tools for kindness in the future. New generations will appreciate these skills as they encounter real-world and difficult tasks.
Start fostering gratitude in your classrooms to not only motivate students to work hard but to create a better future for our world. Starting them out young will only help in the long run.
“No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.” – Alfred North Whitehead
Resources to Help with Teaching Gratitude
Free Gratitude Calendar
Try this gratitude calendar in your classroom with this FREE printable resource! Use it to start each morning or to wrap up every day. It’s a great reminder to be grateful for even the littlest of things.
Click the image below to grab a copy.
SEL Respect Unit
Try the SEL Unit on Respect by Proud to be Primary. It includes Respect and Gratitude Activities that are perfect for grades K-2. You’ll find five different lessons about respect, honesty, gratitude, and appreciation!
If you like this resource, you’ll love these Empathy Book Companions. There are more books you can incorporate into your daily lessons to build community among students.
Our Kindness Unit for Grades 3-5 also touches on gratitude and would be a wonderful resource to use. Any chance we get as teachers to teach gratitude is a stepping stone for wonderful future communities.
More Gratitude Ideas for the Classroom
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