Thanksgiving may be over, but that doesn't mean the time for giving thanks needs to end. Many studies have shown the benefits of practicing an attitude of gratitude year round. Increasingly, it's also something educators are encouraged to explicitly teach students. With a few weeks left in the year, now is a great time to get a head start on a potential new year's resolution. Consider incorporating some extra gratitude in your own daily routine, and use the coming weeks to decide how to help your students do the same. To help you get started, we've rounded up some daily practices, project ideas, and story suggestions. Plus, click on any of the linked words in the text above to read more articles.
- Keep it conversational - Ask your partner, roommate, or children what their happiest moment was that day. Listen attentively to their responses so you can ask thoughtful questions. This simple reflection on the events of the day help to highlight the good things. You can even practice this with strangers or acquaintances. With holiday gatherings coming up, answers to questions like "what's amazing in your life right now?" are much more interesting than typical small talk.
- Say thanks - We interact with people who provide us a service every day, but how often do we take the time to acknowledge and appreciate their help? When you have a minute, learn the name of someone you see every day. When you're pressed for time, you'll still be able to say thank you specifically, using his or her name, which makes it much more genuine.
- Take a picture - Make a point of taking a picture of something you're grateful for each day. These pictures don't have to be perfectly staged or even of something in particular. It could be a blurry photo of a coffee that reminds you of the barista who always gets your order just right. The point is just to remind yourself to look for the good in every day.
Stories to Inspire Gratitude
- Memoirs of a Hamster by Devin Scillian
Night 1 / My life is perfect. / I have a bowl full of seeds, a cozy pile of wood shavings, and room to run. / I'm never leaving here. / Question: Who's the luckiest hamster in the world? / Answer: ME! Seymour the hamster has the perfect life. He has a spacious cage, a constant food supply, and a FuzzyBoy 360 exercise wheel that lets him run to his heart's content. Life could not be better. Or could it? When Pearl the cat tells Seymour of the goodies beyond the safe confines of his cage, he starts to think he's missing out. And out is the new in! It's only after Seymour is out of his cage that he begins to fully appreciate his safe and cozy home.
- Almost Zero by Nikki Grimes
Dyamonde Daniel has her eye on a new pair of red high-top sneakers. Following some bad advice from a classmate, she thinks she has the right idea to go about getting them – by demanding her mother buy them! Unfortunately for Dyamonde, Mrs. Daniel doesn't appreciate being told what to do and decides to teach her daughter a lesson. Soon Dyamonde finds herself in a clothing crisis, with almost zero to wear! Dyamonde is furious. But she begins to realize that some people have troubles much greater than hers . . . including her friend, Isabel Martinez, whose family has suffered a real crisis. Deciding she must she must help the Martinez family, Dyamonde enlists the aid of everyone she knows to do so. Witty and endearing, this heart-warming tale – read by Nikki Grimes herself – beautifully displays the difference between wanting and needing.
- What We Got by The Okee Dokee Brothers
Song: If we learn to appreciate what we have in this world, maybe we will respect it.
Activities for Students
- Start with empathy - open your students' minds to the perspectives of others. Practice "looking through someone else's eyes." Make it concrete for younger students by giving them silly glasses that they can swap to get a new view.
- Make a game of gratitude - recognizing everything we have to be thankful for is the first step and games like this explicitly teach children how to identify their own reasons to be appreciative.
- Keep it visible - interactive displays like this gratitude tree keep your practice front and center.