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Nurturing Gratitude in the Classroom



Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
I've been exploring student empowerment and voice, and my role in creating a classroom culture that fosters the next generation of leaders and thinkers. This has led me to more lessons that focus on character education.
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.   - JFK
Gratitude is something I am trying (#inprogress) to embed in the daily language and habits of my classroom.  Why? Well, gratitude ups the positivity and optimism in the classroom and celebrates the rocky road of learning. Sometimes we fail or make mistakes, but often times those shortcomings have lessons that thankfully make us better. Below are a few strategies for cultivating the life habit of gratitude, in and out of the classroom.

1) Gratitude Journals 
Gratitude journals are perfect for capturing thankful thoughts on a regular basis. Journals give a personal space for students to reflect and collect all their grateful thoughts, and learn more about what really matters to them. Students can write to open-ended to prompts, create a story, write a list, or draw pictures that connect to gratitude. I use interactive notebook templates and a mini journal for students. I like the templates because of the variety of responses and outputs that can be used. I also use "mini" journals that don't require all the cutting and are just as effective. To take it to the next level with my fourth grade class, we have a classroom "Joy Journal" that circulates from student to student. Students can choose whether or not to share their name at the top (most do) and I assign someone to be the Joy contributor once a week. Students are only required to complete one entry.
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2) Quotes 
Quotes can be inspirational and spark engaging discussions and reflections in the classroom. As it relates to gratitude, I use quotes for student reflections by posting a quote and asking related questions such as:
   ✪ What does it mean?
   ✪ How does it connect to gratitude?
   ✪ Do you agree with the message? Why?
   ✪ How would you apply this message to your life?

3) Recognition
Recognizing gratitude and celebrating it regularly helps build the muscle memory that hopefully will extend beyond the classroom. The goal is for students to genuinely and frequently do this on their own. Strategies include having a gratitude challenge, giving awards, and posting shout outs. The more I've made what matters the most in our classroom visible, the more I've seen students making an attempt to show gratitude. As the classroom leader, I'm constantly trying to model this habit in my words and actions.

4) Gratitude Jar
Gratitude Jars are an awesome tool for classrooms to build a collective gratitude movement in the classroom. Students can place their gratitude in the jars and teachers can read them when the class needs a pick me up or a part of your morning meeting routine.
5) Classroom Meetings 
Classroom meeting are great for bring the class together and focusing on gratitude. Students can turn and talk to their peers about something they are grateful for, reflect on quotes, pull from the gratitude jar, share shout outs, or give awards. We have a little chant that we do when doing shout outs. It goes:
T-H-ANK Y-O-U
for all you do! 
When use this after giving shouts and students LOOOVVVEEE it! For those of us who don't have a designated classroom meeting time, think about the time before dismissal when you are closing out the lesson. As you wrap up celebrate the learning with questions like:
✪ Is there anyone who helped with you better understand the lesson?
✪ What are you thankful you learned today?

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Tanesha B Forman
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