How to Promote Gratitude In Your Classroom
You worked for hours writing the perfect lesson plan, but it flops in class. As the kids leave, one smart mouth says sarcastically, “Well, that didn’t go well.” The kids in your class decide to start a broken pencil fight – with the colored pencils you bought out of your own money. (Fun fact – these both happened to me.) You think, “Do these kids have any gratitude at all?”
Teens are pretty inwardly focused; it’s just where they are in their development. Sometimes, you have to pull them out of their own little bubbles and reintroduce them to the rest of the world around them. This is where gratitude comes in – gratitude for the people and community around them.
Not only will encouraging gratitude in your students improve your classroom, but it also has positive impacts on your students! According to research, practicing gratitude can improve students’ grades, make them more satisfied with relationships, and become less materialistic. Those are all goals we can shoot for!
Psst, if you’re not ready to tackle this with your students, but want to start in your own life – check out this post!
How to Promote Gratitude in Your Classroom
As a high school teacher, I know what you’re already thinking. “I have a curriculum to teach. I don’t have time for this.”
Yes, you do.
Teaching gratitude can be done in a very short amount of time. Take 15 minutes a week – you can carve that time out. Create a bell-ringer, transition activity, or something to do the last few minutes of class. (Heck, my first suggestion requires no time at all.) If you have a built-in remediation time, this is also a great activity to use.
Our kids are watching our every action and will mimic what they see. Write in your gratitude journal and share what you’ve written with students. Give students sincere compliments. Do kind things for others in the building and share those experiences with students.
One year, the atmosphere in one of my classes had gotten very sarcastic and mean. I realized that I was part of the problem. So I owned up to that with the class I made a commitment to end the sarcasm and work on creating a better classroom. It worked when I changed my behavior.
You can use paper notebooks (there are many templates on Pinterest or TPT) or a Google Doc for those with 1-to-1 capability. This could be a great bell ringer or transition activity.
Pick a regular time (once a week or every Friday) for students to share what they are grateful for. Keep it simple and just ask students to finish the phrase, “I am grateful for ________.” They can even draw their answers!
In the beginning, you might hear gratitude for a lot of material objects, such as their Nintendo Switch or their phone, but this usually lessens over time.
Grab a jar for each class and label them. Have cards or pieces of paper ready for students to write on. Set up a time once a week for students to write down what they are grateful for. You can also just have the jars out for students all the time. On a regular basis, read some of the responses to the class.
Acts of Kindness
One way to show our gratitude is through acts of kindness. You can discuss random acts of kindness, such as helping another kid who dropped their things on the floor. One prompt for the gratitude journal could be about a random act of kindness they performed that week. Other teachers create a kindness tree bulletin board, where students add leaves with their random act of kindness written on it.
You can also create ways for your students can show kindness to others in the classroom, building, or the larger community. Kids can create sincere compliments or thank-yous for staff members and deliver them personally. Classes can create cards for service members or first responders. You can even set up a volunteer activity for the students outside of class (That’s some extra credit work, friend!)
Remember, building gratitude in kids takes time and commitment from you. Not only will it give you all the feels, but your students will walk away with tangible improvements to their academics and mental health.