Don't Just Say "Thank You"

A Guide For Teaching Gratitude In The Elementary Classroom
Just a few days ago, little ghosts and goblins were knocking on doors, yelling trick or treat, and being reminded to say thank you before running to the next house. Teaching a child to say thank you is good manners. There isn’t a parent or grandparent among us who hasn’t uttered some form of “what do you say?”, to a child who has been given a gift or compliment.

Saying “thank you” is a social skill all young children need to learn, but what about gratitude? 

As Halloween decorations come down and classrooms are decked out with

Thanksgiving décor, teachers are thinking about and  planning lessons for the month of November.

Fairly recently, many aspects of the  First Thanksgiving which have been traditionally taught in American schools have become controversial. This year, why not focus on gratitude instead?

WHAT IS GRATITUDE? To begin, what exactly is gratitude? There are many definitions of gratitude. Some people believe it’s a feeling or emotion. Others look at it as more of a mood. Still, some folks believe gratitude is a personality trait a person exhibits. These can all be correct. I like this explanation from Common Sense Media

Gratitude is being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen in your life and taking the time to express appreciation and return kindness”. 

BENEFITS OF EMBRACING GRATITUDE There are a large number of benefits associated with gratitude, many scientifically proven. Once you begin to understand these, chances are good that you’ll see why it’s so important to develop a grateful mindset.


Gratitude can have a positive effect on both physical and mental health.

Research has shown it to improve relaxation, sleep quality and energy levels.

Being thankful for your blessings can enhance emotional wellness, resiliency and ability to deal better in tough situations.

Kids who practice gratitude are often more confident and optimistic children.

CULTIVATE GRATITUDE One of the most powerful ways to teach gratitude is by example. Creating a “grateful environment” at school can help kids notice and recognize good things. By making a concerted effort to embrace and express gratitude you become a compelling role model for your students.

Not only will your students benefit from an attitude of gratitude classroom, but you will too.

Knowing how to embrace gratitude can significantly boost your happiness. There are things to be grateful for, even on the difficult days.

In fact, it’s even more impactful when you discover little rays of light in the darkest times. Oprah was one of the very first people to talk about the power of gratitude and how giving thanks even for little things, every day can transform lives.

Gratitude is often viewed as a practice or something you perform regularly.

As with other practices, you’ll get better at demonstrating gratitude the more you work at it.

Luckily there are many easy ways to teach and model it for your kids.

Here are just a few to get you started.

• Start a gratitude tree and paper leaves with things you are grateful for every day

• Go on a gratitude walk. Take your kids on a walk and have them notice and write or draw things to be grateful for. If you leave in a place where seasons change – do this once each season!

• Have a scavenger hunt! Take your kids on a walk and have them notice and write or draw things that make them feel happy. If you leave in a place where seasons change – do this once each season!

• Write Thank You Notes to helpful school personnel, community helpers or Veterans!

• Write Thank You Notes to helpful school personnel, community helpers or Veterans!

• Make a gratitude jar! You can use a real jar and slips of paper or get a free Mason jar printable online. Another idea is to make a giant Mason jar on a bulletin board or wall and fill it with sticky notes of gratitude all year.

Whichever activities you decide to do with your kids remember gratitude needs to be practiced regularly – once your children are familiar and comfortable with finding gratitude you might want to make Gratitude Journals to be used as part of your daily classroom routine. 

To get a FREE GRATITUDE SCAVENGER HUNT fill out the form below. You will receive an email which will give you instant access to my growing resource library of freebies!


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