Teaching gratitude in the classroom is a great way to start the school year and set the tone for your classroom community culture! According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, gratitude is defined as “a feeling of appreciation or thanks.” Although it sounds relatively easy, it can often be a difficult concept for students to really grasp.
How Can You Teach Gratitude to Students?
In order to teach gratitude to students in the classroom, you must first practice this social emotional skill yourself.
When you model any behavior, it is so much more likely for our students to catch on and want to emulate us!
Beyond that, you can do a variety of things to introduce the character trait of gratitude in your classroom:
- display gratitude throughout your classroom decor
- speak with gratitude
- use specific activities
- use books and videos
Teach & Model It
Start by teaching the vocabulary. Make sure your students understand the meaning of gratitude and related words such as thankfulness, appreciation, value, recognition, and honor.
In addition to explaining these definitions, discuss why these words are important in a classroom setting.
Then, move onto modeling this trait and showing your students how to really apply it. Say “thank you” often!
Add Gratitude into your Classroom Decor
Consider adding some “grateful decor” throughout your room!
Hang posters about gratitude on the walls. Place small quotes in frequently visited spots such as the pencil sharpener or hand sanitizer station. Use visuals of people who show gratitude in your classroom to remind students who they can choose to be like.
Find several of these decor options in this Gratitude - Character Education & Social Emotional Learning resource.
Use Specific Resources & Activities
Incorporating gratitude explicitly in character education activities such as writing prompts, sorting games, and self-reflection tasks are helpful ways to transfer knowledge into long-term memory.
You can find examples of these activities and more in the Gratitude resource as well!
Use Books & Videos to Foster Gratitude
Read alouds, writing prompts, self-reflection guides, cause and effect activities are wonderful ways to ensure that your students are understanding and able to apply the topic of gratitude in the classroom.
Check out this blog post about Children’s books that teach Gratitude. Here are a few highlights:
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Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton writes this book based on her own childhood experiences. She grew up very poor in the hills of Tennessee. In the story, winter is approaching and the young girl is without a coat. Her mother makes her a patchwork coat out of rags. The girl’s peers make fun of her in the tattered coat, but she treasures it because she understands the love that her mother put into making it for her.
The Thank You Letter by Jane Cabrera
Grace is a little girl who just celebrated her birthday. She had a great party and received lots of wonderful gifts. Grace decides to write thank you letters to her family and friends for the gifts they gave her. While she writes, she decides to also write thank you letters to others. She writes to thank her dog for his perfectly waggy tail. She expresses thankfulness to the sky for being blue. Grace thanks Mr. Jones for teaching her how to read and write. Grace delivers all of her letters and is met at home by an abundance of notes from her friends, family, and neighbors thanking Grace for her love and appreciation. Her small act of kindness had huge impacts on all of those around her.
Firenze’s Light by Jessica Collaco
Firenze is a feisty little firefly. Her friends love her light, but she doesn't really think it’s so great. Firenze only sees the negatives of her bright light, like she can never play hide-and-seek. She meets a new friend whose artwork becomes so much better with the help of Firenze’s light. Firenze must decide to be grateful for and proud of her light so that she can help others.
You can read this for FREE on Kindle Unlimited!
This video explains what gratitude is & how to have an "Attitude of Gratitude". Children learn that they have the power to choose their thoughts & determine how they feel.
More Ways to Model Gratitude in the Classroom
Grateful wall- Create a special space on a wall in your classroom where students (and you!) can write short notes of gratitude towards others. Keep it fun by using colorful paper and pens or markers. Use the bulletin board letters found in the Gratitude resource for ease.
Thank you notes- Recognize when a student does something positive. Take a few seconds to publicly or privately thank them, and make sure you highlight why the action was meaningful to you. This tangible act goes a long way!
Gratitude jar- Create a new classroom routine. As students enter your classroom, have them write down one thing they are grateful for on a strip of paper and drop it into a large jar. When you have a few minutes of unstructured time, maybe as students are washing hands before lunch or packing their bags before going home, have a student come up to read a few of the notes. Start and end the day with gratitude on your and your student's minds with this idea!
Find which one of these works well for you and most encourage your students, and be consistent! As you know, consistency is key when working with students, and practicing gratitude is no different.
Teaching gratitude to students is such a powerful tool and can be used to help create a healthy classroom culture! How have you seen gratitude play a positive role with your students? I’d love to hear!
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