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Creating a Grateful Classroom

November 25, 2019

By: Elizabeth Kelsey, Kendall Hunt RPD Intern

As the holiday season approaches, a spirit of charity is in the air. As we gather with family and friends and share the joy of the season, it’s important to teach the young learners in our lives the importance of counting our blessings.

Activities like gratitude journals, joy jars, and thank-you notes are all wonderful classroom activities. But one of the most powerful ways to create a grateful classroom is for teachers to simply live with gratitude. Here are four easy ways that teachers can integrate a grateful mind-set into their teaching, not just during a one-time Thanksgiving activity, but year-round.



  1. Gratitude quote

Many teachers already use the idea of starting class each day with a quote or thought for the day. Make an effort to include quotes that address gratitude and thankfulness (here’s a great list). Don’t force students to copy down or memorize the quotes because this strategy can often backfire and cause students to learn but not comprehend. Instead, simply place them in a prominent location on the board or classroom door each day. Students will notice. It will give them something to think about, and they may remember its sentiment later.

  1. OOPS

This idea, from author and speaker Hyder Zahed, is a funny way to remind students to keep a positive, grateful mind-set. When Zahed finds himself thinking or saying something uncharitable, he’ll think to himself, “OOPS!” which stands for “Out Of Principle, Sweetheart!” Then, he’ll challenge himself to come up with one thing he’s grateful for. To implement OOPS in your classroom, begin by verbally OOPSing yourself to make students more comfortable with the process, and then encourage them to do the same. Don’t “call out” students if you hear negativity, and don’t let their peers call them out. Continue to self-model the process, and whether your students do so internally or verbally, they might just make OOPS a part of their gratitude process.

  1. Self-gratitude

Speaking of self-modeling, make a pact with yourself to ban negative self-talk from the classroom. Try to avoid self-deprecating humor in front of your students. Not only is this unhealthy for your own self-image, but it reinforces the idea for students that beating up on themselves is normal and healthy. When students put themselves down, remind them that positive self-talk can increase individuals’ sense of self-worth, and ask them to think about what they’re grateful for about themselves. Certainly, don’t encourage braggarts and boasting, but set a good example: no self-shaming. It’s not good for you or your kids.

  1. Make them aware

Talk about people in your school and community who deserve thanks but don’t often get it (cafeteria employees, postal workers, maintenance workers, etc.) This is more a subject of representation than direct instruction; merely talking about what different workers do for our schools and communities will inspire an attitude of gratitude from students. They can’t be grateful for them if they don’t know what they do. It’s also important to help students realize how much their parents and guardians do for them. According to educator Vicki Davis, students often take caregivers for granted. Especially in the younger grades, reading books about various jobs and occupations can be a great way to introduce these topics.

In the end, gratitude isn’t grown with one quick activity at Thanksgiving each year. It blossoms thanks to the way teachers interact with their students and the ways they talk about themselves, their blessings, and their opportunities.

How will you foster a spirit of thankfulness in your classroom?