Abundant research has demonstrated the impact that gratitude can have on one's mental and physical health. However, it can be difficult to set aside sacred time to reflect on gratitude. This strategy provides resources for teachers who would like to build gratitude-focused activities into their classroom, like the Bucket Fillers activity included below. Building routines into class that allow students to reflect on their own gratitude will help them develop the improved physical and mental health and enhanced social and emotional skills that giving thanks can bring. The benefits of students learning to be thankful will extend far beyond the classroom walls.
Identify how much time, and when, to build gratitude activities into students' routine. Consider whether to use 15 minutes at the end of each week, 5 minutes at the end of each day, or 30 minutes each month to dedicate to student gratitude activities.
Select a gratitude activity to engage in with students. Here are some examples and resources to get started:
The Positive Psychology Program has a robust collect of gratitude exercises (see resource below) that can easily be implemented in the classroom.
Consider having students write in a gratitude journal (see resource below) in which they write their own gratitude lists.
If students would like to express their gratitude, consider having them write a gratitude letter as suggested in the Greater Good resource below. In some cases, it may even be appropriate for them to read the letter aloud to the person to whom it is written.
If you think students would benefit from a longer lesson on gratitude, consider using the Gratitude Lesson plans from Greater Good Magazine that are included below.
Once students are comfortable reflecting independently on their gratitude, consider opportunities to share the gratitude more widely.
Students could share out their gratitude with the whole class during circle time. See the "Circle Up: Co-creating Community Conversations" strategy in the BetterLesson lab for how to facilitate a successful class circle.
Consider creating a "kindness wall," (see Edutopia resource below) either physical or digital (see tech tool section below for suggestions), where students can publicly post messages of gratitude to one another.
Gratitude isn't just for students; it can also be a great tool for school leaders to use with staff. If you're leading a professional development session or staff meeting, consider giving participants 3 minutes at the start of the session to jot a note of gratitude to a colleague on a post-it and hand-deliver it. Alternatively, keep a stack of notecards in your desk and take time each week to jot a short note to a teacher and drop it on their desk or in their mailbox so that they know you're grateful for their work. You can also use gratitude walls in the staff room, or develop a digital system for school-wide staff shout-outs.
Pre-K or Early Elementary teachers can teach their students about the importance of being kind and expressing gratitude by introducing them to the concept of "bucket fillers."
1. Before introducing students to "bucket fillers," fully research the concept by clicking on the resources below.
2. Determine how you will introduce students to the concept of "bucket fillers" (people who are kind, thankful, and do nice things for others) or "bucket emptiers" (people who do unkind things to hurt others' bodies or feelings). You can choose either of the options below or both of them:
3. As an extension, consider having students share out during circle time when a peer has filled his or her bucket. Then, put that student's name next to or in the bucket filler's bucket to recognize and show gratitude for their kindness.
When students are learning in a distance setting, it can be especially powerful to give them the opportunity to share with one another what they are grateful for. Setting aside time for sharing gratitude builds community and supports students' social-emotional well-being, even in a virtual setting.
Decide how you would like students to share something they are grateful for (e.g., via video chat or in writing).
If all students have access to a video chat tool, such as Zoom or GoogleMeet, you can have students share something they're grateful for during group video conference time. Give students some think time to jot down their gratitude before having them share.
If students cannot meet at the same time, consider having them share gratitude statements on a digital wall like in BetterLesson's Positive News Board strategy.
A virtual bulletin board-type app, such as Padlet or Seesaw, allows students to post their gratitude for all students to see.
Alternatively, you could have students submit gratitude via a Google Form, and you could share it out with students after all responses have been collected.
If students are able to access email or texts, you can create a text/chat or email chain where students can share gratitude for a few minutes in writing.
If necessary, set norms for students before the gratitude exercise. In particular, think about:
In what order will students share gratitude?
What should students do while they are listening?
Should students respond to expressions of gratitude in any way?
Give students the prompt for their gratitude exercise and then give them the opportunity to share something they are grateful for.. See the resource below for a collection of possible gratitude prompts.
Incorporating gratitude sharing and reflecting into a classroom setting is a great tool teachers can use to better support all students with disabilities to become more engaged participants in their learning. In order to plan effectively to incorporate these techniques to support students with disabilities in the classroom, teachers should consider the following modifications:
Padlet is a digital corkboard type tool that students can use to gather information or reflections. Teachers can easily access each students' Padlet with a shared link.
Padlet could be used by students as a sort of "digital bulletin board" where students can express their gratitude for peers in a public format.
Seesaw allows for the documentation of artifacts, audio, video, and writing that can easily be shared with an entire class or with parents as students build their seesaw portfolio. Seesaw can also be used as a class discussion tool via its blog feature.
Seesaw could be used by students to create a gratitude journal. They could express their gratitude reflections in writing, video, or even drawings that could be uploaded to a blog-style journal.
For additional related reading, see the resources below.