I know, I know! Halloween hasn’t even arrived, but whether you are a parent, teacher, or someone who just loves spending time with kids, you know now is the time to consider seasonal activities for the upcoming month. And so, here are some ideas for bringing gratitude to the forefront this November.
Studies have shown that people who are grateful tend to live happier, healthier lives. Since November culminates in the grand holiday of Thanksgiving, it only makes sense to build toward this crescendo by focusing on gratitude in the weeks leading up to it.
Activity 1: Thanksgiving Freewrites (I did this in the classroom, but you can also do it as a family at home.)
Set aside time daily for writing a paragraph of at least 5 to 10 sentences (depending on the age and ability of your participants) about one person or thing for which they are grateful.
Requiring multiple sentences will provide participants with opportunities to practice elaborating on their subject and develop fluency in writing.
In addition to setting a minimum number of sentences, require participants to choose a new topic each day. This encourages them to think in an increasingly broad way about their lives and their world, and to find pleasure and gratitude in a wider range of subjects than they may initially have been aware of or considered.
For further details about this option go here.
Activity 2: Thank You Notes
November is also a great month for young people to learn how to, and practice, writing thank you notes. (After all, the holiday season will be coming next., with gifts coming from long-distance loved ones who deserve to have their thoughtfulness acknowledged.) As a teacher, I liked to have my students write thank you notes to teachers, school staff, and other people who are important to their lives. But even if writing from home, we all interact with others in various aspects of our lives, and they are just as worthy of receiving a thank you note.
During my years at the Downtown Learning Center, I used the following template to teach writing thank you notes:
Thank you so much for whatever it is you appreciate about this person.
Write one or two sentences explaining why you appreciate this.
Reword and repeat the first sentence.
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Activity 3: Gratitude Leaves
The Downtown Learning Center was located, you guessed it, in our city’s downtown shopping and business area, and so we had a large, storefront window that faced onto the sidewalk and street.
The first year we made gratitude leaves they were such a hit with the staff and neighbors that we applied the principle to other holidays throughout the year.
What are Gratitude Leaves? They are individual leaves in a variety of types and colors, cut from any kind of colored paper, on which students anonymously write one thing they are grateful for every day until the last break before Thanksgiving. All the staff participated as well. Each day we taped our written leaves to the window.
By the time Thanksgiving break arrived, our wide windows were a wonderful mosaic of yellow, gold, red, orange, crimson and even a few purple leaves that seemed to glow in the late afternoon light.
On the day before the beginning of Thanksgiving break, we had the students take them down their own leaves and provided paper plates around which each student could tape his or her leaves, making a Gratitude Wreath.
Activity 4: A Calendar Approach
This is an exercise I discovered in the Bullet Journaling community and is especially good for families with little ones who have not yet learned to write.
Set up a calendar grid for the month of November with date boxes a minimum of 1.5-2 inches square. Place holiday stickers on Thanksgiving Day or mark it in big, bold lettering, so it is easy to see the goal being worked toward. Then, each day leading up to the holiday, help your young partners draw or glue on a picture of something for which they are grateful. By the time Thanksgiving arrives, they, and maybe you too, will have a bright and colorful piece of art to treasure.
Activity 5: Gratitude Journal
If you do not keep a gratitude journal, November is a great month to start one. There are so many wonderful notebooks and journals you can choose from. If you’re not sure you’ll want to continue the practice after the holiday, even a spiral notebook will do. (I just love those tiny ones that fit in a pocket!)
Each day consider and record what you are grateful for. You can write about as many things as you want ranging from 1/day to “the sky’s the limit.” I write a sentence each for three items per day. I’ll talk about gratitude journaling more in the future, but for now, try it as a holiday practice.
Writing about these options for reflecting on how blessed we are and how much good there actually is in our lives has me so excited. Let those dark days of November come! I can meet them with gratitude.
Let’s Encourage One Another
How will you reflect on what you are grateful for this month? Have any additional ideas for how to do so? Please share your gratitude practice and any additional ideas for embracing this time of thanksgiving in the comment box below.