Cultivate Gratitude in the Classroom

by Arlene Birt


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

“I’m thankful for vultures!” We were making a list of things we were thankful for and “vultures” was one item listed. (Have you ever thanked God for vultures?) When I wondered about this, the child said, “Because, they eat dead things!” Okay, that makes sense.

There have been a number of hard things to deal with in the last couple years, so I assigned myself to finding 10 things to be thankful for each day. I would think about this on my way to school, and it really did improve my outlook. I needed to get my focus off the problems, and find things to thank God for. Research tells of these benefits of gratitude: feeling more optimistic, improved health, and building connections are a few areas of the benefits of gratitude (Harvard, 2021). And certainly there is much scripture that reminds us to be grateful

My students enjoyed writing a Gratitude Journal each morning. We did it as a class, but it would be an effective individual task for older students. The journal was something I found online and had questions that we answered each morning. We did one question a day. It would be easy to make your own using questions such as, “Use color words to tell what you are thankful for.” “What makes you happy this morning?” “How could you let someone know you are thankful for them? (Now do it!)” I wrote down everyone’s answers and we later went back and read over our thoughts.

Sing “Count Your Blessings” and make this project:

  1. Have the students trace around their hands and cut out their handprints.
  2. Glue them to a large sheet of construction paper.
  3. On each finger ask the children to write something they are thankful for.
  4. Add a heading, “I’m counting my blessings!”
  5. If you really get into it, have them trace their feet, also, and add blessings for each toe.

Another project idea:

  1. Put a pencil through the hole of a roll of adding machine paper.
  2. Tie a string to each end of the pencil, and hang it up.
  3. Each day ask the class to name things they are thankful for and write them on the paper, unrolling it as you go. How long a list can you make?

A project using Psalm 100:

  1. Make a big book by writing the verses from Psalm 100 on large sheets of paper.
  2. Write one verse per page, or part of a verse per page.
  3. Have the students illustrate the pages then put them together like a book. (We did this as a class book on 12”x18” paper, with two or three students illustrating each page.)
  4. Use this book to read and recite the psalm. This is a good psalm to think of actions to accompany the verses. We move our desks into a square for the courtyard, leaving an opening for the gate. We “enter his gates with thanksgiving” and as the children come through the gate they say something of thanksgiving. They go through the gate, into the court (inside the square of desks), and after we are all in the court, and “into his courts with praise” we praise the Lord with songs and verses.

Gratitude word cloud project:

  1. Make word cloud: write in different colors on a sheet of paper, naming things you are grateful for.
  2. Experiment with different lettering, writing vertically and horizontally, adding illustrations, or putting your thoughts in a cloud drawing.
  3. Display the gratitude word cloud as a visual reminder of good things. This could be an individual or group project. This is a good project for the teacher (and parents) as well. Share what you all have written. (I used this idea in our “School at Home” in the spring of 2020, and it was good to think of positive things and find areas in which to be grateful.)

If someone is listed on one of these projects, make their day and let them know. “My class is listing things we are thankful for, and today they said they are thankful for you!”

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV

What are you thankful for? How will you and your students share that with your world?

 

Sources:

Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier, August 14, 2021. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

Gratitude word clouds adapted from https://lancasteronline.com/features/working-from-home-today-here-are-upbeat-indoor-activities-to/article_1f1be156-6785-11ea-817c-dbc931784264.html?origin=LNP_2020_03_16_WFHkids&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Working+from+home+today%3F&utm_campaign=LNP_2020_03_16_WFHkids

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CONTRIBUTOR: Arlene Birt

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