5 Ways to Teach Gratitude in your Classroom #creativitymatters

Introducing Everyartist from Breck Kling on Vimeo.

This post is inspired by EveryArtist Live!, a national, collaborative art event with the goal of engaging a million elementary school children on November 21, 2013 – the largest art event in history. Want to get involved? Join us in our efforts to show that #CreativityMatters. Sign up at http://everyartist.me.

The Thanksgiving elementary art project EveryArtist Live! is focused on gratitude and  is coming up on November 21st! Have you signed up? They’ve released a cool animated video to help you share the vision. (See my original post here to learn more.)

Whatever your activities for November and Thanksgiving, I’ve got some ideas to inspire gratitude in your classroom. Use it to inspire art or just a change of heart as we help children become more grateful, joyful people.

Teach about gratitude and encourage students to say thank you with activities and projects this November. Here are 5 ideas to inspire gratitude.

Teach about gratitude and encourage students to say thank you with activities and projects this November. Here are 5 ideas to inspire gratitude.

5 Ways to Encourage Gratitude in Students

So, your students are going to create art inspired by gratitude. What if they aren’t grateful? Or, what if, the student has a hard life or has something difficult they are dealing with right now? There are many reasons that students may struggle with gratitude.

Start by defining gratitude. I like the definition of gratitude and its benefits from Psychology Today:

“Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for  what one has—as opposed to, say, a consumer-oriented emphasis  on what one wants or needs—and is currently receiving a great deal of attention  as a facet ofpositive psychology. Gratitude is what gets poured into the glass to make it half full. Studies show that gratitude not only can be deliberately cultivated but can increase levels of well-being and happiness among those who  do cultivate it.  In addition, grateful thinking—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.”

There are real, tangible benefits to being the kind of person who is grateful. Gratitude is worth cultivating, and that attitude permeates the thought of Thanksgiving.

To prepare for your art project, there are a couple of tangible suggestions I have for starting right now cultivating the sense of gratitude:

1. Keep a Joy Journal.

I talked about this in “9 Fine Reasons to Keep a Journal.” Research studies have shown that keeping a 5 minute a day gratitude journal will increase your long term well being more than winning a million dollars in the lottery.

Talk about this with students, set a timer, and keep a joy journal every day for the next 2 weeks. Ask older students to plot their mood to see if they notice any change in their own outlook on life. When it is time to create your art, review your journal for patterns of things that bring you joy. Those are great targets for gratitude.

Benefits: This activity can have students writing, journaling, and improving their mood at the same time. You can also encourage parents to join in this activity and educate them on this.

Successful organizations show gratitude, so do successful classrooms. Gratitude shouldn't be a secret. Help children share a word of thank you with each other and with those who serve and help them every day.

Successful organizations show gratitude, so do successful classrooms. Gratitude shouldn’t be a secret. Help children share a word of thank you with each other and with those who serve and help them every day.

2. Show gratitude to each other

I’ve read that it takes 7 compliments to counterbalance 1 criticism. In a recent human resources blog, I read that the highest performing teams have a ratio of 5.6 or almost 6 compliments for every negative one. (The lowest have .36 or almost 3 negative comments for every positive one.)

My children all have kept an activity from elementary school where every student gave one genuine compliment for every other student. They typed them up and put a picture of each student in front (with classmates behind) with a title like “why we’re thankful for ___ (Suzie or Johnny or insert name there.) The teacher should add one there as well.

Benefits: This activity helps students show gratitude towards each other and to intentionally say thank you and can have an impact on the whole class, particularly in helping them appreciate the strengths of each child.

3. Show gratitude to others who serve

There are so many people who do so much for kids at the school. Showing gratitude to each person on staff in meaningful ways can make a difference. You can start off by asking students to give another a genuine verbal compliment and discussing the response they received.

Then, you can level up and have students write thank you notes, cards, or have them use their art as a form of recognition and thank you to those who encourage and serve them.  You can also combine this with #youmatter activities.

Benefits: The entire school begins to be reminded to be grateful for one another.

4. Show gratitude to parents and family

Students often take their caregivers for granted. Encourage students to take time to write parents a note or to list all of the things they are grateful for from their parents. Use these thoughts to inspire artwork designed to enhance the thanksgiving experience.

Benefits: strengthen the home/school connection and encourage parents to show gratitude to their children as well.

5. Plan a thank you party

Plan a thank you party for Thanksgiving centered around saying thank you to heroes among us. Include your artwork and a time of thanks to those who do so much to help kids.

Benefits: Make meaning as part of your thanksgiving party.

Plan your art project with a gratitude theme

If you’re looking for art ideas, then peruse, but remember that often kids only need the materials and time and they’ll do the rest to create the art.

Plan your art project around the theme of gratitude

With a basis of understanding gratitude and the types of things they are grateful for, you’ll need to prepare for your art project. There are two places I recommend for your planning.

Learn More about EveryArtist Live!

Read:

Resources for Parents & Grandparents

If you’re a parent or grandparent and want your child to participate, I recommend that you link up with 247 moms.

Read:

How can I use the video to promote our school?

  • Watch the video to understand this global art project and sign up to participate with your child, students, or school.

  • Email this video to your friends and fellow teachers to encourage them to join in. (Over 300,000 participants have signed up so far!) This is something every school can (and should) do.

  • After you sign up, email a link to your local education reporter at the newspaper or television station to help them understand what you’re doing so they can cover the event for their Thanksgiving edition. (This is a cool personal interest story as you are teaching interpersonal skills and 21st century skills.)

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