Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year. It is no secret that gratitude unlocks happiness in our lives, which is why it is so important that we take the time to teach our students to be grateful. No matter how much or how little we have in terms of possessions, we always have room for a thankful heart.
This is Beth from Adventures of a Schoolmarm. I want to share a few ideas with you today to help you teach your students to be grateful for all they have during the holiday season and beyond. These ideas have had really powerful results in my own classroom. They have even helped to minimize behavior concerns because we are so focused on the positive!
This is one of my favorite things to do with the students during this time of year! This can be done on a small scale through an individual Thankfulness Tree for each student (as seen below). They can write small words and phrases of people, things, and experiences they are thankful for, then attach the leaves to the tree. It can also be done as a full class activity. You can use brown wrapping paper to create a really awesome 3-dimensional tree on the wall or a bulletin board. The students can write what they are thankful for on larger leaves, then attach them to the tree each day during the month. Either way, it is fun to take a little time each day to add leaves to the tree.
Another easy, but meaningful activity is to have kids write special notes of gratitude to their family, friends, and teachers. I like to give them some sentence starters to get the ideas flowing (pictured below). They can do this on special paper, construction paper, or even little note card templates that you find. There is no wrong way to do it!
The end of the calendar year is also a perfect time to reflect on special memories with our loved ones. My students love to draw pictures of their favorite memories and write about them on the back (pictured below). Your students could also bring in real photos to create a mini scrapbook with journal entries about their special memories. If you take a lot of photos digitally as a class, you could all work together to create a class memory book by adding pictures and text in PowerPoint, then printing the slides off to bind as a book. This could even be a fun extension assignment for students to work on with their parents at home, then bring in to share with the class!
I love having kids brainstorm all the ways they can give back to their loved ones, their school, and even their community. We start by thinking of little ways we can show our gratitude to others, such as doing chores without being asked or simply saying thank you. I like to have my students record their ideas for giving back, such as in this mini-book (pictured below).
It can also be a lot of fun to complete a class project where students work together to give back to the community in a greater way! This could be as simple as making holiday cards for a nearby nursing home. It could also be a more extensive PBL unit. One year, the entire fourth grade in my school participated in a Season of Giving problem-based learning unit during the months of November and December. Each homeroom planned a craft that the kids could create to sell for a profit. My homeroom decided to make holiday ornaments with the school colors and a special tag with the school logo. They hand-decorated the ornaments with silver paint markers. They sold like hotcakes! As a whole, the fourth grade raised $525 for the needy.
After the students sold their products for a profit, we took two homeroom representatives to the grocery store after school. They worked in teams to buy supplies for our local food bank. We even had a competition to see who could get closest to the amount they could spend without going over. Talk about MENTAL MATH SKILLS! Afterwards, we dropped off all the food and supplies at the local food bank, which was overwhelmed by their generosity.
I no longer work at that school due to budget cuts, but I am happy to report they still do their Season of Giving Unit each year as a way to give back to the community. (I would be doing this project at my own school, but they are very strict about collecting money, which has put a big roadblock on this project for me.)
If you would like to have your students practice gratitude through a hands-on lap book with activities mentioned above, you may like to check out my Thanksgiving Gratitude Lapbook.
What are some of YOUR favorite ways to teach students about being grateful for the blessings in their lives? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!