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Six Classroom Activities to Nurture Gratitude

EducationWorld is pleased to present this article contributed by Aimee Hosler. Passionate about education, Hosler is a writer for and a mother of two.

Image: Public domain, Pixabay

Character building is just as critical to students’ growth and development as literacy or math, and educators are in a great position to nurture positive character, one trait at a time. Encouraging kids to be thankful for what they have is a positive message that will serve them well their whole lives. What better time of year to explore gratitude than November, the official season of thanks?

Here are a few fun, creative activities that can help instill a sense of gratitude in your students this Thanksgiving season and all year long.

Garland of Gratitude
This simple craft can be adapted in a number of ways. Just extend string across a portion of the wall or along the edge of students’ desks (clothesline style) and provide students with a few clothespins. Ask students to write down one thing for which they are thankful on each of several pieces of colored cardstock, which could be decorated or cut to look like leaves and pumpkins. Use a clothespin to attach each blessing to the string, forming a garland. You can create a community garland, or help students create individual ones to share with their families.

Postcards of Thanks
This activity is an excellent way to nurture gratitude and other important skills, especially among younger students. Ask students to choose at least one person in their lives for whom they are thankful. Provide cardstock and craft supplies and show them how to design a postcard, complete with a note of gratitude for the recipient. This activity nurtures early literacy and fine motor development. It also reinforces other life skills, such as addressing and mailing letters.

Joy in a Jar
This is a simple but ingenious way to count down to Turkey Day, and all you need is a jar and some paper scraps. You may have one community classroom jar, or have each child keep his or her own jar to be taken home for the holidays. Each day, ask students to write down one thing for which they are thankful and place it in the jar. On Thanksgiving, students can share the notes with their families, or—if it is a community project—teachers can read submissions aloud during the last day before Thanksgiving break.

Thanksgiving Tree
Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is a popular children’s book about an utterly selfless tree and the boy for whom it provides a lifetime of resources. The story provides a natural segue into discussing the virtues of giving—and being thankful for what you receive. Read the book to your students, and then ask them to create a tree craft using cutouts of their handprints as leaves. Ask children to jot down one thing for which they are thankful on each “leaf,” then take the tree home to share with their families. You could also plant a tree (or glorified plant) on the school grounds as a gift to fellow students and teachers, and then ask students to decorate it with their handprint blessings.

Stone Soup
Stone Soup is a classic fable that illustrates the value of community and sharing: A poor, hungry man enters a village and asks its inhabitants food, but they do not give him any. He finds a rock and tells the stingy villagers that he will use it to brew up a pot of delicious stone soup, and that he will be more than happy to share it with anyone who contributes to it. Villagers donate pots, vegetables and spices for the concoction, which the whole town shares. Recreate this fable by asking each student to bring in a particular vegetable or other food item that can be used to cook up a large soup for the entire class. Note that this is also an excellent way to weave in a lesson or two about kitchen safety and nutrition.

Secret Turkey
Most children love exchanging valentines, so why not harness that enthusiasm in a way that promotes gratitude and cohesiveness among your students? Have each child secretly draw the name of one other student in class, just as you would with a Secret Santa game. Instead of exchanging gifts, however, ask students to produce a card or letter in which they showcase their drawn classmates’ strengths. You may choose to read these notes aloud.

Nurture gratitude throughout the year

Thanksgiving provides the perfect reason for presenting lessons on gratitude, but you need not reserve them for this season. By practicing these activities—especially those that engage the entire group—year-round, you can nurture student self-esteem and help build a more positive classroom environment.


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