I know, I know! Halloween hasn’t even arrived, but if you’re a teacher, you know now is the time to start considering seasonal activities for the upcoming month. And so, for all you teachers, both at home and at school, three ideas for bringing gratitude to the forefront in your and your students’ lives.
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 each day in the weeks leading up to it.
Exercise 1: Thanksgiving Freewrites
Set aside time daily for your students to write a paragraph of at least 5 to 10 sentences, (depending on the ability of your students) about one person or thing for which each is grateful.
Requiring students to write multiple sentences will provide them with opportunities to practice elaborating on their subject and develop fluency in writing.
In addition to requiring a minimum number of sentences each day, limit students free-writing on any topic to just once each topic, thus encouraging 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 have initially been aware of or considered.
For further details about this option go here.
Exercise 2: Thank You Notes
November is also a great month for students to learn how to, and practice, writing thank you notes. (After all, everyone knows the holiday season will be coming next.) During the month of November, I like to have my students write thank you notes to teachers, school staff, and other people who are important to their lives.
At the Downtown Learning Center, I teach my students the following template for 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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Exercise 3: Gratitude Leaves
The Downtown Learning Center is located, you guessed it, in our city’s downtown shopping and business area, and so we have a large, storefront window that faces onto the sidewalk and street.
We started to make Gratitude Leaves about three years ago and they have been such a hit with the staff and neighbors that I can hardly wait to do it again this year.
What are Gratitude Leaves? They are individual leaves, in a variety of shapes and colors, on which students, anonymously, write one thing they are grateful for every day until we break for Thanksgiving. All the staff participates as well. Then each day we tape our leaves to the window.
By the time Thanksgiving break comes our wide, wide window is a wonderful mosaic of yellow, gold, red, orange, crimson and even a few purple leaves that seem to glow as the western light shines through them.
If you want your students to be able to take these home for Thanksgiving, you instruct them to take them down on the last day of break and have each student tape his or her leaves to a paper ring, making a Gratitude Wreath.
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!