Pilgrims, turkeys, and Thanksgiving-themed activities have undoubtedly started to appear in your lesson plans and classroom, but one popular Thanksgiving topic should be a permanent focus in the classroom throughout the year. Gratitude is mainly discussed at school in November and December, which does little to reinforce what children learned and gives children few opportunities to practice being grateful. Some people may think that teaching gratitude falls to a child’s parents, but there is growing research that shows a focus on gratitude in curricula can be beneficial to students, schools, and communities.
Benefits of Promoting Gratitude in Schools
For a subject that is only touched upon a few times a year, gratitude can foster a plethora of benefits to schools if adequately incorporated into the classroom. Researchers Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono believe the most notable benefit of teaching gratitude in schools is that students feel more connected to their schools, teachers, and communities, which ultimately influences the success of both students and schools. Gratitude can help nurture a more positive school environment, which makes teaching and learning more enjoyable and effective for both teachers and students.
Feelings of gratitude can also dictate how teachers and students perform at school. Froh and Bono found that teachers improved in their work and were more successful in preventing burnout when they felt more grateful. Several studies have also found that gratitude positively influences a child’s chances of success at school. Gratitude researcher Robert Emmons found in his studies that children and adults who consistently practice gratitude have stronger immune systems, are more outgoing, feel less lonely, and are more alert and optimistic than people who do not practice gratitude. This means that grateful children are more likely to stay focused at school and make more friends, which will have a positive effect on their cognitive and social development.
Ways to Promote Gratitude in the Classroom
Froh, Bono, and Emmons’ findings strongly show that students, teachers, schools, and communities benefit from the promotion of gratitude in the classroom. While budget cuts to education have made it difficult to incorporate new material, you will find that gratitude is fairly easy and inexpensive to include in your lesson plans. Encouraging children to say thank you and providing them with books and activities, such as the Feeling Positive CD and Greta the Grateful Goldfish, are a few examples of methods you can use to nurture gratitude in the classroom. Throughout their studies, Froh and Bono also found that these four methods are the best ways to promote gratitude in the classroom:
1. Encourage students to recognize the intentions behind gifts and actions. Remind children that it is the thought that counts when they receive a gift or someone helps them with something. They may not always like the gift, but they should recognize the good intentions behind it.
2. Help children appreciate and understand the sacrifices people have to make when they do something nice or provide help to someone. Ask children what someone gave up to help them or point out the time, money, and effort people sacrifice in order to give them a gift.
3. Remind students to recognize the value of benefits and the help people give others. Encourage children to think of ways they have benefited from another person’s gift or actions.
4. Have children regularly write in a gratitude journal or participate in a gratitude visit. You can encourage children to write in their gratitude journal at the end of each day or ask them to write five to ten things they are grateful for each week. Writing a letter and reading it to someone who has helped them in a gratitude visit is also a good way to promote gratitude.
Emmons, Robert. “Why Gratitude is Good.” Greater Good. Greater Good Science Center – University of California at Berkeley, 16 Nov. 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2013.
Froh, Jeffrey, and Giacomo Bono. “How to Foster Gratitude in Schools.” Greater Good. Greater Good Science Center – University of California at Berkeley, 20 Nov. 2012. Web. 1 Nov. 2013.