Creating Lessons in Thankfulness

Moira West


November can be a tough month for teachers — there’s Election Day, Veteran’s Day and, of course, Thanksgiving breaking up your carefully planned units.

But holidays like Thanksgiving also offer opportunities to help students learn — not just about the history of the first Thanksgiving, but about thankfulness. Take a look at a few ways you can incorporate gratitude into your curriculum this November.

Share what everyone is grateful for

This may be the most basic method of talking about thankfulness, but letting students share what they’re grateful for reminds them to focus on the good (more on that in a bit). But you can give this kind of project a twist to make it more interesting:

  • Art: If you teach younger students, let them illustrate what they’re grateful for. Then take their artwork and display it in the classroom or create a video slideshow featuring your students’ work.
  • Writing: Of course you can have students write what they’re grateful for, but you can also change things up. Have students keep a gratitude journal for a week or even a month and have them analyze the effect of the project on their mindset.
  • Video: Have your class put together a list of things they're grateful for, or you could record them sharing reasons they're thankful this year. Then, have students turn their thoughts into a video to share with fellow students or their families. Want to make it a school-wide project? Include multiple classes and share the results with your school.

Bring on the science

Science teachers, did you know thankfulness is good for you? Classes can talk about the medical benefits of gratitude and discuss evidence they’ve seen that might support (or disprove) the hypothesis that thanksgiving makes you healthier. In fact, you can use the gratitude journaling exercise above to help experiment with the science of gratitude.

Thanks in literature

There are a wealth of books for younger readers related to Thanksgiving and thankfulness, like this one from Reading Rockets. And for older students, try quote analysis. For example, if you teach classical literature or history, you could have students write a reaction to a quote like this one from Cicero: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

Pay it forward

Since Thanksgiving is usually associated with food, remind students to consider those who go without during the holiday season by organizing a food drive. Even if your school isn’t hosting a Thanksgiving food drive, you can hold a class drive. Though it’s not a traditional lesson, holding a charity drive teaches students mindfulness and gratitude, and encourages them to be good citizens.

Even though it interrupts our flow, Thanksgiving offers an opportunity to teach students how to identify the good parts of their life and show gratitude for them. And ultimately, that’s something we can be thankful for.

How are you teaching gratitude in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch through Facebook or Twitter.